As Regards 'School Safety,' Does The Legislature Really Need To Act Now?

Editor's note: Vanguard President and CEO TJ Bucholz joins a panel of political pundits to discuss school safety in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Q. Politically speaking, does the GOP-controlled Legislature have to pass some sort of significant "school-safety" legislation before going home for the upcoming election-year summer?

T.J. BUCHOLZ, of Vanguard Public Affairs, said GOP legislative leaders will likely decide they have to move some kind of legislation concerning this issue, even if it ends up being mostly symbolic. “This GOP-controlled Legislature generally cannot afford to ignore the building national movement for common sense gun reform -- the protests alone over the weekend drew out more people than the 2017 Trump Inauguration and organizers didn't have to even use Photoshop to demonstrate that fact,” Bucholz said. “Republicans in swing districts specifically must communicate with their constituents their plans to address the growing demand to protect students quickly, otherwise they make themselves increasingly vulnerable in what is shaping up to be a blue-wave electoral year.” “It's certainly a polarizing issue. Republicans in northern districts where Trump won by a dozen points or more, will likely double down on their support of the NRA,” Bucholz continued. “If you notice, walk-out movements in schools across northern Michigan were fairly sparse and that fact may be indicative as to how families in Republican-controlled districts Up North feel about their guns. To protect their swing districts, the Legislature has to pass some sort of bill as a shield, and it will likely be a weak tweak to existing laws, because this will be an issue important to voters come November.”

Q. Is the $1 trillion-plus federal omnibus budget bill, and the decision by President Donald TRUMP not to veto it, likely to decrease Republican turnout next fall?

According to Bucholz, if conservative Republicans decide Trump has betrayed them, that could make the 2018 Democratic victory cake all the sweeter. “That's a good question -- and the sheer length of the bill itself made it nearly impossible for even majority members of Congress to know precisely what is in it,” Bucholz said. “Republican trust in government is at an all-time low, and many voters who sent Trump to the White House expected a shakeup in Washington, not simply signing off on an establishment-written omnibus budget. If conservatives believe Trump betrayed them in the process, they could elect to send him a message in the mid-terms and not turn out in force for the elections. If that happens, it might make the color of the blue wave even deeper, great news for Democrats across the nation.”

Q. Gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Bill SCHUETTE, is hitting his rival Lt. Gov. Brian CALLEY for supporting former Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM's Michigan Business Tax, pulling his endorsement of Trump a few weeks prior to Election Day 2016, and pushing for Obamacare (by supporting Medicaid expansion). If you're the Calley campaign looking ahead to the Republican August primary, how do you counter attacks of this sort?

Bucholz said Calley doesn't have a lot of good choices. “Bill Schuette is hitting Brian Calley in these sweet spots because he knows -- and likely has research to back it up -- that these issues make it more likely for Republican primary voters to vote for the Attorney General in August,” Bucholz said. “If you're Calley, you have two choices, either own your record as a more moderate Republican that worked hard to make laws that positively impacted the citizens of Michigan or take Schuette on for his right-wing reactionary, conservative politics over the last eight years.” “The problem with either of those strategies is that they work better for the general election, while conservatives will be the bulk of voters in the Republican primary,” Bucholz continued. “To beat Schuette in August, Calley needs to wed himself to the positive things from Rick SNYDER's administration -- the economic comeback story, low unemployment rates, and small business growth under his watch. Given the Governor's current unpopularity with voters, that's a tall order.”

Q. Should we expect the post-Larry NASSAR bill package to be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder within the next few weeks without significant changes?

According to Bucholz, there's a good chance the bills will move forward without many changes. Whether that would be wise or not, would be another question. "The key to this bill -- for both sides of the aisle -- is its retroactivity component,” Bucholz said. “It looks at this point that legislators generally want the period the bills cover to include Nassar's entire tenure at Michigan State University, very problematic potentially for colleges, universities, and other organizations across Michigan.” “Legislators seem to believe that this might be the price of doing business for Michigan institutions of higher education long-term,” Bucholz continued. “I think the chances are good that these bills might pass as-is, which could potentially cause logistical and legal nightmares for colleges that are already saying they will pass the costs onto students, something that could be a real challenge for some universities moving forward, continuing to price the cost of college out of range for lower and middle-income students.”

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