62% Of Bonding Proposals Pass; 82% Of Money Asks
With 100% of the results from Tuesday’s election in statewide, 82% percent of the 130 tax proposals on Tuesday’s local election ballots succeeded while 18% failed. With results from DeWitt and other school districts now in, 21 of the 34 bonding proposals passed while 13 failed.
All 13 fire and/or EMS related proposals passed as did all nine proposed police or public safety-related proposals.
Road-related proposals in Lenawee County’s Raisin Township and Macomb County’s New Baltimore failed while 14 proposals throughout the state passed.
All four pest insect repellant proposals passed in rural Michigan. Both water infrastructure proposals in Pleasant Ridge and Gibraltar passed.
Libraries went two for five on Tuesday. An ambitious $9.1 million proposal in Oxford went down, as did a $412,000 ask in Ionia, but other proposals in Auburn Hills, Bath Township and Eastpointe were approved.
Forty of the 62 school-related proposals passed. DeWitt Public Schools saw an overwhelmingly positive response to its bond request, with 70.99% voting to pass it.
Marijuana-related proposals in Potterville, Clawson and Lapeer failed as did Detroit’s Proposal S and Rockwood’s Initiative Petition Amendment. Both would have changed the respective city’s charter.
In Ann Arbor, 73% of voters said yes to switching to ranked choice voting for future city elections.
Detroit voters said yes to having a Reparations Task Force to make housing and economic development program recommendations to address historical discrimination against the Black community in the city and to a city ordinance that decriminalizes the personal possession of magic mushrooms and other “entheogenic plants.”
In Petoskey, voters passed a proposed amendment to the city charter that amends the mayor’s term from one year to two years, and councilmembers from two years to three years beginning with terms effective Jan. 1, 2023. The change also continues annual city elections in November of each year, except in 2027 and every sixth year thereafter.
Citizens Will Automatically Receive AV Ballot Applications Under House D Package
Absentee voter (AV) ballot applications will be automatically sent to Michigan residents by their local clerks no later than 75 days before an election under a bill announced today as part of a House Democratic legislative package.
A Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) bill would require that clerks send AV ballot applications with postage prepaid return envelopes no later than 75 days before the election. A “Know Your Voting Rights” card will be included with the AV ballot application.
Rep. Matt Hall (R-Marshall) quickly sent out a statement on the House Democratic package, singling out the Carter bill.
“Many people I talk to in Calhoun (and) Kalamazoo counties expect and deserve an elections process that is secure so they can have faith in the results,” said Hall. “These bills miss the mark. In some cases, like the mass unsolicited mailing of absent voter ballot applications, they would only further contribute to issues that we saw in the most recent election.”
House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.) doubled down on mailing out AV ballot applications, as well as the entire package.
“Not only will we fight any attempt to make it harder for Michigan citizens to vote, but we are here to announce today a package of legislation that not only removes obstacles and hurdles, but makes our elections free, fair, and accessible for all,” she said.
Other legislation in the package includes:
– From Rep. Tullio Liberati (D-Allen Park): A requirement for the state to reimburse county and local clerks for postage costs related to mailing AV ballots and applications and their return envelopes.
– From Rep. Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw): A requirement for ballots to be counted if received within 72 hours of the election and postmarked by election day.
– From Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy): Allowing for overseas military members and their spouses to submit AV ballots electronically.
– From Rep. Karen Whitesett (D-Detroit): Removing the current prohibition on hiring transportation to take voters to the poll.
– From Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth): Allowing AV ballots to be processed seven days before the election. It requires notice and daily delivery of open ballots to the board of election inspectors.
– From Rep. Mari Manoogian (D-Birmingham): Allow 16-17.5 year olds to pre-register to vote. Once they reach 17.5 years old, the clerk will transmit their registration to the master voter file. Proof of residence and proof of citizenship is required.
– From Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt): Requirement for one secure AV ballot drop box per 20,000 people in each city or township. It must be emptied at least once per day. The costs will be reimbursed by the state.
– From Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek): Requirement for local clerks to maintain a permanent absent voter list.
Lasinski referenced legislation in states across the country that she says are aimed to limit the right to vote. “The attacks have been relentless across the nation,” she said. “But good news is, so are we.”
Byrum, was at the event even though she had only a few hours of sleep from the election the night before (and into the early hours of the morning).
“Clerks have been clear about what we need to improve our elections, the process, and to help make our elections even safer and more secure,” she said. “The Michigan Association of County Clerks and the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks released a list of requested enhancements and updates to Michigan election law. These were ignored by the majority Republican caucuses, who chose instead to further election conspiracy theories, and introduce hurdles, legislative hurdles, to voting.”
In response to the House Democrats unveiling their own set of election bills after House Republicans did so earlier in the year, Benson didn’t consider this a different move – just a move in the right direction.
“This is actually lawmakers working with election administrators in responding to what we’ve been calling for all year and for years prior and for that I’m grateful,” Benson said. “And as our staff has tried to work with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, and will continue to do that, we are proud that finally someone is listening to clerks and election administrators and voters about what we need. And we promise to stand with them and move forward.”
Asked if there had been any conversations with House Republicans on this bill package, Koleszar replied, “The chair of the elections committee, Rep. Ann Bollin (R-Brighton Twp.) and I, have had a lot of good conversations where I do think there is a lot of common ground we can find in this.”
Rep. Bollin responded to the package as a whole later in the day.
“Some of the ideas in this plan have merit, but so far none of the House Democrats have approached me to work collaboratively on them,” she said. “Other parts of the plan are clearly unworkable because they disregard important checks and balances that protect the integrity of our elections. This was nothing but a political stunt.”
Progress Michigan and Voters Not Politicians offered support for the House Democratic package.
Republicans Feel Midterm Momentum After NJ, VA Results
Michigan Republicans said Wednesday that the opportunity to unseat Governor Gretchen Whitmer next year is more real than ever after watching their party flip the governor’s seat in Democratic-leaning Virginia and come astonishingly close to doing the same in solidly Democratic New Jersey.
Political consultants in both parties said Tuesday’s results signaled that the 2022 midterms, already challenging for Democrats with their party controlling the White House and Congress, could potentially go worse than expected for them. Further, they said the victory of Republican Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin showed a path to statewide victory for a party still grappling with internal feuds and a decline in support from its old suburban base.
Consultants in both parties said the New Jersey and Virginia results – which have generally served as a signal toward the environment in the next year’s midterms – show Ms. Whitmer faces unusual danger to her reelection in a state where the governor has not lost a bid for a second term since 1962. They also noted Ms. Whitmer’s rapid moves toward the economy, bipartisan cooperation and vocal support for law enforcement and away from COVID-19 restrictions this year was a sign her team was aware of the shifting political terrain that showed up in Tuesday’s elections.
Perhaps most alarming to Democrats, several said, should be the bleeding of support their gubernatorial candidates experienced in suburban areas. Ms. Whitmer’s 2018 victory, as well as President Joe Biden’s in 2020, had suburban support as a key component.
“It’s no secret that those voters didn’t like President Trump. Just the same, they don’t like defunding the police and they don’t like being told they can’t have a say in what goes on in their kids’ schools,” Kristin Combs, a Republican who is co-founder and political director at Bright Spark Strategies, said. “I think (the Whitmer team) definitely sees it and I think they should be concerned. Because that’s the majority maker. Oakland, Kent County, those suburban areas, those win legislative majorities and those win statewide races.”
One of the elements that showed up in Virginia was that Mr. Youngkin brought out supporters of former President Donald Trump without Mr. Trump on the ballot and while walking a tightrope between the former president, who demands fealty and attention, and suburban voters, who turned on him and cost him the presidency.
In 2018, without Mr. Trump on the ballot, the occasional voters who showed up to back him in 2016 did not show up in the same numbers and Democrats won sweeping victories in Michigan and across the nation. There were doubts about whether those voters would show up in 2022 without Mr. Trump on the ballot. Tuesday’s results suggest they will in a big way. In many rural areas of Virginia, Mr. Youngkin topped Mr. Trump’s already big margins.
“Youngkin was able to thread this needle,” John Sellek, a Republican who is CEO of Harbor Strategic, said. “He figured out how to have Trump and the suburbs.”
Mr. Youngkin gave suburban voters who disliked Mr. Trump permission to vote Republican again, Mr. Sellek said.
Democrats said there are signs 2022 could be tougher than expected for their party.
“You could have 2010 again. I think that yesterday should be a strong signal to Democrats that there’s some downside risk to that happening,” Adrian Hemond of Grassroots Midwest, said, referring to the Republican tsunami that put them in charge of the entire state that year. “They need to do a hell of a lot better.”
Mr. Hemond said New Jersey and Virginia were instructive as to where Democrats are vulnerable. A huge emphasis from Republicans in Michigan and nationally has been on schools, and it’s clear parents want their children back in school despite the COVID-19 pandemic and playing sports without masks, he said.
Ms. Combs and Mr. Sellek said the comment from the Virginia Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe, that parents should not have a say in curriculum at their children’s school was a huge moment that helped Mr. Youngkin win the race.
Mr. Sellek said he anticipated Republicans would press Ms. Whitmer on whether she agrees.
There will be a continued push from the GOP on supporting law enforcement and using the calls from some progressives to shift funding from police to other services against Ms. Whitmer. The governor has never embraced that idea and has made a point of emphasizing the need to fiscally support police.
Unlike 2020, when Ms. Whitmer was focused on COVID-19, she is now emphasizing more Michigan-specific issues that have the potential to broadly appeal to voters. This week, she called for a large refund from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association to auto insurance policy holders earlier than required.
“I think they’ll tell themselves that they were seeing what was happening in Virginia and acted accordingly months ago,” Mr. Sellek said. “They’re not going to suddenly pivot next week. They were already trying to.”
Mark Burton, an attorney with the Honigman firm, former member of the Whitmer administration and longtime Whitmer political confidante, said Ms. Whitmer is well positioned to mitigate the likely good national environment for Republicans in 2022.
“Michigan as a state in terms of its recovery will continue to produce wins on that front that she’s going to kind of continue to reap rewards from,” he said. “The election of ’18 is just different than 2022 is going to be. It’s the people in the middle. It’s the moderates on both sides and sort of those actual true independents, that kind of swath in the middle. I would continue to be hypersensitive to being an effective communicator with those voters and the issues they care about.”
The big x-factor is the Republican field. There are 12 candidates with committees set up though at this point there are three announced candidates who appear to be mounting credible campaigns: former Detroit police Chief James Craig, conservative commentator Tudor Dixon and Republican activist Garrett Soldano.
The field was the Whitmer campaign’s focus when asked about Tuesday’s election results.
“The Michigan GOP is grappling with a chaotic and divisive primary, with a dozen extremist candidates who are focused on false election fraud claims at the expense of attention on issues that matter to Michigan families,” spokesperson Maeve Coyle said. “By contrast, Governor Whitmer has a strong record of putting Michigan first – she made the largest investment in K-12 education in state history without raising taxes, moved dirt to fix the damn roads and fought to cut costs for hardworking Michigan families.”
Ms. Dixon said a “coalition of parents who feel they’re not being listened to by schools and political elites, and voters who wanted to make a statement about the socialist Democrats in Washington, D.C.” propelled Mr. Youngkin. She said she is positioned to capitalize on the same themes.
Mr. Craig tweeted “Michigan is next!” in congratulating Mr. Youngkin. He said voters rejected the Democratic Party’s agenda of “raising taxes, defunding police and indoctrinating our children through Critical Race Theory.” Republicans have turned Critical Race Theory into a huge issue to motivate their base though it’s not clear where, if anywhere, the concept is being taught in K-12 schools.
The GOP field is the unknown, several said. Can any of them capture what Mr. Youngkin did?
“We really don’t know,” Mr. Sellek said.
Gustavo Portela, spokesperson for the Michigan Republican Party, said Tuesday’s results send “a clear message to Gretchen Whitmer, Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson: No matter how much illegal money is injected into their campaigns, their days (of) lying to Michiganders and displaying a lack of transparency and accountability are numbered because voters will show them the door next year.”
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes, however, highlighted Democratic wins in cities across the state, including some history-making wins with the first Arab American and Muslim mayors of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Hamtramck and the first Black mayor of Jackson.
“All politics are local and last night’s victories for Democrats across Michigan prove just that,” Ms. Barnes said in a statement. “I am thrilled to see so many people of color and women now elected to city councils and local boards. It is a start to having true representation of Michiganders on all levels of government. These big wins for Democrats send a clear message to supporters of the ‘Big Lie.’ We will no longer tolerate elected officials that continue to spin dangerous conspiracy theories and support lies about unfair and unsafe elections. I look forward to working alongside all of the Democrats elected yesterday to move Michigan forward.”
“The global dynamics are not favorable. However, it’s also true that candidates matter,” Mr. Hemond said. “The governor’s got a boatload of money and she’s got a ton of experience as a politician. She’s won statewide office. And that doesn’t appear to apply to any of her potential challengers.”
The Michigan House and Senate will be in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week. Next week is “tentative” for the Legislature, so it is uncertain whether they will be in session or not.
House / Senate End of the Year Spending
The Senate bill allocates more then $3 billion in supplemental funding for water infrastructure. The bill includes $1 billion for lead line replacement, $680 million for dam improvement, $400 million for Great Lakes Water Authority sewer and water upgrades, $250 million for Midland County dams, $100 million for PFAS remediation, and $86 million for water filters in schools. The plan anticipates allocating these dollars within existing programs that allow local governments to apply for project assistance.
The House bill spends nearly $370 million for first responder recruitment and retention efforts. Included in the proposal is a $57 million grant program to encourage officers to move to Michigan, $40 million in public safety academy assistance programs, $10 million for police officer bonuses and $10 million in volunteer fire department gear. The bill also includes $50 million for new school resource officers, in response to the shooting at Oxford High School last week.
Both spending plans received nearly unanimous support in their respective chambers and will now be negotiated with the administration. It is likely that both of these bills will be sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer by the end of the year.
Unemployment Agency Under Fire
The UIA came under fire in a rare joint meeting of the House and Senate oversight committees. The joint committee meeting focused on the recently published Office of Auditor General (OAG) report that indicated that nearly 350,000 claimants “improperly” received almost $4 billion in assistance for which they weren’t eligible. The report cited a failure by the agency to adhere to federal guidelines, as well as internal deliberations that favored expediency in getting payments out over accuracy.
Most damning from the OAG report was a PowerPoint presentation by the UIA to the governor’s executive office. The presentation outlined pros and cons of making payments while establishing eligibility versus establishing eligibility then making payments. Listed as a benefit to paying claimants immediately was the “benefit” that any money paid in error “likely would not need to be reclaimed.” Committee members focused much of their time and attention on the issue that the administration knew mistakes were being made and made no effort to fix the problems.
In response to the ongoing UIA issues, legislators have discussed numerous statutory changes. A package of bills has already been introduced in the House and you should expect to see additional proposals in the near future.
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