The Legislature’s One Summer Project Is 'The Budget' -- Right?

Editors' Note: MIRS asked a panel of political pundits six questions about no-fault auto insurance reform legislation.

Q. The Governor and Legislature want to tackle three major issues this year -- the first budget of the Whitmer era, road-funding, and reforming no-fault auto insurance. The Senate chamber won't be available from June 28 to early August and, currently, the Senate has a total of only six session days on its July-August schedule. Would the smart money be on the Legislature finishing only the budget this summer; with road funding and no-fault remaining unresolved as of Oct. 1?

Jen EYER, a partner at Vanguard Public Affairs, said it sure looks like the direction things are heading. “Yes. I would expect the Legislature to continue their well-worn path of delaying and obfuscating when it comes to roads,” Eyer said. “In the end, they will propose something that falls short of the annual $2.5 billion minimum experts attest is needed to begin to address the problem. Republicans surely are already preparing the ads claiming Gov. Whitmer 'didn’t fix the roads,' so they don’t want to hand her a win on the issue. Instead, they’ll let Michiganders continue to bump along on unsafe roads, racking up hundreds and thousands per driver on car repairs and endangering lives.”

Q. How long can Michigan Republicans wait before locking-in their U.S. Senate candidate and still have a realistic shot at unseating U.S. Sen. Gary PETERS in 2020?

According to Eyer, they are already too late. "If the candidate is going to be John James, he never should have stopped campaigning," Eyer suggested. "Whomever it is should have launched in January of this year. Democrats have not stopped organizing since the November election. I talked with a woman just tonight, an older Democratic activist in Lansing, who said her group -- which helped deliver Gov. Whitmer -- are already working hard for Peters. Republicans are far behind already, and with each passing day it's less likely they will prevail."

Q. Will the no-fault reform legislation unveiled by Senate Republicans this week include anything that varies from the traditional GOP checklist of preferred changes?

Eyer said she has no reason to expect anything new from the Republicans on this one. "Senate Republicans will propose the same boilerplate that they have in the past, mostly centered around protecting insurance companies at the expense of people who need care," Eyer said. "In contrast, Gov. Whitmer has ordered a review of non-driving factors auto insurance companies are using to determine rates. It’s clear who is on the side of Michiganders."

Q. How long can Michigan Republicans wait before locking-in their U.S. Senate candidate and still have a realistic shot at unseating U.S. Sen. Gary PETERS in 2020?

According to Eyer, they are already too late. "If the candidate is going to be John James, he never should have stopped campaigning," Eyer suggested. "Whomever it is should have launched in January of this year. Democrats have not stopped organizing since the November election. I talked with a woman just tonight, an older Democratic activist in Lansing, who said her group -- which helped deliver Gov. Whitmer -- are already working hard for Peters. Republicans are far behind already, and with each passing day it's less likely they will prevail."

Q. Will the no-fault reform legislation unveiled by Senate Republicans this week include anything that varies from the traditional GOP checklist of preferred changes?

Eyer said she has no reason to expect anything new from the Republicans on this one. "Senate Republicans will propose the same boilerplate that they have in the past, mostly centered around protecting insurance companies at the expense of people who need care," Eyer said. "In contrast, Gov. Whitmer has ordered a review of non-driving factors auto insurance companies are using to determine rates. It’s clear who is on the side of Michiganders."

Q. Last week Senate Democrats temporarily withheld Immediate Effect on legislation taking schools off the hook for canceling classes on days when the state-declared weather emergencies. Some see that as a "bad sign" regarding the much tougher issues that lie ahead? Do you agree?

"It's never a bad sign when the minority party has the ability to exert some influence on the process," Eyer said. "In this case, Senate Democrats were advocating for workers who need their paychecks, but Republicans did not want to help. Seeing that they could not broker a deal, they acquiesced to prioritize students. It's unfortunate that Republicans would not get on board with supporting school employees, but it’s certainly not a bad sign to see Democrats advocating for workers."

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