The year included major decisions, and votes, that shifted the state’s political landscape including the election of a new governor, Democrats taking control of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners, lame duck legislative craziness, and Michigan becoming the 10th state in the union to legalize recreational marijuana.
For the first time in 29 years, Democrats will hold the state’s three highest elected offices. Gov.-Elect Gretchen Whitmer will join fellow Democrats Jocelyn Benson, secretary of state-elect, and Dana Nessel, attorney general-elect, as those top elected officials.
History was not just made at the state level in Lansing, but at the the local level as well right here in Oakland County.
At the local level, something happened for the first time in over four decades. The Democratic Party took over control of the traditionally Republican-led Oakland County Board of Commissioners with a 11-10 advantage following November’s election.
Seats were flipped from red to blue while various grassroot movements and voter-led initiatives were the theme of the election season.
In Oakland County, Democrats flipped two House seats and two Senate seats. At the federal level, two of the county’s congressional districts flipped from red to blue, marking the first time ever that all four of the county’s congressional seats will be held by Democrats.
Of course we can’t forget about the passage of Proposal 1, which legalized the use of recreational marijuana in Michigan. Some communities, such as Pontiac, Birmingham, and Milford, have already passed opt-out ordinances banning all recreational marijuana facilities.
The process in which state and federal legislative district boundaries are drawn changed as well following the voter approval of Proposal 2, which aimed to end gerrymandering by putting drawing responsibility into the hands of an independent redistricting committee and out of the State Legislature.
Senate Bill 1254, which was introduced during lame duck and outlines how Benson’s office would govern both the application and selection process for the new independent redistricting committee, was never signed by Snyder. In fact, it never made it out of the House Elections Ethics Committee after being approved by the Senate.
The GOP-led State Legislature had a very busy lame duck session approving hundreds of bills left and right in hopes of getting them to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk in time to receive his John Hancock before the end of his eight-year term.
In total, nearly 400 lame duck bills had hit Snyder’s desk. Of that total, about 350 were signed signed into law while about 55 were vetoed.
One notable lame duck bill, Senate Bill 1250, never made it of the House Elections and Ethics Committee. The bill aimed to strip Secretary of State-Elect Jocelyn Benson’s office of some oversight powers over Michigan’s campaign finance law.
Two of the more notable pieces of legislation that were signed into law were “substitute” bills that amended legislation previously approved by the Legislature related to paid sick leave, Senate Bill 1175, and minimum wage increases, Senate Bill 1171.
Snyder also signed House bill 5017, which made cyberbullying a crime and another package of bills, House bills 982, 983, and 990, that created a state Office of School Safety that requires school to develop emergency operations plans.
Another bill that received Snyder’s signature, Senate Bill 1197, established the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, a panel that will oversee the underground construction of an oil pipeline tunnel in the Straits of Mackinac.
Here is what some elected leaders had to say about the year that was in Michigan elections and politics:
Gov.-Elect Gretchen Whitmer
“Michiganders came out and voted in droves because they were ready for a Governor who would stay focused on solving the problems that they face every day. No matter their political affiliation, people want to know that they can get on a path to a good job that’ll pay them well, that they can safely drink the water coming out of their taps, and that they can drive to work or drop their kids at school without busting a rim or blowing a tire. Those are the issues that we stayed focused on in the campaign and the ones we’re going to get to work solving in the administration.”
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson
“There were no suprises in the congressional midterms with the midterms historically going to the President’s opposition party. Gov.-Elect Whitmer had an effective message. She, like me, will be working with the opposition party. As for the slim 11-10 Democratic majority on the Board of Commissioners, I simply remind people that it takes 14 votes to override a veto.”
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner
“The 2018 election season was about Oakland County coming together behind progressive candidates speaking about real-life problems, like healthcare, getting a job that pays the bills, and transportation to work. Governor-Elect Gretchen Whitmer’s 17-Point win in Oakland County was significant, as was the success of a super-talented batch of Democratic candidates who won or came very close. The 2018 election season saw the exciting emergence of many new groups that played prominent roles in Democrats’ electoral success, including Fems for Dems, Indivisible, the Precinct Delegate organizers and more. I knocked thousands of doors across Oakland County with candidates at every level and have never seen a stronger group, or had more authentic and meaningful front-porch conversations. Looking ahead to 2020 and beyond, I see the trend continuing in favor of candidates who understand our core Oakland County values, but also believe that our best days are ahead!”
Oakland County Republican Party Chair Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski
“It was a total disappointment in allowing the liberal party to rebrand themselves as for the people, and the Republicans as not letting the people know what they stood for, or the great things they have done. For example, the liberals ran on preserving pre-exisiting conditions, when in reality, it was the Republicans that preserved those protections into law and gave health choices.”
Oakland County Commissoner Dave Woodward
“Oakland County reaffirmed what American stands for for this election. A diverse group of new leaders were motivated to run and stop the failures of The White House and others. The hope for America is equality, opportunity, and freedom for all and not just a few. The people of Oakland County elected leaders that share these values.”
Oakland County Democratic Party Chair Vaughn Derderian
“I think 2018 was cathartic for a lot of Democrats, especially people who had been involved in 2016. There was a real need to see that hard work could produce tangible wins, so having a wave election, beyond the actual seats that we took, will help generate enthusiasm for Democrats moving forward.”