Editor's note: Vanguard President and CEO TJ Bucholz joins a panel of political pundits to discuss Michigan Legislature's Lame Duck session.
Q. Is it a slam dunk, "take it to the bank" likelihood that legislative Democrats will oppose whatever amendments Republican lawmakers try to make to the minimum wage and paid sick leave voter-initiated proposals in lame duck session?
"Yes. Legislative Democrats strongly believe that GOP lawmakers took these proposals off the ballot because they would pass in their original form handily," said T.J. BUCHOLZ of Vanguard Public Affairs. "That sentiment translates into a 'will of the people' argument for Democratic lawmakers and they will likely oppose any change that subverts the language contained in them. These proposals represent fundamental policy goals that Democrats have tried to pass at state and federal levels for years, so much so that paid sick time and raise the minimum wage are now considered Democratic dogma."
"To not oppose changes by Republican lawmakers would be out of character for progressives and would potentially make them targets for primary challenge in 2020," Bucholz continued. "Make no mistake, the GOP will make changes to these proposals. They telegraphed the moves in the media weeks ago."
Q. There is already GOP legislation (SB 1197) to fortify the legal argument for using a tunnel to deal with the Line 5 controversy. SB 1197 is clearly aimed at undercutting potential efforts by incoming Attorney General Dana Nessel to weigh in on the Line 5 issue. Would you expect to see additional legislation in the lame duck session designed to limit Nessel's ability to impact other issues?
Bucholz said "absolutely" he expects the Republicans to use the lame duck to try to block Democratic plans where-ever possible.
"I believe December is going to be a wild month in the lame duck session and Senate Republicans will do what they can to inhibit progress through the Executive Branch, including the Governor's Office, the AG's Office, and the Secretary of State," Bucholz said. "If GOP leaders have the ability to hamstring incoming Democratic electeds, they absolutely will take the opportunity. Case in point: Senate Majority Leader Elect Mike [SHIRKEY] (R-Clarklake) was named to the post for about 35 minutes before he said that things like Right to Work and corporate tax cut rollbacks were off the table, two of Governor Elect Whitmer's priorities. I think you are hearing Gretchen Whitmer speak a lot about bi-partisan cooperation, which has received deafening silence from her opposition. Republicans have one goal only - maintaining control. To expect anything less is a fool's errand."
Q. Do you expect an A-F system for grading school performance to be passed during the lame duck session? And why do you or don't you expect it to pass?
According to Bucholz, it's hard to imagine the GOP missing this last chance to advance their doctrine.
"Generally speaking, Republicans are always about measurement as the absolute primary education outcome for Michigan," Bucholz said. "Democrats focus on teaching, learning, and children at the local level. GOP lawmakers in Lansing only seem to focus on power, control, and adults at the state level. So, if you're a Republican in a contentious lame duck session and those are your main concerns, why wouldn't you implement an A-F system that would allow you to flunk schools while castigating public educators in the process, giving you the opportunity to buy into a DeVos-centric charter school system of learning? Of course you would."
Q. How many cabinet appointments will Governor-Elect Gretchen Whitmer have named as of Jan 1? Roughly half, about two-thirds, or hardly any?
Bucholz said Whitmer's team is on top of the situation and things are progressing just fine.
"I think the Whitmer transition has been running very smoothly, quietly, and effectively to this point - vetting is already under way on many strong candidates," Bucholz said. "I think you'll see some major announcements after the Thanksgiving Break and continue to roll throughout December prior to Inauguration. Gov.-Elect Whitmer has repeatedly said she wants to hit the ground running on Day 1 and a completed cabinet allows her to do that. She won't have every position filled on January 1, but major appointments will be completed prior to the New Year, and at least two thirds of those top jobs will have quality people ready to roll."
"I think you'll see some surprises and some nods to previous administrations," Bucholz added. "At the end of day, I believe her cabinet will be high quality individuals interested in making a positive difference in Michigan."
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