There will be tension as lawmakers and stakeholders debate a proposal from Governor Gretchen Whitmer to redirect payments previously used to prefund retiree health care for public school employees, Sen. Sarah Anthony said in an interview this week.

Anthony (D-Lansing), appearing on “MichMash,” the podcast partnership between Gongwer News Service and WDET Detroit Public Radio, also said lawmakers remain committed and motivated to take more action on gun violence prevention following the slew of bills passed last year after a mass shooting on Michigan State University’s campus.

“This is going to be a debate this year,” said Anthony, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee , of the administration’s proposal to redirect some of the payments for public school employee retiree health care for other K-12 programs.

Whitmer’s office said the unfunded liability for retiree health care, also known as other post-employment benefits, is set to be paid off this fiscal year, so it is no longer required to continue putting the same amount of money into that component of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System. A bill to effectuate the change is needed, however.

Anthony noted Republicans before her were aggressive in paying down debt, which is a benefit now.

“I do feel like there is this tension around that if we have paid down significant debt, how can we start to invest now in critical areas we know need help now,” she said. “We can’t afford to wait. There is going to be a tension there. I do see both angles. But ultimately, I do believe that we can find a middle ground there that we can ensure that we are still responsible in paying down debt and we’re not neglecting current and urgent needs we need to address now.”

With the one-year anniversary of the MSU mass shooting and the gun control efforts already passed by the Legislature taking effect this week, Anthony said there is more work to be done but reflected on the last year.

“Gun violence prevention was going to be part of the Democratic majority’s plan to try to address, I tell you that moment just jump started the caucuses to act quicker and to really listen to student voice,” she said. “And when kids came to our office, they were not looking for political talking points. They weren’t looking to take a selfie with me and make it a political comment. … But I have reminded those same young people that their voices mattered. And because of the sense of urgency after that tragedy, they created space for us to say ‘we have to do something.'”

Anthony said she is a responsible gun owner and believes in the Second Amendment.

“I also believe that with all of our rights they also have limits,” she said. “I have been a vocal

advocate for comment sense reforms. And there are many of us who are still motivated to find commonsense solutions to these issues.”

Anthony said when she entered the Senate in 2023 and Democrats were celebrating their majorities, she was also mourning a friend who died due to gun violence. Anthony said she can see the spot where her friend was shot in Lansing from her Capitol office.

“This is pervasive in many of our communities. It’s not just a mass shooting we see on school campuses,” she said. “It is every day.”

On the budget, Anthony was particularly excited about the streamlining of higher education financial aid and housing resources. She also said transparency in the process improved during the last budget cycle, noting enhancement grants included sponsors for the first time.

“Many of the negotiations do happen in a room in the Capitol in which we kind of duke it out and get to the nitty gritty. But isn’t that what our citizens expect of us,” she said. “That they don’t have to worry about line by line by line, because they are literally paying a full-time salary to members of these committees to do just that.”

Anthony also said she wants to see the Legislature go as far as practically possible in its legislation to expand the Freedom of Information Act to include the governor’s office and Legislature.

“I am going to be pressing us to go further than most of some of the concepts we have seen in the past,” she said. “But also, we have to be practical. And we have to be sure we have the resources to implement these kinds of bills.”

Pete Hoekstra is moving to assert power as the undisputed chair of the Michigan Republican Party, armed with the Republican National Committee’s decision that he, not Kristina Karamo, is the leader of the MIGOP.

Hoekstra told Bridge Michigan and The Detroit News on Friday he plans to announce a different location for the party’s March 2 convention to decide the allocation of most of the state’s presidential delegates to the Republican National Convention than the one Karamo had set for Huntington Place in Detroit.

Messages left with Hoekstra and a spokesperson on the possibility of a dueling convention were not returned prior to publication Friday night.

Having two separate conventions would raise the specter of each precinct delegate elected Thursday at county conventions across the state having to decide which one to attend. Given the RNC’s recognition of Hoekstra as chair, it seems likely it would recognize the convention he organizes as the legitimate one, but it will be another chapter to resolve in this dispute.

In an interview earlier Friday with Gongwer News Service, Hoekstra touted a letter from the state’s six Republican U.S. House members recognizing him as chair as the latest momentum toward extinguishing Karamo’s hold on the party.

Further, his team is talking with social media companies about having the official Michigan Republican Party accounts turned over to them.

Hoekstra said he’s in the process of hiring staff. Following the RNC’s ruling, there’s an agreement on who will come aboard as the party’s executive director, he said.

But the biggest issue Hoekstra said he continues to address is finances. While his team has established committees under state and federal campaign finance law, it also is working with banks to freeze the party’s official accounts under Karamo’s control, he said.

Next week could prove decisive.

Several hearings are scheduled at the Kent Circuit Court, where Hoekstra’s allies in the party have filed a lawsuit to have a judge declare Karamo was removed properly under party bylaws.

A hearing on Karamo’s motion to dismiss is set for Tuesday. Then there are hearings Wednesday and Thursday on the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction declaring Karamo was properly removed. Should the judge rule for the plaintiffs on that motion, it could resolve the dispute. Karamo told Bridge she would abide by a court order.

“It’s always hard to predict what the courts are going to do but that’s why we’re in the courts,” Hoekstra said. “We’re in the courts, and we’re pushing this aggressively to try to get them to move as quickly as possible.”

Hoekstra has scheduled fundraisers for the accounts supporting party activities his team has created for February 25 and 26.

Asked if the party’s traditional funders have agreed to write big checks, Hoekstra said they are becoming more engaged.

“They’re businesspeople. They’re saying, ‘Pete what are going to do? Where are you and what are you going to do?'” he said. “As soon as I get ahold of the books, I’ve told them you are more than welcome to come take a look at the books. I’m going to be totally transparent.”

Hoekstra said he has told the party’s traditional donors, who have refused to support the party under Karamo, to help him design the plan for the next eight months.

“As soon as they feel ownership and they feel good about a plan, at that point in time I expect they’ll help fund the plan that we jointly developed and put in place,” he said.

Karamo, meanwhile, continues to accuse traditional forces in the party of conspiring to undermine her.

She posted a 10-minute video Thursday night mainly devoted to slamming the Warner Norcross + Judd law firm that has worked with the plaintiffs seeking a court order confirming her ouster.

After a kerfuffle at the Oakland County Republican Party convention Thursday over her appearance, she posted on X that it’s comical people feared her speaking.

“The Grey Poupon Good Ole’ boys club hate that they can’t control me, and that we’ve disrupted their corruption club,” she said in a separate post that night. “Our movement isn’t going away. We are bringing a Righteous Renaissance to the Republican Party. We are Constitutional-Conservatives on a mission to save our Republic. It’s a reason the majority of our State Committee want me to continue as chair. They know the stakes are too high to let the political oligarchy push us out.”

Oakland GOP Chair Vance Patrick fired back that she improperly entered the 9th District caucus when she’s a precinct delegate in the 11th District.

“Your improper intrusion was disruptive to the normal business of our county convention,” he said in a post on X.

Michigan small business owners aren’t as optimistic about the next six months as they once were, according to a survey conducted by the Small Business Association of Michigan.

About half of the 400 association members surveyed said they’re somewhat or very optimistic about their prospects during the next six months, but that’s down from 57 percent a year ago.

Business owners feel better about their long-term prospects, though, with 66 percent of those surveyed saying they feel somewhat or very optimistic about the survival of their business.

“Small business owners tend to be optimistic people. This survey suggests that while they are experiencing many challenges today, most expect improved conditions in the future,” Brian Calley, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said in a statement. “Inflation, availability of labor and the economy remain top concerns for small businesses. Their biggest concerns center around cost pressures and underscore the strong opposition small businesses have expressed in recent surveys against new, costly government mandates.”

Of the business owners surveyed, about 28 percent are pessimistic about the next six months and about 20 percent are pessimistic about their long-term survival.

Small business owners are feeling more pessimistic on a national scale, according to the latest report from the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index.

January was the 25th consecutive month where the optimism index score was below the 50-year average of 98. Last month’s score was 89.9.

“Small business job creators continue to be discouraged about their ability to find and keep qualified employees and to afford the necessary goods they need to operate,” NFIB Michigan State Director Amanda Fisher said in a statement. “As the election season ramps up across Michigan and candidates claim to stand up for small business, it is well to remember the votes of lawmakers that make Main Street business owners’ jobs harder and harder.”

Fisher went on to cite policies including the repeal of Michigan’s right-to-work laws and restoration of prevailing wage, which recently went into effect.

The most pressing issue for business owners in Michigan is the state of the economy, according to the Small Business Association of Michigan survey. Of those surveyed, 23 percent ranked the economy as their primary challenge. Inflation was the next biggest problem, at 21 percent, followed by availability of labor at 19 percent.

More than half of the small businesses surveyed reported that the new restrictions from the U.S. Department of Labor, which limit independent contractors, will have a substantial or moderate impact on their business.

About a third of small businesses say that they’ll benefit from the research and development tax credit currently being considered by lawmakers in Lansing.

Regarding new technology, 26 percent of small businesses reported they’re using artificial intelligence for marketing, data analytics, virtual assistants and business operations. Those tools could be cut back though, as 44 percent of small business owners say they’re preparing for a possible recession by reducing expenses.










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Senator Mat was happy to take part in one of the remembrance ceremonies last week at the new Common Ground East Lansing Resiliency Center. As we all remember the horrible events that occured at MSU one year ago, it is great to know that Common Ground and their Director of Victim Services, Jamie Ayers, is there to help!

For more on the new resiliency center click here.

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