Tim Greimel

The state House passed the Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) yesterday and it’s fair to say it was a little dose of Republican Speaker Jase Bolger’s “here’s-how-bad-it-can-get-if-you-don’t-play-along.”

The RFRA was supposed to move in tandem with a measure that would add protections based on sexual orientation to the state’s civil rights law. That was a version that Bolger said he would accept, as long as there was a separate bill that would provide some cover for people who have religious objections to gay rights.

But LGBT advocates said there also should be explicit protections for transgender people. Bolger said he wouldn’t support that.

So, Bolger got the RFRA passed last night, without moving on the LGBT protections, showing the LGBT community just what can happen when you cross him.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state House panel is scheduled to meet Monday to consider changing the way Michigan awards its Electoral College votes for president.

Right now, the state assigns all of its 16 electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. A new Republican proposal would allow the runner-up to get up to seven of those votes – depending on how close the vote is.

“What this does is it says, if you want to do well in Michigan, you got to actually come here and talk about our issues,” said bill sponsor state Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Twp.

Michigan lawmakers chose new leaders after the recent elections.
Matt Katzenberger / flickr.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers' first order of business after the election was picking new leaders.

Republicans on Thursday chose Arlan Meekhof to lead the Senate for the next four years. The 54-year-old from West Olive is best known for sponsoring one of Michigan's two right-to-work laws that made union fees voluntary.

Rep. Kevin Cotter of Mount Pleasant was chosen to be Speaker of the House. Al Pscholka of Stevensville also sought the speakership but dropped his bid in exchange for being named to chair the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills will continue as House Democrats' leader. Senate Democrats picked Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint to succeed Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing.  

In January, Republicans will have 63-47 and 27-11 edges in the House and Senate.

WKAR-TV

The top Democrat in the state House says a road funding solution will probably have to wait until after the November election.

State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel says too many lawmakers are not willing to make the tough vote until they’re past their reelection bids. That’s because boosting infrastructure spending by more than a billion dollars a year would likely mean raising taxes to pay for it.

“I think there’s a very high likelihood that it doesn’t occur until lame duck, unfortunately,” said Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, on an appearance over the weekend on the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record.

Yesterday, the Democratic leader in the Statehouse held a news conference that convinced me his party is basically decent and civilized. And if they keep it up, they are going to lose next year’s  elections.

Here’s what I am talking about. Over the past three years, Republicans have been doing things that once would have caused people to march on Lansing with pitchforks.

They have rammed through Right to Work. Cut and starved higher education, and did their best to undermine public elementary and secondary schools as well. Within the last week, the Republican majority enacted a new law forbidding insurance companies from automatically writing policies that protect women’s right to have an abortion in the case of rape, incest or a dangerous pregnancy. 

They passed a bill doubling the amount fat cats can openly give to political campaigns. Worse, the same law says special interest groups can secretly spend unlimited amounts on so-called “issue-oriented ads,” taking away any accountability in campaign spending.

House Democrats / Michigan.gov

Many Michigan students would pay little to no money for in-state college tuition under a proposal in Lansing. State Representative Vicki Barnett (D-Farmington Hills) wants to raise the state’s sales tax by one percent to pay for the plan.

Barnett talked about the proposal on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

“People are recognizing that we need to find a way to make sure that all of our kids who graduate high school who want to go on and get a higher educational degree have the opportunity to do so without having the weight and burden of student loans carrying them down,” Barnett said.

Besides helping students gain access to higher education, she says it would also help attract employers.

Democrats did something unusual yesterday. They came out with some new ideas and announced a package of things and innovative reforms they are for, rather than against.

The subject was mainly women’s health care, and for once, the party seems united around a well-thought out package of bills. Tim Griemel, who is still finding his voice as House Minority Leader, told a press conference “when a woman doesn’t get the health care she needs when she is pregnant, it isn’t just her own health that’s at stake. When a woman can’t get the care she needs after a violent attack, everyone who loves and supports her suffers along with her.”

Welcome to our “Anatomy of a Kerfuffle” edition of "It’s Just Politics." This week: a throw-down between Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger and state House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel. It culminated in the speaker yanking eight Democrats off their legislative committees. This was a big deal, a really unprecedented move and a classic example of the principle: it is better to be feared than loved.