House Democrats and House Republicans are both vowing to work hard until November to secure control of the majority.

House Republican Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Bill Schuette (R-Midland) and House Democratic Campaign Chair Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park) sat down with MichMash, the podcast partnership between Gongwer News Service and WDET Detroit Public Radio, to discuss their respective caucuses’ strategy for victory this fall.

Republicans are ready to go to the mat with strong candidates in all 110 districts, Schuette said.

"I’m very excited about the deep bench and deep slate of candidates that we have where we have primaries," Schuette said. "That will help – iron sharpens iron – have a set of strong candidates for the elections in the fall."

Democrats aren’t taking their slim 56-54 majority for granted, Weiss said.

"I am immensely humbled by the amount of work this Legislature has been able to get done … but at the same time, we know that having a very narrow majority, a one-vote majority, has made it challenging to get every single piece of legislation across the finish line that we may have wanted, and we also know it doesn’t leave us any room for error."

Schuette said Republicans plan to target the seven seats they lost by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2022.

Those seats are the ones currently held by Rep. Joey Andrews IV (D-Saint Joseph), Rep. Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte), Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek), Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) and Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens).

Other seats that Schuette said could be ripe to flip are those that Trump won in 2016 and 2020 that are currently represented by a Democrat.

"If you look at the 2022 election, which was unfortunately a tough year for the Republicans, it was still an incredibly close election at the State House level," he said. "We were 1,400 votes away from holding the gavel right now … we’re shaping up to have a much more competitive general election environment."

On the Democratic side, Weiss said the 28th House District seat, currently held by Rep. Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown Township) was one her caucus thinks it can flip in November. The 46th District, currently held by Rep. Kathy Schmaltz (R-Jackson), is another contender to go blue, Weiss said.

Having former President Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket will help turn out the base in November, Schuette said. Despite being a polarizing figure, Schuette said Trump’s personality isn’t what’s on the ballot.

"This is going to be an election about ‘Were you better off under the presidency of President Trump, or are you better off under Joe Biden?’" Schuette said. "People can look at how their savings are eroded under Joe Biden. They can look at how their paychecks are going less far at the grocery store, on their energy bills, under Democrat leadership and they can look at the crisis on our southern border. And the contrast is clear."

Even in districts where Trump is distinctly unpopular, Schuette said House Republicans have candidates that match their districts.

Weiss said Democrats weren’t too concerned about how the top of the ticket would factor into House races.

"The majority of our candidates in our frontline races tend to outperform the top of the ticket, and that’s because they’re out in their communities. They’re talking to voters, they’re doing the work and building relationships," she said. "Even in areas where the top of the ticket has lost, we have members who have won their seats because of the work they’re doing."

Still, Weiss said Democrats needed to educate people about what the Biden administration has achieved.

"We just want to make sure that voters know about it so that they come out in support, because when people know about it, they’re excited and they’re motivated," she said. "They want to come out, and it’s not simply voting against somebody."

Although Schuette said Democrats will likely center reproductive rights during the campaign season, he said that issue was already decided as a result of Proposal 2022-3.

"There’s a right to an abortion for any reason enshrined in our state’s Constitution. There’s not anything that I as a legislator or any other member of the Legislature can do to change that," he said. ‘I’m sure Democrats will try to use it as an issue, but I think voters are smarter than that … people will be voting on their pocketbooks."

Weiss said reproductive rights are still an issue for voters.

"Just because the ballot initiative passed, because we’ve done more to strengthen reproductive freedom and reproductive health care in Michigan, we know that we also need to protect those freedoms," she said. "We also know that issue continues to resonate with voters. We hear it time and time again when we talk to voters out in the community, out on the doors, and so they’re paying attention to this issue."

In addition to reproductive rights, Weiss said Democrats would be running on investing in education and families.

Democratic policy changes, particularly the energy package passed late last year, will be a detriment to House Democrats on the campaign trail, Schuette said.

"People are frustrated with the price of their utilities Downriver and in Macomb where you’ve seen some very vulnerable Democrat incumbents," he said. "In Traverse City along the lakeshore and in Marquette, they’re not happy with the state control of the ability to put a windmill or a solar panel right outside their front door."

The energy package is about climate change Weiss said, which is an issue young voters care a lot about.

"People want to make sure that we are doing everything in our power to address climate change in our state," she said.

The legislation also addresses improving infrastructure and is an economic issue.

"We also know that folks care a lot about having the ability to have control, especially folks in our rural communities, want to have control over what they can do with their own land, and these bills enabled them to do that," she said.

Schuette said Democrats’ budget decisions to spend down the $9 billion surplus would also be detrimental.

And, lest they forget, Schuette said the HRCC will have the resources to remind them.

"It’s already at the front of mind of Michiganders because they’re paying these bills that are going up and up," Schuette said. "That’s why I’m glad that (Minority Leader Matt Hall) and our team have assembled the resources we need to communicate the message to connect the dots."

Another issue Democrats will need to contend with is the ongoing war in Gaza.

Weiss said that House Democrats would be reminding people that the state of Michigan can’t affect international relations.

"It’s really not our job as state legislators," she said. "We also encourage our folks to get out into the community and meet people where they are. It is a very divisive issue for so many reasons. There is a lot of pain in the Jewish community. There is a lot of pain in the Muslim community, and we just want to make sure that everyone feels like they’re listened to, and they’re being supported."

The HRCC isn’t concerned about the primary challenge or the Democratic opposition in Hall’s district, Schuette said, but he encouraged them to spend their money there.

"Can you imagine just blowing all this money over a lost cause just because of a personal vendetta?" he said. "Leader Hall has done a good job representing his district, locking down his district. Democrats are welcome to waste their money on seats like that, we’ll just go and take back the majority in November."

Democrats aren’t concerned about the primaries in their sitting members’ districts, either.

"This is something that we have to deal with every single cycle," Weiss said.

She also attributed some of the primary challenges to the recent House redistricting.

"All of our returning members are confident in their ability to protect their seat, come back in their primary, but also continue to do work to support those seats that we need to bring back in November and the seats that we need to flip," she said.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees last Wednesday moved eight budgets each to their respective chamber floors.

The House Appropriations Committee  reported the budgets for community colleges (HB 5504 ), universities (HB 5505 ), the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (HB 5509 ), Department of State Police (HB 5510 ), the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (HB 5511 ), the Department of Natural Resources (HB 5512 ), the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (HB 5513 ) and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (HB 5514 ).

The Senate Appropriations Committee reported the department budgets for School Aid (SB 751 ), Corrections (SB 756 ), the judiciary (SB 757 ), Agriculture and Rural Development (SB 758 ), Natural Resources (SB 759 ), Military and Veterans Affairs (SB 762 ), State Police (SB 763 ), and Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (SB 768 ).

The House plans to report all of its budget recommendations to the House floor by the end of this week.

In both chambers, the budgets were reported unchanged beyond the subcommittee recommendations. Democrats voted in support of each of the budgets while Republicans voted to abstain or against the budgets.

In the House, Republicans put forward several amendments, but none of the changes were adopted.

Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) put forward an amendment on HB 5509 , HB 5511  and HB 5512  that would prohibit state or federal funding from being used to provide services, grants or programming to people who are not in the country legally.

Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens) voted in support of the amendment, but it didn’t ultimately pass.

Rep. Phil Green (R-Watertown Township) said that he wished the budget was written in a way more people could support.

He gave the example of natural disaster relief funding in the Department of State Police budget, which makes mention of increased instances of natural disasters due to climate change.

Green said that although he supports more money for locals, he couldn’t vote for budgets that made mention of something that was "unquantifiable," like climate change.

"It’s a great virtue signal, but it just doesn’t work when you work with the letter of the law," he said.

Fink said that although real work gets done in budget subcommittees, the process once budgets arrive to the full appropriations committee can be frustrating as very procedural.

In the Senate, Wednesday’s hearing moved quickly, with few offered amendments prior to final votes.

An amendment offered by Sen. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) for SB 751  would have removed language in the School Aid budget that would reduce the state’s required contribution to the Michigan Public Employees’ Retirement for retiree health care by about $670 million.

The amendment failed by a 5-13 vote along party lines.

Manufacturers of a wide range of products with intentionally added per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) would have to start phasing them out starting Jan. 1, 2027, under a two-bill package introduced by several House Democrats this week.

Rep. Penelope Tsernoglou (D-East Lansing), who said she introduced the legislation for Earth Day this week, said the bills will take a “significant step towards a healthier, safer future for generations to come.” 

HB 5657, sponsored by Tsernoglou, and HB 5658, sponsored by House Majority Floor Leader Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), deal with PFAS in products like apparel, carpets, cleaning products, cookware, cosmetics, dental floss, fabric treatments, products for children, menstrual products, textile furnishings, ski wax and upholstered furniture. 

Tsernoglou’s HB 5657 requires that beginning on Jan. 1, 2027, companies with intentionally-added PFAS should submit notice to the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) with a description of the product and information on the amount of PFAS included. 

For companies whose products have no feasible alternative to PFAS, the state would then review the product and issue a written waiver. Starting in 2027, no products containing PFAS in the categories listed above, like apparel or cookware, could be sold without a waiver. 

Then, starting Jan. 1, 2032, the sale or distribution of any product containing intentionally added PFAS without a waiver would be prohibited. 

The bill also bans the manufacture and use of class A or B firefighting foam with intentionally-added PFAS starting in 2027, and sellers of firefighter personal protective equipment (PPE) must also provide a written notice to a purchaser if the equipment contains intentionally added PFAS, along with the reason for adding it. 

A first violation of the legislation would result in a 93-day, $1,000 misdemeanor penalty, while a second offense would result in a fine of $1,500. A third offense would be a two-year, $2,000 felony charge. 

Aiyash’s bill, HB 5658, updates sentencing guidelines for a third felony offense.

He said, “for over a decade, we’ve known the harmful effects of PFAS on our planet and people, referencing the widespread use of PFAS in household and industrial products due to their water and oil resistance, along with their growing notoriety due to potential environmental impacts and their link to health complications, like birth defects and cancer. 

“We have a responsibility to be better stewards in protecting the air, land and water,” Aiyash said. “Our future generations depend on it.” 

Both bills were read in this week, and were referred to the House Natural Resources, Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee. 










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