Question 1): Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp) has called for “real negotiations” if majority Democrats want to get GOP lawmakers to help pass the budget with Immediate Effect. He wants long-term debt paid down, infrastructure investment and a “sustainable, balanced budget.” Should we expect Nesbitt to get even half of what he’s calling for?
Answer 1): If Nesbitt and legislative Republicans get even a sliver of 50%, they will have done better than they have so far with majority Democrats. That said, what Nesbitt is demanding makes sense from a policy perspective, so Democrats might be wise to take the minority leader’s suggestions seriously rather than just dismiss them out of hand because they’re coming from the ‘opposition’ (they have already rejected more than 170 GOP amendments en masse just last week). Yes, the Democrats’ margins are thin enough that Nesbitt is smart to leverage whatever negotiating power he has. There are numerous interest groups also calling for more infrastructure investment, so there should be broad agreement there. But the Democrats don’t have to do any of what Republicans are talking about, and the election for state senators is four years away. Majority Democrats apparently believe they don’t have to do anything close to compromise with the GOP before at least 2025 to protect their swing seat incumbents.
Question 2): Despite Democrats holding only razor thin majorities in the state House and Senate, Michigan Republicans currently have just one procedural arrow in their quiver to use unless there are defections from across the aisle. That would be withholding the votes required to grant “Immediate Effect” on legislation passed (on the Senate side only, practically speaking). Last week, Senate Minority Leader Aric NESBITT (R-Porter Twp) indicated he would let that arrow fly unless the Democrats satisfy a short list of Republican budgetary priorities. How much of a problem for majority Democrats would adjourning early to bypass the “Immediate Effect” dilemma actually be? After all, Gov. Whitmer could still call the Legislature back afterward to address any laundry list of issues Democrats wanted to address, right?
Answer 2): The answers to those two questions are 1) Adjourning early shouldn’t be a problem, and probably won’t be; and 2) Yes, the Legislature could still be called back to address any list of issues, and any such list would be dictated by majority Democrats and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Voters simply don’t care about procedural maneuvers like I.E. However, such a move could be problematic for possibly two reasons. — first, it would be unprecedented in the past six decades, so the Republicans would have an opening to attack their opponents for playing political games. The bigger long-term issue is that, if this works well, the Governor and Legislature may be inadvertently making the case that we might as well move to a part-time Legislature.
Question 3): How much of a political liability would it be for Republicans if, by withholding “Immediate Effect,” they delayed the opening days of school districts?
Answer 3): There are policy and political reasons for withholding the necessary votes for Immediate Effect, but delaying the opening of K-12 school districts is not one of them, Minority Republicans don’t want to die on that hill. Negatively impacting our children’s education, even if it’s just causing enough chaos to delay the start of school, is never a good idea. It would be easy campaign fodder for the Dems against Republican candidates next year.
Question 4): Should the Republicans make a 2024 election issue out of “lack of transparency” or “accountability” because Gov. Whitmer and Democrats have voted to get rid of the A-F grading system for measuring how well K-12 schools perform?
Answer 4): Probably, but how salient it would be as a campaign issue is questionable. Republicans tend to be the party that demands that ‘standards’ of public educational institutions be met, i.e., Third Grade Reading Proficiency, K-12 School Performance, etc., with penalties assessed for failure to meet those standards. If an incumbent Democratic legislator casts a series of votes that fit a pattern, such as ‘Standards Don’t Matter’ and ‘Performance Doesn’t Matter,’ and ‘What Matters is Whether Public School Teachers and the Michigan Education Association Approves of It,’ that lawmaker may be in trouble at the polls next year. Getting rid of the Third Grade reading standard and not grading schools is popular only with the MEA. These issues all speak to the question of who the schools are in business for, the teachers or the kids? We should expect Republicans to use this in campaign attacks. Democrats must have an adequate response, but it will cause them to have to explain their position. And, as they say in politics, if you’re explaining, you’re losing.
Democrats should learn to play nice. If they don’t, we shall see what happens. I’m surprised they aren’t working on eliminating term limits by now. I clearly remember the old days when an incumbent was impossible to dislodge. Furthering liberty should be the number one item on their agenda.
John C Stewart says
The check will “clear the Bank” metaphorically-for the Democrats that they will have their “will” prevail. Doubtful, there will be any political backlash. Other issues will hurt Democrats next year.
Tim Sullivan says
Interesting article, Bill. I hope my observations are as interesting.
QUESTION ONE: There has been little – if any – bipartisanship in Lansing this century. The only time there is “bipartisanship” is when one party controls the executive and the other controls at least one of the legislative chambers. Absent that, there is no bipartisanship. Nesbitt’s position seems to be an attempt to make Whitmer more centrist (I hate that term as it is effectively meaningless in this day and age). Basically, he wants her throw the GOP a few bones that will placate the donor class (the things he wants either precludes tax hikes or gives $$$ to businesses). Nesbitt should not hold his breath unless a couple of Democrats leave the state senate. Nesbitt needs to understand that he is as likely to get what he wants as Whitmer got when she held his position, Jack and squat. And Jack has left town.
QUESTION TWO: Sine die! Adjournment and recalling the legislature for specific issues answers/fixes that problem. It might irritate some of both parties, but as long as the $$$ they are paid stays the same, their complaints will be muted. And let’s be honest, the people won’t care and neither will the media.
QUESTION THREE: Spot on right with #3. Even the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Mackinac Center would not back that.
QUESTION FOUR: It could be an issue, but the media doesn’t and probably won’t care unless school and student performance tanks. Then getting rid of school grades MIGHT be an issue. But does anyone really think that any newspaper or TV station will dedicate the amount of print and airtime needed to discuss the issue? I doubt it. It would require looking into the State Board members (Democrats as tools for MEA and the GOP as tools for charter schools) endorsed by the aforementioned paper(s) and the lack of previous coverage by the TV stations. I would like to be surprised, but we should expect Bud Light to be the beer of choice at the next MAGA rally before we see that coverage.
Education is a hot-button issue among suburban voters.
The GOP represents parents and the Dems love the MEA.
My raison d’etre for becoming a GOP activist was genuine concern for students in the public school system.
Whitmer and the Dems do not give a hoot about schoolchildren or suburban families.
Dems represent feminism and the GOP represents mothers.