Redistricting Holds Surprise Vote To Publish Lone Senate Map

A single Senate map was approved for publication by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission on a 5-4 margin Friday, catching many watching the meeting off guard as a vote was not listed on the agenda nor was it in line with an established process document that prescribed map votes be held next week.

It was also cast with just nine of 13 commissioners present, further raising some eyebrows.

A copy of the approved plan is available on the commission’s mapping portal, including previous iterations of the plan and various alternates.

While the approved Senate map met muster with the Voting Rights Act and federal equal population standards and had palatable partisan fairness scores, the map splits up several communities of interest throughout the state, setting it up for possible opposition in a slate of public hearings scheduled for later this month.

Partisan fairness being top of mind for those following closely, the scores for the finished Senate map show it favors the GOP in several measures except one. The map has a lopsided margin of 4.5 percent GOP, with a mean-median score of 2.7 percent and an efficiency gap of 3.2 percent for Republican candidates.

However, the map overall has a seat-to-vote share score of 0.3 percent in favor of Democratic Party candidates and has the potential to elect 20 Democrats and 18 Republicans to the Senate, according to past elections data fed through the scoring matrix.

While Friday’s vote was a big step forward for the commission, culminating the near-completion of its mapping work, it was not without controversy.

Votes on the commission’s various plans had been planned for Tuesday per a process document the commission had previously voted to approve, but Commissioner Dustin Witjes on Friday made a motion to suspend the process and hold a vote because there was not much more the body could do with the Senate map as it was compliant with key constitutional criteria, according to the commission’s consultants.

Some balked at the motion as the meeting had a razor-thin quorum of just nine among 13 commissioners present. Of note, Commissioners Juanita Curry, Brittni Kellom (both representing Detroit), Erin Wagner and Rhonda Lange were absent. Ms. Lange had been involved and made map changes in the morning session but left after noon. Ms. Kellom eventually joined the meeting but after the vote had been cast.

Aside from complaints about moving forward without the full weight of the commission, others said they were uncomfortable voting out of sync with the process document – which has, like other aspects of the process, changed several times over the past few months – and with so few commissioners present to voice concerns.

Mr. Witjes, a Democrat, voted in favor of his motion along with commissioners Janice Vallette (I), Cynthia Orton (R), Richard Weiss and Doug Clark (R). Per the commission’s rules, at least one Democrat, one Republican and one unaffiliated commissioner must be a part of a majority vote to approve maps.

Chair Rebecca Szetela, Vice Chair MC Rothhorn, commissioners Steve Lett and Anthony Eid – each unaffiliated with either party – voted no. Mr. Eid later clarified on Twitter that he only voted no because the motion bucked established procedure. Had Mr. Witjes’s motion landed on Tuesday, Mr. Eid said he would have supported it because he liked the map overall.

No other votes on maps were cast and the commission spent most of its time afterward cleaning up plans for the state and U.S. House.

In all, the commission agreed through consensus that it would consider three state House plans and five U.S. House plans on Monday.

Votes cast next week would officially wrap up the first phase of draft mapmaking, but commissioners said they were confident that their work to tinker with a few outstanding issues on the maps was over with at the end of Friday’s session.

Approval for publication before public hearings is only one step of the map approval process, and the vote that occurred Friday and others planned early next week were far from final. The commission will have a chance to make changes following five public hearings before taking another vote to initiate a 45-day public comment period.

After that, the commission will vote to adopt final maps starting on December 30, the first day they are legally allowed to do so.

Lobbyist Becomes Focus of Caregiver Hearing

The chief lobbyist advocating for legislation that shifts marijuana caregivers into a regulatory market unwittingly took centerstage at today’s first committee hearing on the bills.

Opponents to HB 5300, HB5301, HB5302, lampooned Steve Linder on a rolling billboard that portrayed the executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (MCMA) as both Dr. Evil and Mini-Me from the Austin Powers movies.

“One Billion Dollars!” reads the billboard. “Vote no on Linder’s monopoly bills . . . Michigan Representatives, don’t fall for Steve Linder’s lies!”

Linder referenced the billboard — a tactic he’s used against caregivers in the past — in his testimony to the House Regulatory Reform Committee by saying he’d “left his Dr. Evil suit at home.”

But when Rick Thompson, executive director of Michigan NORML, made a reference to “Evil Steve” in his testimony, Committee Chair Roger Hauck (R-Mt. Pleasant) gaveled him down and asked him to stick to the merits of the legislation.

“He called himself ‘Evil Steve,” Rep. Hauck, right?” continued Thompson, before he let his disgust for the “big bucks” that hired Linder, attorney Shelly Edgerton, and the public relations team in the committee get the better of him.

“That was big dollars today that testified,” he said. “The two polls they conducted, too. That was big dollars. Plus, the dog and pony show that we saw here today . . . “

Hauck shut down Thompson at that point and moved on to the next witness. Shortly after the hearing, opponents to the bills heckled Linder personally, calling him a “bitch,” among other things. The House sergeants ended up giving the lobbyist an escort to a back staircase, which he used to exit the building.

Asked for a comment later, Linder said, “They really did their side proud.”

The lead sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.), added, “Any time you make an issue about a person, you’re probably not on the right side of the issue . . . even if it is against Steve Linder,” he added with a smile.

Scott Hagerstrom, who is advocating for the Michigan Caregivers Association (MCA), acknowledged that his members were passionate in their approach to defeating the bills and he expects opponents to be more composed at the next hearing.

His members are growing medical marijuana for a small group of patients and these bills would force them to become a business and adhere to the same testing requirements as “Big Weed.”

They resent the “Cannabis Cartel” coming in with their big bucks and trying to wow legislators on a fancy presentation designed to make out caregivers as scofflaws who give questionable quality marijuana to sick patients and sell their excess on the black market.

“Many lawmakers seem to believe that bills like HB 5300, HB 5301 and HB 5302 are to help public safety,” said MCA founder George Brikho. “They have been deceived by dishonest and slimy lobbyists like Steven Linder. We will show them the light, or, if they refuse to do the right thing, make sure their constituents in their districts know about it.”

The bills are the first serious attempt to change the government oversight of medical marijuana caregivers, which was created through a 2008 ballot initiative.

Currently, marijuana growers can grow up to 12 plants for each of their five patients. The bills would drop that number to one patient. Since it’s amending a ballot initiative, it would need three-quarters support from both the House and Senate.

Today’s hearing went more than the allotted 90 minutes. No vote was taken and further hearings are expected.

Schroeder Remembered For Kindness, Determination In Face Of Cancer

Rep. Andrea Schroeder’s death Friday at the age of 57 saddened a Capitol that admired her will to continue serving despite being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer before she even took office.

First diagnosed in August 2018 – days after winning a tough Republican primary in the open 43rd District – Ms. Schroeder (R-Independence Township) still won election, took office and served while undergoing treatment. About two weeks ago, on September 14, Ms. Schroeder announced she was undergoing treatment for a recurrence of the cancer. She voiced optimism.

“Even in the worst days of her illness, Andrea Schroeder was a tireless and selfless friend who always put the needs of others before her own,” House Speaker Jason Wentworth(R-Farwell) said in a statement. “When we were all worried about her health and her comfort, she was more concerned about helping the people she represented who had called into the office, finding out what was going on in each of our lives, sharing the latest news about her children, working with the close staff for whom she cared so much, and helping everyone around her succeed with their own personal priorities. That’s who she was as a person right from the start, and that is exactly how I will remember her.”

In the relatively safe Republican central Oakland County seat, her general election victory was mostly assured. Four years earlier, Ms. Schroeder had lost a heartbreaker to Jim Tedder for the open seat as he took 3,007 votes in the Republican primary to her 2,846.

The member of the Independence Township Board of Trustees then found out days after her August 2018 victory she had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of stomach cancer. 

Unable to bear the thought of “getting pitying looks everywhere,” Ms. Schroeder told the Free Press for that story that she and her husband decided only to tell their three children and her parents.

Eventually, in early 2019, Ms. Schroeder was to undergo surgery and notified then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield and her own staff. In March, she went public with her diagnosis and recent surgery.

Born in Detroit, Ms. Schroeder earned her bachelor’s degree from Miami University. She started her career as a kindergarten teacher but then moved into the business world with roles at Oakwood Worldwide, Knowledge Management Group and Blackford Capital while also a partner at Strategic Five Business Solutions. She was a graduate of Michigan State University’s Michigan Political Leadership Program in 2006.

She won her first election in 2012 to the Independence Township board. After losing the 2014 race to Mr. Tedder for the House, she won another term on the township board. Then she got another crack at the House in 2018 when Mr. Tedder ran for the area’s Senate seat. She won a somewhat acrimonious Republican primary. In both 2018 and 2020, there was some thought that the shift of Oakland County toward the Democrats could put her seat in play, but she still won comfortably.

While in the House, Ms. Schroeder sponsored six bills that became law, including ones that waived licensing fees for military veterans and service members and their dependents who hold an out-of-state license; required a suicide prevention hotline telephone number on student identification cards and one of the bills in the school reopening package from late summer 2020.

She put considerable work into the suicide prevention hotline bill.

Ms. Schroeder’s legislative colleagues recalled her kindness and determination. Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) posted on Twitter that Ms. Schroeder once showed up to a roundtable she was hosting in Berkley, far from Ms. Schroeder’s district, “unannounced, just to listen.”

Former Rep. Lynn Afendoulis, who served with Ms. Schroeder during the 2019-20 term, said she was heartsick at the news.

“Rep. Schroeder fought cancer with grace and strength, even as she served,” she tweeted. “She was a thoughtful & hardworking representative of her district & a good colleague in the House. May her family and all those who loved her find comfort and may her memory be eternal.”

Ms. Schroeder was generally seen as interested in passing legislation and working with others. She was not someone looking to pick partisan fights or gain partisan attention.

Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth) said as the Democratic whip, he had the opportunity to work closely with Ms. Schroeder, the Republican whip, and get to know her.

“Working well together, across the aisle, to advance legislation was important to both of us and a point of pride. To say she will be missed is an understatement,” he tweeted.

Rep. Samantha Steckloff (D-Farmington Hills), who also has faced cancer, tweeted that “watching Rep. Schroeder at work will have a lifetime impact on me.”

Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser said Ms. Schroeder had a passion for education and the state’s students.

“I am heartbroken to learn of the passing of State Rep. Andrea Schroeder, following a long and hard-fought battle with stomach cancer. She worked tirelessly for her constituents while facing a struggle most of us cannot even begin to comprehend,” he said in a statement. “She was a fearless advocate for our children and leaves behind an incredible legacy.”

Andrew Schepers, government relations director in Michigan for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, said Ms. Schroeder was “the epitome of a true fighter” and will be missed.

“She continued to work hard for those in the 43rd District while undergoing treatment for a reoccurrence of her cancer. She was the truest example of a servant leader in Michigan,” he said in a statement. “Rep. Schroeder was a co-chair for Michigan’s legislative Cancer Caucus. She wanted to ensure that the issues that cancer patients face don’t fall to the wayside. She also wanted to make sure that those who were in their fight against cancer would be able to conquer their battle.”

When Ms. Schroeder spoke to the Free Press in late 2019, she was cancer-free.

“My body keeps trying to kill me, and I’m like, ‘You’re not done yet,’ she said. “… Am I doing what I’m supposed to be doing with whatever amount of time I have left? Just like everybody else, nobody knows about tomorrow. Maybe this is it. … I have a platform to make people aware. Maybe that’s the whole purpose of it. … Because now I have a platform for this.”


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