Next For No-Fault Reform? A Deal To Seal Or An End Run?

Editors' Note: MIRS asked a panel of political pundits four questions about no-fault auto insurance reform legislation, abortion laws and reelections.

Q - What’s more likely to happen with Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance reform issue; Gov. Whitmer and the GOP-controlled legislature reach a comprise that Whitmer will sign into law, or it will happen without her signature as the result of a citizen-initiated law petition drive backed by Dan Gilbert?

"Given the Gilbert announcement, it’s clear that reform is happening one way or the other," said Vanguard Public Affairs President and Managing Partner T.J. BUCHOLZ. "If the Governor and the Legislature can’t reach a compromise, the petition drive will be successful, almost guaranteed. Since on the face of it, the drive looks similar to what Republicans are proposing, I think its existence puts additional pressure on the Governor to reach a deal. If I were Gretchen Whitmer, I wouldn’t be thrilled about this petition drive -- it could be perceived as outside influencers trying to take the bat out of her hands to work around her -- and that’s never a good picture for a sitting Governor, especially one only six months into her first term. "I don’t understand why Detroiters like Gilbert and Mayor Mike DUGGAN – who I think has personally convinced Gilbert that this is the right crusade – aren’t screaming to discontinue practices like redlining,” Bucholz continued. “This initiative would only cement those terrible policies into place and aren’t in the best interest of the people they are supposed to be representing. The Governor might want to defeat this initiative just on principle alone – if successful despite her objections, it could signal to her opponents that there's blood in the water in terms of her re-election and the sharks will eventually circle."

Q - Is getting a sufficient number of signatures for a citizen-initiated law against dismemberment abortions a slam dunk for Right to Life?

Bucholz said it would be tough, but RTL could pull it off. “First of all, dismemberment abortion is not an actual term used in the medical community and that phrase needs to be eliminated from our vernacular completely – its continued usage by RTL and its supporters only perpetuates misinformation,” Bucholz said. “That said, the first step is getting the signatures, and there are only one or two firms that have had significant success in collecting the names needed.” “It’s a divisive issue with a lot of opinions and a lot of parties who will attempt to cloud the water, Bucholz continued. “Sowing confusion decreases the chances a potential ballot initiative will be successful. But Right to Life has the technical know-how and potential resources to collect the signatures themselves, similar to what Voters Not Politicians did last year. If that’s the case and volunteers can motivate and convince voters on the doorstep, that does make it much easier for RTL to be successful. From a big picture perspective, Republicans again feel they can force the Governor’s hand on issues important to them by circumventing her entirely and that should be concerning for Democrats broadly.”

Q - Can we pencil it in right now that U.S. Rep. Justin AMASH (R- Cascade Twp.) won’t be re-elected even if he tries?

According to Bucholz, Amash could win again, if he makes the right moves and has a bit of luck. “The decision to take on Trump as publicly as he did is an all or nothing play for Amash,” Bucholz observed. “The key to this stratagem by Amash is how popular the President is in his district – it’s certainly less than what Trump is polling up north but still strong. Amash has had time to build name ID in his district – he’s more popular than a lot of outsiders think.” “Being the first Republican in Michigan – an important swing state in 2020 – saying that Trump should be impeached are fighting words for the President and his minions,” Bucholz continued. “I’d say that Amash will definitely announce as the Libertarian choice for President in the coming weeks and the resulting popularity and profile could also get him re-elected in 2020, if he plays his cards right and if Trump continues to wane in the Midwest.”

Q - Should House Speaker Lee CHATFIELD (R-Levering) move quickly to have Rep. Larry INMAN(R-Williamsburg) expelled from the House, or should he wait and allow the alleged bribery and extortion case to, presumably, apply even more pressure moving forward?

Bucholz maintains that Chatfield can’t afford to wait, because there are too many arrows he may soon have to dodge. “The Speaker can’t move forward on this issue quickly enough, especially if there’s a chance that the attempt to squeeze unions for votes wasn’t limited to just one Republican lawmaker,” Bucholz said. “I have no knowledge of that save for the texts I’ve read in the media, but it seems, in my opinion, that there could be more to this than the misconduct of a single GOP lawmaker. If Larry Inman refuses to step down and federal prosecutors offer him a deal for his cooperation with an investigation to potentially implicate his colleagues, this could spell major trouble for the House GOP caucus. How fast can the Speaker run? Because that’s how fast he needs to distance himself and his members from Inman.”

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