Chamber Weighs In: COVID-19 Relief Must Be a Lame Duck Priority

As the Michigan Legislature enters lame duck, COVID-19 relief is top-of-mind. There is a lot at stake for Michigan’s businesses as the state continues to battle the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. In the wake of the pandemic’s latest surge and a three-week pause issued by the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on legislators to pass a $100 million stimulus to boost unemployment payments, offer aid for hospitals and businesses across the state during lame duck. This state-level approach comes as ongoing requests for additional Federal support from Congress remain entangled in a stalemate.

The Governor’s call for targeted COVID-19 relief is in line with the Chamber’s perspective on support needed for the state’s businesses to endure the economic implications of this public health crisis. The Chamber’s Vice President of Government Relations, Brad Williams, recently shared this sentiment in Crain’s Detroit Business with a lame duck lookahead outlining five key areas of legislation that could help Michigan accelerate its economy including COVID-19 relief measures.

Among those is helping employers provide life-saving PPE for employees and customers – a cause the Chamber’s government relations team continues to champion. The Chamber was instrumental in the formation and movement of a package of bills that would exempt purchases of PPE from the sales and use taxes and provide a refundable income tax credit to employers, alleviating some of the crippling financial strain COVID-19 has imposed. Including these Chamber-backed measures in Gov. Whitmer’s proposed $100 million stimulus plan would offer businesses some relief from the additional burden of PPE-related expenses.

Further, the Legislature and Governor should prioritize renewing the Good Jobs for Michigan package as part of the stimulus plan to best equip Michigan to attract and grow jobs as the state emerges from the public health crisis. The Chamber has long supported this program as a key tool in building Michigan’s workforce and long-term economic prospects. Making efforts to bolster the state’s talent pipeline, especially under these complex circumstances, will better position Michigan for the recovery it needs to continue moving the economy forward.

As legislators return for session this week, it is imperative that executive and legislative leadership works collaboratively to make progress toward COVID-19 relief for businesses – to help them stay open in the safest possible way for employees and patrons alike and continue bolstering the local economy. As this crisis approaches the nine-month mark, the division between Michigan’s executive and legislative leaders has become glaring and unproductive as businesses grapple with the continuously mounting challenges of COVID-19. A unified approach and clear strategy to usher the state’s economy through and beyond this crisis cannot wait and must take precedence during lame duck.


Related:

Brad Williams: 5 Ways Lawmakers Can Help Michigan’s Economy in Lame Duck

 

A Special Message From Former Board Chair Patti Poppe: Patti Poppe: “Keep Up the Impactful Work”

The Detroit Regional Chamber extends a special congratulations to our friend and valued advisor, Patti Poppe, as she transitions to her new role with PG&E. Having served as the Chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors and the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference, Poppe leaves an indelible mark on the organization and region.

“Patti has been one of the most passionate and engaged Board Chairs we’ve seen in the role, and one of the finest leaders we have had the honor and privilege of working with,” said Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah. “On behalf of the entire Chamber staff, I express our gratitude for the leadership she has provided our organization and the business community. The Chamber team will miss her dearly but look forward to her success in this new venture.”

As Chair of the 2019 Conference, Poppe spearheaded a vision of “One Michigan” and focused on the Conference themes of Prepare Michigan, Grow Michigan, and Love Michigan. Poppe joined the Chamber’s Board of Directors in 2016 and began serving on its Executive Committee in 2017. Poppe has championed Consumers Energy’s engagement in the Conference, notably recruiting Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST Robotics, as a keynote speaker in 2015 and hosting Michigan-based FIRST teams to conduct demonstrations at Grand Hotel. Poppe has served on the Conference CEO Advisory Committee since 2017.

“As I transition to my new role as CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Corporation, I will hold Michigan close to my heart as home. You can take me out of Michigan, but you can’t take the pride I have for the state of Michigan out of me,” Poppe said. “The Detroit Regional Chamber is an incredible asset to not only Southeast Michigan but the entire state. You are a voice for business and a driving force for Michigan’s economy – keep up the impactful work!”

Poppe was named President and CEO of Consumers Energy and CMS Energy in 2016, leading a company that serves 1.8 million electric customers and 1.7 million natural gas customers. After serving in management roles with General Motors and DTE Energy, Poppe joined Consumers in 2011 and went on to hold multiple positions on the senior management team.

“It has been an honor to serve as CMS Energy and Consumers Energy’s president and CEO,” Poppe added. “The company is deeply committed to Michigan’s success and I know incoming president and CEO, Garrick Rochow, will continue to deliver on the triple bottom line of people, planet, and prosperity. Garrick has robust industry knowledge and a heart of service for the Consumers Energy team and communities they serve. You will continue to see world-class performance delivering hometown service from Consumers Energy.”

Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah on Supporting Black Owned Business during and after Small Business Saturday

The CEO of The Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Sandy Baruah, spoke with Fox 2 Detroit to talk about the importance of supporting black-owned businesses. He notes that half the businesses on Yelp have shut their doors for good because of the pandemic – and businesses owned by people of color are experiencing a disproportionate hit.

“It’s always been the case that our businesses owned by Black Americans and other people of color are generally smaller businesses,” Baruah said. “They have less resources available to them, so they’re a bit more fragile.”

Check out the full interview below.

*Source – Fox 2 Detroit

Detroit Regional Chamber, General Motors Announce Largest Cohort of NeighborHUB Grant Winners to Date

Detroit Regional Chamber, General Motors Announce Largest Cohort of NeighborHUB Grant Winners to Date

  • $300,000 in grants awarded to Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park neighborhood nonprofit organizations.
  • In response to the COVID-19 crisis, available funding was doubled to support additional organizations.

DETROIT, (Nov. 30, 2020) – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber and General Motors (GM) announced the third cohort of awardees for the NeighborHUB grant program. This year’s awards doubled to support eleven neighborhood nonprofit organizations who proposed the most innovative solutions to problems facing their communities.

The following nonprofits will receive grants, PPE, and other in-kind support from the Chamber and GM:

“The NeighborHUB grant means to us the opportunity to provide an area where people can connect with nature for physical and mental restoration,” said Tammy Black, president of the Community Treehouse Center. “Detroit Greenspace improves physical health as it decreases pollution, encourages exercise, improves immune function. The Bird Watcher’s Garden will be especially important as an area where children and adults can explore nature and make their own experience-based discoveries.”

“This year has been a hard year for everyone, especially communities of color, small businesses, nonprofits, and artists because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this pandemic, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation’s (DHDC) 28,000-square-foot-facility has sat as a virtually empty, underutilized space, that is still a cost the organization,” said Lex Zavala, director of DHDC. “We settled on the concept of a Ghost Food Hall/Market, which will be named ‘Fantazma Market.’ Utilizing our outdoor and underutilized indoor spaces, restaurants and small businesses will be able to safely deliver their food or sell their merchandise in our space, all while artists perform, helping to expand their customer base. This is a great opportunity where nonprofit, community, and small businesses can come together to help each other during this crisis, helping DHDC regain lost funds, while supporting struggling local businesses and artists.”

The NeighborHUB program is an annual, collaborative effort between the Chamber and GM that is designed to empower residents in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park to affect change in their neighborhoods through physical presence and innovative programming. This year, small businesses, among the hardest hit financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, were also eligible for the first time to partner with nonprofits that met the criteria on an application.

Now in its third year, the NeighborHUB has awarded grants to 24 neighborhood organizations. Through a collaborative process, an advisory selection committee comprising representatives from the Chamber, GM, the City of Detroit, BLAC Magazine, and Michigan Community Resources, reviewed and voted on the proposals.

“The work of this cohort’s grant recipients is more important than ever as our regional communities face the challenges of a global health crisis,” said Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officers for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “It is our hope that this support will allow them to continue serving as pillars of these communities and usher in recovery and enduring positive change.”

“On behalf of everyone at GM, we are proud to support the visionary organizations driving measurable progress in their communities,” said Terry Rhadigan, executive director of Corporate Giving at General Motors. “NeighborHUB was born out of a desire to take a residents-first approach to progress in the Detroit region, and it is a privilege to be able to continue to help bring these impactful projects to life.”

More than 100 grant applications were submitted, and the selection process was very competitive. Project work will begin this month and continue through fall 2021. Learn more about the projects at www.detroitchamber.com/neighborhub.

###

About the Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. As the voice for business in the 11-county Southeast Michigan region, the Chamber’s mission is carried out through creating a business-friendly climate and value for members, leading a robust economic development strategy, and convening Michigan’s most influential audience at the nationally unique Mackinac Policy Conference. Learn more at detroitchamber.com.

About General Motors

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM) has leadership positions in the world’s largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM, its subsidiaries and joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Jiefang and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at http://www.gm.com/.


WATCH | 2020 NeighborHUB Grant Winners

Butzel Long adds attorney specializing in financial litigation and enforcement actions; William J. Kraus represents individuals and businesses involved in governmental and regulatory investigations

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – William J. Kraus has joined Butzel Long as a shareholder in the firm’s Ann Arbor, Mich. office. He concentrates his practice on disputes relating to the financial industry, with a particular focus on legal and regulatory issues related to digital currencies (e.g., Bitcoin) and blockchain technology.

Kraus represents individuals and businesses involved in governmental and regulatory investigations, U.S. state and federal litigation, and alternative dispute resolution.
Notably, he represents diverse parties before the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), National Futures Association (NFA), CME Group Market Regulation; and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

Additionally, Kraus assists clients with all aspects of litigation in state and federal forums, and has experience practicing before the Northern District of Illinois and Circuit Court of Cook County; Southern District of New York; Eastern District of Michigan; the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation; Courts of Appeals for the Second, Seventh, and Ninth Circuits; and the U.S. Supreme Court. He also has a successful record of resolving disputes before the American Arbitration Association and JAMS, as well as before NFA and FINRA hearing panels.

Prior to joining Butzel Long, Kraus was an attorney in the Chicago office of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, where he focused on financial litigation and enforcement actions.
He continues to maintain an active pro bono practice focusing on fair housing and civil rights litigation, and was recognized by the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. as “not only a skilled attorney, but a valued ally in affirmatively furthering fair housing and increasing awareness of fair housing rights and responsibilities.”

Kraus is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School (J.D., 2009) and the University of Michigan (B.A., 2005). While attending law school, he was selected by a faculty panel for placement at the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development in Geneva, Switzerland, where he worked to further the participation of developing nations in the World Trade Organization through litigation and dispute settlement training.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as an alliance office in Beijing. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms. Learn more by visiting www.butzel.com or follow Butzel Long on Twitter: https://twitter.com/butzel_long

New Report Highlights Strategies for Inclusive Recovery, Equitable Future of Work: National Equity Atlas

A new report by National Equity Atlas, in partnership with Burning Glass Technologies and the National Fund for Workforce Solutions, highlights the urgent need to center low-income communities and people of color in both the ongoing Covid-19 recovery and in the long-term vision for a just and fair society.

It is a comprehensive analysis of long-standing racial gaps in labor market outcomes, the economic impacts of Covid-19, and the racial equity implications of automation. This report will be followed by a series of 10 regional-level reports – including one on Detroit – with tailored data and recommendation for high-impact and racially equitable workforce strategies.

With in-depth analysis of disaggregated equity indicators and labor market dynamics, the report revealed that white workers are 50% more likely than workers of color to hold good jobs, and that eliminating racial inequities in income could boost the U.S. economy by $2.3 trillion per year. Read the full report here.

Highlights include:

Growing diversity underscores the urgent need for racial economic inclusion.

—America’s workforce is rapidly growing more diverse. In 1980, people of color were just one-fifth of the U.S. population; today, they are double that share. People of color make up about 38% of the U.S. workforce ages 25–64, and nearly half of the population under 25.

—Racial inequity is a drag on economic growth. In 2018 alone, the U.S. economy could have been $2.3 trillion stronger if there had been no racial gaps in wages or employment for working-age people. Without a change in course, the cost of exclusion will grow as the workforce becomes more diverse.

Systemic workforce inequities undermine economic security and mobility, and threaten the stability and growth of the nation’s economy.

—Higher educational attainment is critical but insufficient to eliminate workforce inequities. Higher education significantly narrows racial gaps in labor force participation and employment but does not equalize income. Median wages are higher for white workers with a high school diploma and no college ($19/hour) than for Black workers with an associate degree ($18/hour).

—Workers of color face a significant good-jobs gap. Controlling for educational attainment, people of color are underrepresented in good jobs (defined as jobs that are well-compensated, stable, and resilient to automation) by 1.6 million workers. Among workers with no postsecondary education – a group that includes two-thirds of workers of color and about half of White workers – white workers are about 75% more likely than workers of color to hold good jobs.

The COVID-19 recession is exacerbating pre-existing workforce inequities.

—The early rebound in labor-market demand is leaving workers of color behind. Over the past few months, the unemployment rate for white workers has decreased faster and is currently much lower than the rates for Black, Latinx, and Asian or Pacific Islander workers. Racial gaps in employment have widened since April, erasing short-lived progress in closing these gaps the previous year.

—Black workers in particular have not recovered from the early spike in unemployment as quickly as other workers, despite the fact that demand for the occupations they held before the crisis has returned more quickly than demand for other jobs.

—Job recovery has been concentrated among low-wage occupations that require minimal preparation. Demand for jobs that require little or some experience or education is up by about 16% from its February baseline, while demand for jobs that require considerable or extensive preparation is down by more than 20%.

Automation is accelerating in the wake of the pandemic, and it disproportionately places people of color and immigrants at risk of being dislocated from their jobs.

—Latinx workers face 28% greater automation risk than white workers, and Native American and Black workers face 21% and 18% more risk, respectively.

To view the full report, click here.

Nov. 25 | This Week in Government: Discussion on Impeachment Resolutions; Workplace Safety Guidelines

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Officials Stress COVID Workplace Safety Requirements
  2. Wentworth Discusses Impeachment Resolution, Unlock Michigan
  3. Republican Rep. Brann Supports Mask Mandate

Officials Stress COVID Workplace Safety Requirements

The state’s coronavirus workplace safety director on Monday emphasized the need for employers to remain vigilant in using their workplace mitigation plans to stamp out the virus over the coming months until a vaccine is widely available to the public.

Sean Egan, state director for COVID-19 workplace safety, said during a video conference with the Detroit Regional Chamber that having a thorough plan in place in line with state regulations and following it closely will help eliminate the spread of the virus.

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Oct. 14 issued emergency rules which he said are expected to be static and remain in place for the next six months.

“The numbers are off the charts, the positivity rate is really high, we’re getting so much community spread,” Egan said. “One important point is that just if it hasn’t already with community spread this strong, if you are doing in-person work it is going to be in your workplace and you need to be prepared to navigate what that means.”

Despite the recent positive news of there being multiple companies getting close to having a vaccine ready to begin delivering to the public, he said it is going to take at least several months to vaccinate a large portion of the public. That means the efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 will need to continue long into 2021, he said.

He also referenced state statistics as of Nov. 12 of there being about 210 workplace outbreaks in the state.

“This doesn’t necessarily mean that the workplace is terrible, but any place we have congregation, that creates challenges as it relates to COVID,” Egan said.

A positive, he said, is that businesses are doing the right thing and reporting and responding to outbreaks.

Inspections of businesses, he said, are not meant to be a “gotcha” moment but an effort to ensure compliance and to see if businesses need to improve in some areas of their written COVID-19 preparedness and response plans and training of employees.

Egan encouraged businesses to not panic if inspectors show up to check on their operations.

“They will sit down with you and the first thing they’re going to ask for is your plan and they’ll go through you plan with you and then they’ll do a walk-around of your building to kind of see what mitigation strategies you’re putting into place,” Egan said. “They’ll talk with you about what pieces are good and what pieces you’re missing and those types of things. Just them stopping in does not mean you’re getting cited.”

Remote work rules, he said, is one area that draws a lot of questions from employers.

He said current rules state that in-person work is prohibited if the person or persons can feasibly complete their work from home. Employers must outline classifications and positions of workers who are reporting to work and explaining the reasons why they are there.

“The strongest safety tool you have is to get rid of that hazard completely, which is why you’re doing the daily health screenings, why you’re doing remote work,” Egan said. “Then you don’t have COVID in the workplace, and those mitigation strategies are much more effective.”

He pointed to a link on the MIOSHA website for businesses interested in scheduling a consultation with the department to help improve their mitigation plans and efforts as one option for businesses that may need assistance or clarity on what is required.


Wentworth Discusses Impeachment Resolution, Unlock Michigan

House Speaker-elect Rep. Jason Wentworth said his goal moving into next term is to mend the relationship between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the GOP-led Legislature to help ease the frustrations that he said led to the recent introduction of an impeachment resolution.

Wentworth (R-Farwell) said in an interview last week with Gongwer News Service that he hasn’t read HR 324 from Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford), and Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City).

“But I’ll be honest, I’m surprised that it’s taken this long for someone to introduce a resolution for impeachment. You know the frustration that we’re hearing from our constituents across the state has … been increasing over the last several weeks,” Wentworth said. “It comes down to … people of Michigan wanting a seat at the table. They expect their representatives, we’re the people’s chamber, to be able to voice their concerns. And we’re not getting that from the governor at this point. And so that’s the frustration. That’s the level we’re at, that members of the Michigan House of Representatives feel it necessary to introduce a resolution to impeach the governor.”

Gov. Whitmer and Democrats have said Republican lawmakers’ claims they have been ignored are untrue and questioned why they have not sent any bills to her desk to curb the pandemic.

When asked if he supported the resolution – which three of the 58-member Republican Caucus signed onto –Wentworth said his goal is to make sure House members, “and the people of Michigan,” don’t feel the need to go down that road next term.

“That we have a seat at the table, that that’s what I’m here for,” he said. “That’s what I want to … continue to build our relationship with the Governor. To make sure that those voices are heard at the table, and we’re not in a situation where the frustration has risen to this level where there’s introductions of impeachment.”

Similar to the impeachment and removal of the president, a simple majority of the House could impeach the Governor and put the governor on trial in the Senate, which would need a two-thirds majority vote to convict and remove the governor. Republicans lack a two-thirds majority in the Senate and a conviction vote would be virtually guaranteed to fail.

The resolution claims the Governor: “has exceeded her constitutional authority, violated the constitutional rights of the people of Michigan, issued orders that are not in the best interests of the people of this state, and used the pandemic as an opportunity to reward political allies.”

The last point refers to the contact tracing contract awarded to a firm with Democratic ties, something the governor said she canceled as soon as she learned about it.

Earlier this month, Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown panned the impeachment resolution in a statement.

“Gov. Whitmer doesn’t have any time for partisan politics or people who don’t wear masks, don’t believe in science, and don’t have a plan to fight this virus,” Brown said. “Right now, she is focused on saving lives. The governor will continue to work hard for all 10 million Michiganders. This is about Michigan vs. COVID-19. Governor Whitmer doesn’t care if you’re a Trump Republican or a Biden Democrat. We are all in this together.”

The Unlock Michigan petition seeking to repeal the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, which the Governor used to issue executive orders before the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional could also come before the House while Wentworth is speaker.

Wentworth said the Legislature owes it to the people to at least look at the petition and debate it as a body. It seems likely the GOP-led Legislature would pass the petition, avoiding Gov. Whitmer’s veto pen, if the proposal in fact collected enough valid signatures.

“I think the key for me is I represent, obviously, the House going to next term,” he said. “And I want to make sure that that the people that were elected to the seats have a voice and so I’m open to the debate and the discussion and see where that goes.”


Republican Rep. Brann Supports Mask Mandate

Republican Rep. Tommy Brann called on Michigan Legislature to pass a bipartisan law requiring masks to be worn in indoor places and crowded outdoor areas to slow the spread of the coronavirus, emphasizing that many should listen to advice from medical professionals.

Brann is the first prominent elected Republican to call for the passage of a bill enacting a mask mandate. Top Republican leaders have resisted the idea. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has imposed a mask mandate via administrative order, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said the passage of a bill would make a big difference in persuading people to wear face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Brann told Gongwer News Service that when it comes to public health issues, he trusts the facts from physicians over the opinions of politicians.

“I just trust doctors instead of politicians,” Brann said. “So, I checked with CEO of Metropolitan Hospital Grand Rapids, Dr. Peter Hahn, and I checked with a couple other state representative friends that are doctors and a state senator.”

The feedback he received from friends and doctors was that masks save lives. He also said his other colleagues support masks, but he cannot speak on whether or not they would support a mandate.

“My colleagues do support masks,” Brann said. “The word ‘mandate’ I can’t put in there, they have to speak for themselves. But yes, they do support masks.”

However, Brann said a bipartisan law for a mask mandate would show greater unity by the Legislature.

“If both parties work together it shows strong leadership for Michigan,” Brann said. “I trust doctors and I want people to have faith in the medical profession. I know I do and I know my colleagues do. And this (mandate) would show support from the House for the doctors and nurses that are working their tails off to save lives.”

There is no bill requiring a mask mandate sitting on the House floor. If there were one, Brann said he would vote yes because he is concerned about the health of the Michigan people.

“Before I took my oath, I read the state constitution and part of the oath is to protect the safety and health… of the Michigan people,” Brann said. “To me, when I vote, I think of that. I carry it in my wallet and I think of that all the time. I would vote for (a mandate). I don’t know if I would be the one vote that would pass it, but I would vote for it.”

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) did not return request for comment on Brann’s call. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) has said multiple times he opposes a mandate, instead preferring to encourage residents to wear masks.

Republicans in the House and Senate have received criticism from colleagues for not wearing masks properly or continuously. A large contingent of Republican lawmakers in the House often do not wear masks on the chamber’s floor during session.

Dr. Rob Davidson, executive director of the Committee to Protect Medicare, also made a statement urging Michigan Legislature to pass a bipartisan law for a mask mandate.

“Masks, along with physical distancing, are far and away the best tool we have to stop the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases and get our state back on track,” Davidson said in a statement. “Bipartisan mask rules are cropping up around the Midwest from North Dakota to Iowa to Ohio — we applaud every elected official who steps up to the plate to protect their communities on this issue. Thank you to Representative Brann — frontline medical workers are grateful.”


Related:

COVID-19 Town Hall: Michigan’s Director of COVID-19 Workplace Safety on MIOSHA, MDHHS Guidance

Detroit Regional Chamber Leadership Supports Traditional Transfer of Presidential Power

Detroit Regional Chamber Leadership Supports Traditional Transfer of Presidential Power

As leaders of Michigan businesses; Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, some who supported President Trump for reelection and some who voted for Vice President Biden, we agree that a central tenet of American democracy is the maintenance of norms that provide the stability our society is based upon. One of those critical norms is the smooth and gracious transfer of presidential power.

As business leaders, despite our different political preferences, we care deeply about preserving the principles of American democracy, strengthening the bonds of our national unity, and ensuring the stability of our society.

The turmoil and exaggerated controversy surrounding the presidential transfer of power threatens the long-term interests of American democracy, generates unfounded lack of confidence in our free and fair elections, and damages the incoming presidential administration during a time of substantial economic challenges and a global health crisis. Regardless of our individual politics, we want the incoming President to be successful on behalf of the American people.

The results of the 2020 election are clear. While some states were close, the overall result was a clear win for former Vice President Biden; including a five million-plus vote margin and a majority of the popular vote. Election officials and observers ranging from bipartisan secretaries of state of battleground states, international election observers from the Organization of American States, essentially all credible news organizations, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and others have all characterized, and even certified, the U.S. 2020 election as one executed with integrity and with no notable fraud or irregularities. America and Michigan can have confidence in the election outcome.

As business leaders, we strongly urge:

  • The formal transfer of power to the incoming President and his team begin without additional delay. We appreciate that the General Services Administration has finally moved to make transition funds and resources available for the President-elect. Now, we must see existing federal officials cooperate fully with the new President’s transition team as all past outgoing administrations have done.
  • Elected and appointed officials at all levels of government acknowledge the election of a new President and refrain from frivolous legal actions that unnecessarily seed distrust in institutions that form the basis of American society.

We congratulate President-elect Joe Biden and wish him Godspeed as America’s 46th President.

Detroit Regional Chamber Leadership,

Ryan Maibach
President and CEO, Barton Malow;
Chairman of the Board,
Detroit Regional Chamber

Wright L. Lassiter III
President and CEO, Henry Ford Health System;
First Vice Chairman, Detroit Regional Chamber
Michael Bernard
Equity Member, Dykema Gossett PLLC;
General Counsel, Detroit Regional Chamber
Sandy K. Baruah
President and CEO,
Detroit Regional Chamber
Tammy J. Carnrike
Chief Operating Officer,
Detroit Regional Chamber

Chamber Board Committee Chairs,

Lane Coleman
President and CEO, Strike Group LLC
Patrick Fehring
Chairman, President, and CEO,
Level One Bancorp, Inc
Michael McGee
CEO, Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone PLC
Dan Ponder
Chairman and CEO, Franco

Kresge to Make $8 Million in Grants to Detroit Racial Justice Groups

November 19, 2020

Crain’s Detroit Business

By Sherri Welch

  • 20 Detroit groups will share in $8 million in first-round funding
  • Millions more expected for Detroit groups from Troy-based foundation early next year
  • Bulk of funding will provide three-year, “no strings attached” operating support

Racial justice organizations in Detroit will get a boost with $8 million in new grants from the Kresge Foundation and several millions more in yet-to-be-approved grants early next year.

The first-round grants will support 20 Detroit organizations working on frontline activism, strengthening economies in neighborhoods of color and/or supporting small businesses owned by people of color.

The funding is part of $30 million in new commitments from the Troy-based foundation to support national racial justice groups and community-level efforts in Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis and Fresno.

National grantees including Movement for Black Lives and the Black-Led Movement Fund will see about a quarter or $7 million to support their efforts to provide resources to on-the-ground organizations for community organizing, communications, leadership development, research, and state and federal policy change.

The other three-quarters of the commitments totaling $23 million will go to local racial justice organizations to strengthen their capacity over the long term and create a network to share their efforts with one another and with national racial justice organizations. The bulk of that support will provide three year, “no-strings-attached” operating support, Kresge said in a release.

The local and national grants and social investments “seek to ensure that racial justice activists and leaders have sufficient resources to make the lasting changes needed both nationally and in communities across the country,” President and CEO Rip Rapson said in the release.

“The Black Lives Matter movement has made abundantly clear that progress in our country requires a forthright acknowledgment of the longstanding and deeply entrenched impediments to full equality, justice and inclusion,” he said.

“But it also makes clear that we must move further to dismantle — and substitute for — the insidious policies, practices, norms and attitudes embedded in virtually every facet of our society, our economics, our politics, our lives” to end systemic racism, Rapson said.

The Detroit grants include:

  • $1.5 million to Detroit Future City, which created the Center for Equity, Engagement and Research early this year to formalize its research around inclusive, economic growth.
  • $1.25 million to the New Economy Initiative to build a network to undergird small businesses in key commercial corridors, with an emphasis on small businesses owned by people of color.
  • $1 million to the Michigan Justice Fund, a collaborative effort of local and national foundations to support community-driven, criminal justice reform
  • $684,500 to the national organization Enterprise Community Partners to support approximately two dozen community development organizations in Detroit.
  • $500,000 to the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network in support of its planned Detroit Food Commons, a complex planned for the North End, to include a cooperatively owned grocery store, an incubator kitchen for culinary artists and food entrepreneurs, a café and community gathering space.

Other groups receiving support include: the NAACP, New Detroit, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, American Citizens for Justice, the LIVE6 Alliance and FORCE Detroit, a group that focuses on leadership development for youth leaders of color and convening the Live Free Coalition of interfaith, grassroots and public sector leaders for hard conversations about complex community issues from water shutoffs to regional transportation and violence prevention.

The Detroit organizations, most led by people of color, need greater access to grants and capital and to long-term equitable support, said Wendy Lewis Jackson, managing director of Kresge’s Detroit Program, in a release.

“This is the time where we’re going to meet the (Black Lives Matter) movement, to deepen our investments related to racial equity and racial justice in the city of Detroit. The expansion of opportunity that we seek cannot come without racial and economic justice.”

View the original article. 

Nov. 20 | This Week in Government: Wayne County Rejects, Then Certifies Election; What’s Ahead During Lame Duck

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Amid Surging COVID-19 Cases, State Moves to Curb Indoor Gatherings
  2. Delegation Differs on When Next COVID-19 Package May Pass
  3. Wayne County Board Rejects, Then Certifies November Election
  4. Senate GOP Sees Few Options to Further Expand COVID-19 Response
  5. Whitmer, Shirkey Warn of a ‘Lame’ Lame Duck

Amid Surging COVID-19 Cases, State Moves To Curb Indoor Gatherings

For at least the next three weeks as of Wednesday, most social indoor gatherings are prohibited in Michigan under a sweeping order issued Sunday by the Department of Health and Human Services designed to slow an explosion of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the past month.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, addressing the state in an evening news briefing that was broadcast live throughout Michigan, said curbing indoor gatherings are the steps public health experts say must be taken to avoid overwhelming hospitals and a return to the large death counts of the spring. If the virus continues to spiral out of control, it also will torpedo the state’s economy, Gov. Whitmer said.

Gov. Whitmer said one model shows the state could hit 1,000 deaths per week without action.

“We cannot control the fact that we’re already seeing a surge in cases, but what we can control is whether or not and how we join forces to combat our common enemy, COVID-19,” she said. “We do have some control here. Our collective action can control the severity and length of this wave if we all do our part.”

To reduce indoor gatherings – seen as the prime source of transmission of the virus – the DHHS order:

  • Requires high schools, colleges, and universities to move to distance learning. Elementary and middle schools can remain open for in-person learning if the district wishes to do so. All K-12 sports are suspended;
  • Theaters, movie theaters, conference centers, concert halls, performance venues, sporting venues, stadiums, the three Detroit casinos, arcades, bowling centers, ice skating rinks and indoor water parks, amusement parks, bingo halls, night clubs, strip clubs, and trampoline parks are closed;
  • Group fitness classes are prohibited. Gyms and fitness centers can remain open for individual workouts with a continued capacity limit of 25% but now must assure 12 feet, up from six, of distance between stations;
  • Retailers, libraries, and museums are now limited to 30% occupancy, down from 50% in the previous order, though retailers can allow one additional customer at a time to enter if adhering to the 30% limit would result in closure; and
  • Indoor gatherings remain limited to 10 people but now there is a limit of two households;
  • Outdoor gatherings, previously limited to 100 in residential settings and approximately 1,000 in nonresidential settings, are limited to 25 people at all outdoor settings; and
  • Funerals are limited to 25 people.

While a summary sheet from DHHS regarding the order indicates all workers must work remotely unless their job involves work “impossible to do remotely,” there actually is no change in official state policy. The order contains no changes from the Oct. 14 emergency rules issued by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration that says employers must have policies “prohibiting in-person work for employees to the extent that their work activities can feasibly be completed remotely.”

“Today’s order is targeted and temporary,” DHHS Director Robert Gordon said. “It aims to do only what is necessary, not more. Early on, we saw COVID-19 spread through conferences, crowded bars, choirs; this fall, we’ve seen spread in small parties and family gatherings. Anywhere that people gather indoors is a source of great risk. And the risk rises if people are taking off their mask, mingling, or exercising. Our action today focuses on indoor gatherings and the settings where groups gather and where the virus can thrive.”

Gov. Whitmer said it is possible the restrictions will last beyond three weeks depending on how well residents follow safe practices.

She said the state will be watching its case numbers, number of tests, and positivity rate when evaluating what to do after three weeks.

Gov. Whitmer was asked about how the order would be enforced. She said if people see violations, they should contact their local public health official. That said, she acknowledged it is on the public to follow through.

“We all have personal responsibility here,” she said. “With a state of 10 million people, it is on every one of us to do our part.”

Much of Gov. Whitmer’s remarks amounted to pleading with residents to wear face coverings unless they are in their household with their immediate family members or in a setting where they are not near any other people. That goes for Thanksgiving, she said, and discouraged people from gathering.

The governor signaled that while this is a three-week order, more stringent measures could be coming if the state’s COVID-19 numbers do not improve.

“I hope that you’ll double down so we can avoid a stay-home order,” she said. “I believe in you, and I know we are up to this challenge.”


Delegation Differs on When Next COVID-19 Package May Pass

Members of the state’s congressional delegation were split Wednesday on whether another coronavirus relief package can be completed and signed by President Donald Trump before the end of the year.

The comments came during a roundtable discussion as part of a series of online panels hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and featured U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing), U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), and U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Saint Joseph).

Negotiations on the first major federal relief package since this spring have stalled for months due to partisan arguments over the size and scope of any final product. The wrangling has led to concerns that programs such as expanded unemployment insurance among others could expire and leave families without needed relief.

Sen. Stabenow said the problem in the U.S. Senate has been that since earlier relief packages were passed about half of the Republicans have now been opposed to any further relief and the U.S. Senate majority leader has not been willing to negotiate.

She said bipartisan support and quick negotiations are needed to get something passed before important provisions including expanded federal unemployment insurance expires. The senator was not optimistic that the Trump administration would lead on passage of any package, but her hope was at least something could be agreed upon by Congress to address some key concerns.

“We’re the greatest country in the world, like, come on, we’ve got to stop being in a situation where we’re, you’re stopping ourselves from solving problems,” Sen. Stabenow said.

Rep. Lawrence said unemployment insurance was a major issue to address. Another, she said, was childcare.

“Child care is the number one barrier for parents,” Rep. Lawrence said. “I had a father tell me, ‘I pay more for child care than I do for the mortgage on my home.'”

She said without additional relief local governments will soon be facing tough decisions on significant cuts to services while the pandemic is still raging.

Rep. Lawrence was not optimistic on a relief package being passed before Trump leaves office.

“He has been consistent in his philosophy, his rhetoric,” Rep. Lawrence said. “I am hopeful with Joe Biden.”

Rep. Upton for his part said he is hopeful some further negotiations on a relief package can quickly bear fruit, hopefully by Christmas.

“We know that Michigan along with all the other states are hurting pretty bad,” Rep. Upton said. “We’re trying to fashion what we would call maybe a sweet spot where we can get Republicans and Democrats to get a majority in both the House and the Senate and get it done.”

Rep. Upton was asked about being one of the first Republicans to acknowledge Biden as the winner of the presidential election. When asked about whether Trump would ever concede the election, Rep. Upton said he felt it would happen soon.

“Nobody likes to lose but it seems as though the voters have spoken,” Rep. Upton said. “There’s no widespread fraud or election issues that would change the outcome; it’s time to move forward. I think you’ll see that in the coming days.”

Sen. Stabenow was hopeful of being able to come together as Trump leaves office.

“It’s important to have all of us recognize that we have a very divided country, divided state politically and we need to be listening to each other and looking for ways to bridge the divide,” Sen. Stabenow said. “We have big problems, we have big challenges and too much energy has been spent on basically efforts to divide people rather than bringing them together, so I think Joe Biden is the right person for this time in our country.”

Rep. Lawrence was optimistic about Biden being able to reverse the level of partisan division she said has occurred under Trump.

“I’ve never in my lifetime seen such a divided community,” Rep. Lawrence said. “I’m optimistic. I’m exhausted. It’s been a rough four years, but I’m crawling across the finish line and I am optimistic.”


Wayne County Board Rejects, Then Certifies November Election

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers unanimously certified Nov. 3 election totals Tuesday night while also adopting a resolution to have the Department of State audit the results to clear up precinct imbalances.

But that is not how this story almost ended.

Earlier, the board’s two Republicans – Chair Monica Palmer and William Hartmann – voted not to certify the county’s totals, resulting in a deadlocked 2-2 vote. Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch and Allen Wilson, the two Democratic members, voted yes.

The move would have pushed the issue onto the Board of State Canvassers. However, after a considerable lashing via angry public comment over Zoom, Palmer and Hartmann reversed course.

While several people were still eviscerating the GOP board members, some of whom called them racists for seeking to disenfranchise Detroit voters, the board voted 4-0 to certify with a resolution calling on Benson to audit those precinct results that had imbalances, unresolved gaps between the number of people voting in each precinct’s pollbook and the number of votes counted in the tabulators for that precinct.

There was just one problem – Hartmann had muted the board and turned off its video output, meaning the hordes of residents angered by the decision didn’t hear the change of heart.

The vote was explained and retaken once Hartmann realized that the attendees had not heard them.

Before the switch, Palmer claimed that the number of unexplained imbalances in tabulated votes and voters listed in Detroit pollbooks was concerning to her. Hartmann agreed and had joined her in voting no.

Election officials though noted it is not unusual for some precincts in Michigan to be out of balance. In Detroit, it was also an issue in 2016, when President Donald Trump won Michigan and the presidency. And Democrats said it was an obvious crock designed to somehow propel Trump toward Michigan’s 16 electoral votes despite losing by 146,000 votes to President-elect Joe Biden.

There is nothing in the Michigan Election Law that says boards should not certify votes based on an imbalance between votes tabulated and the pollbooks, only that those statistics should be disclosed. A 2018 law also requires counties to report out-of-balance precincts to the state after certification.

Still, all agreed that it would be in the city of Detroit and Wayne County’s best interest to have a complete audit, as some of the imbalances also occurred in the Detroit suburbs like Livonia, Lincoln Park, and Highland Park.

Kinloch and Wilson both said they were shocked and saddened by what they believed was politics infiltrating the decision. They also said they believed Palmer and Hartmann were attempting to undo the outcome of the election and circumvent the will of the voters.

At one point following the split vote, Palmer alluded to making a motion to certify the rest of the county’s results except Detroit’s, which caused further outrage among her Democratic colleagues.

“It is unfathomable to me how we could jeopardize Wayne County taxpayers in a frivolous and fruitless attempt to advance this cause before the state’s canvass,” Wilson said.

Kinloch said he was appalled to have witnessed the deadlock. He also noted that the meeting started more than an hour late because the board was waiting to get copies of affidavits from GOP election challengers before calling the meeting to order.

“The core of our business is to certify elections, and the public has been waiting here all this time for us to do absolutely nothing,” Kinloch said.

Not certifying because of precinct imbalances was puzzling as election results during the August primaries had so many errors that the board had voted then to certify the county’s results but also passed a resolution calling for an investigation into Detroit’s ongoing election issues – many of which were the result of human error and not evidence of fraud.

The Department of State had also stepped in during the 2020 general election to monitor and offer support to ensure that the processing and counting of ballots and the relay of accurate results would run smoothly in both the suburbs and Detroit.

Despite that support, county staff at the meeting noted – after much prodding from Palmer and Hartmann – that 71% of the Detroit precincts were imbalanced.

The August election had similar issues as 72% of precincts were imbalanced, necessitating greater oversight.

Some of the imbalances from November remained without explanation in the county’s canvass report, although county staff at the meeting again attributed some of them to human error. They also noted that there were difficulties across the county – not just in Detroit – in getting accurate numbers, explaining imbalances and other issues with tabulators at precincts.

At least one person giving public comment also noted Election Day difficulties in the Downriver Detroit suburb of Brownstown Township.

“If it’s unexplained and you don’t have remarks, that to me sounds like we don’t have complete or accurate documentation,” Palmer said.

When asked if she could cite specific Michigan statue that supported not certifying results based on explained precinct imbalances, Palmer simply referred to a section of the Board of Canvassers manual.

Some during public comment had thanked Palmer and Hartmann for calling out the irregularities and finding them too concerning the certify.

There is a faction of Republicans, however, that would like to see the Republican-controlled Legislature award the state’s 16 electoral votes to Trump despite Biden winning the state, and have made false, unsupported claims of fraud to call for preventing the certification of the vote. If the state failed to certify its vote prior to an early December deadline, it could potentially lead to a scenario where the Legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer are fighting over who gets the state electoral votes and then have the matter thrown into Congress to sort out.

It seems like a far-fetched scenario, but if the Republicans on the state board refuse to certify the matter would surely wind up before the Michigan Supreme Court in short order.

At the end of the meeting, however, that was no longer the case, at least as far as the Wayne County board.

Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox had initially lauded the pair of GOP canvassers on social media within minutes of their decision.

“The people of Michigan deserve to know what happened in Wayne County on Election Day and the days following,” Cox said. “I am proud that, due to the efforts of the Michigan Republican Party, the Republican National Committee and the Trump Campaign, enough evidence of irregularities and potential voter fraud was uncovered resulting in the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refusing to certify their election results.”

She had not commented on the reversal by 10:20 p.m.

Several more, however, called Palmer and Hartmann onto the carpet. One county staff member said during public comment that their refusal to vote yes was a slap in the face to the hard work she and other staffers had put into the election to make sure it would operate well in the face of record voter turnout and immense pressure to get results right.

Others threatened to take the board to court, while some called Palmer a racist for insinuating Detroit voters be disenfranchised when it was apparent from the county’s canvass report that several irregularities or tabulating issues occurred in suburban cities and townships, and not just the city of Detroit.

In an earlier statement, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes said Palmer and Hartmann’s votes were “an outrageous display of partisan posturing.”

Once the board decided to swing the other way, Barnes issued a follow-up statement.

“For several hours tonight we heard from Michigan residents outraged by the initial decision of the two Republican members of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers to not certify the vote. Their words were full of passion, filled with anger and outrage for the blatant racism that was on display,” Ms. Barnes said. “Their impassioned pleas, along with the leadership of Wayne County Board of Canvassers Vice Chair Jonathan Kinloch, led to a reversal of the board’s initial decision.”

Barnes added: “We applaud this decision and are thrilled that the voices of over 800,000 Wayne County voters have been heard and their votes have been properly counted.”

In a separate statement, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan praised the reversal.

“Every court on the Detroit election results has ruled that Trump’s claims of error were baseless. Had the Board of Canvassers disenfranchised 1.4 million Wayne County voters over partisan politics, it would have been an historically shameful act,” Duggan said. “Glad to see common sense prevailed in the end.”

The outcome could not have gone worse for Mr. Trump, who tweeted jubilation at the certification rejection minutes after the board reversed itself and certified. Democrats were all too happy to jam it in his face.

“Wrong again,” Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson tweeted back.


Senate GOP Sees Few Options to Further Expand COVID-19 Response

Senate Republicans, like Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), are not calling for new policies to combat the coronavirus outside and in interviews say they agree with Shirkey’s opposition to issuing mandates to slow the spread of the virus and his urging of Michiganders to heed public health best practices.

Legislative Republicans, as they have for months, in interviews remained united in opposition to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s approach to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, saying the executive branch should be collaborating with them and asking for their input.

Gov. Whitmer and Democrats are now incredulous at such statements, saying the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling in early October holding that Gov. Whitmer cannot keep Michigan under a state of emergency unilaterally should have been the impetus for the Republican majorities in the Legislature to start moving on their plan, whatever it may be, to deal with the virus. That has not happened, and Democrats now saying the Republican complaints of Gov. Whitmer “going it alone” are nothing more than fiction.

Despite calling for a more collaborative effort at combating COVID-19, legislative Republicans have done little more than codifying past executive orders that involve bipartisan areas of agreement. A recent move has also been made to launch a series of public service announcements urging mask wearing, safe distancing, and good hygiene to reduce viral spread.

Republicans in the Senate are in lockstep with Mr. Shirkey, who has dismissed the idea of legislatively passing mandates on masks and other requirements.

The solidarity among the caucus has held during months of battling with the Governor over what was originally executive orders from her office and has now been primarily Department of Health and Human Services orders to keep the mask mandate and other measures in place.

Gov. Whitmer and Republican lawmakers remain at loggerheads during a stretch in which COVID-19 infections have grown exponentially and deaths have risen sharply. Temporary business and school restrictions were announced Sunday, which again drew the ire of Republicans.

Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) agreed with the approach being touted by Shirkey, that of educating and encouraging the public to do the right thing rather than clamp down and enact mandates.

He said when mandates are put in place “people start to put their guard up” and become resistant to them and find reasons to disagree or disobey.

VanderWall, who chairs the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee, said one way the Senate Republicans are trying to educate people is through a series of public service announcements in their districts in coordination with local health officials.

“We can coach people to make the right decision,” VanderWall said.

A key priority, he said, is finding ways to protect health care workers while they work to treat and protect the public. He said the state cannot afford to have them become infected in large numbers.

Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek) – who for decades was an ear, nose, and throat otolaryngologist – in a statement questioned the moves being made by the governor including the new restrictions announced Sunday.

“Local public health authorities already have the tools to take appropriate action against businesses and individuals acting irresponsibly,” Bizon said. “Broad statewide action against certain businesses needs to be supported by a clear reason and factual data to show these activities are the source for recent infection increases. I question the justification behind some of the lockdown decisions which seem random rather than targeted at this point.”

Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) said a priority for him is to make sure health care workers infected by COVID-19 have access to worker’s compensation if the infection occurred on the job.

McBroom questioned at this point how do both sides work together without communication and taking concrete steps to do so, adding it is as though both sides are speaking two different languages. He said the governor has insisted on taking unilateral action with little or no notice to lawmakers or seeking their input.

Other lawmakers agreed that there seemed to be little course for action given the governor’s stance.

“A lot of the things we continued, just through the Department of Health and Human Services,” Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) said.

Schmidt referred to what he called “a lot of ‘I’m willing to work together’ baloney” from the governor that he said has not been followed by collaborative action. He said for the most part at this point the ship has sailed regarding cooperation between the Legislature and the Governor.

“I try to be optimistic, but it just keeps coming and it’s frustrating,” Schmidt said of unilateral moves by the Governor.

He said lawmakers need to continue working for their constituents to find more to do regarding the pandemic and other issues, but he really could not think of any major steps the Legislature could take. He said many public health measures and other items in response to the pandemic are already in place.

Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) said he has not been alerted by leadership to any pending action.

Runestad said he has supported the use of masks, distancing, and good hygiene for months.

“That may be something that we’re going to have to deal with,” Runestad said. He did not have any comment regarding leadership’s opposition to a mask mandate.

As to what more can be done, Runestad said much has already been done on policies on where there is bipartisan agreement. He expressed disappointment in the administration for what he called going it alone and, in most cases, not even providing leadership with a courtesy call or heads up prior to major COVID-19 announcements.

Sen. Roger Victory (R-Georgetown Township) agreed with other members of his caucus on pushing an informational campaign to the public to follow public health guidelines.

Victory said the growth in COVID-19 spread can turn around “if each individual steps up and takes matters into their own hands” by being safe.

When asked why mandating some actions such as wearing masks was not an acceptable policy, he pointed to what he called “the human element.” He said when people are given orders by the state, they tend to question what they are told and end up finding a rationale to do the opposite.

Victory said it is also up to himself and other leaders to lead by example by wearing a mask and engaging in other public health measures in public based on the latest science.

Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) said he has been working in his office on unemployment extension plans as well as on liability issues. He said he has been watching closely to see what, if anything, Congress does for a new relief package.

“Nothing changed after the Supreme Court decision,” Horn said, noting that DHHS and the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration took on larger roles in the executive branch pandemic response.

When asked about further legislative action, Horn said given the shift in mandates: “I’m not sure what the Legislature can actually do.”

He also noted that Senate Republicans had rolled out recommendations earlier this year from a work group that were similar to the governor’s proposals. A major difference was allowing more flexibility for local health departments to respond by tightening or loosening restrictions based on whether the spread of infection is under control.

“There has to be a balance that’s struck here,” Horn said.


Whitmer, Shirkey Warn of a ‘Lame’ Lame Duck

As lawmakers prepare to return for the last few weeks of session in December, the to-do list for the Legislature may not be as long as normal.

“I hope I’m not jinxing us, but I believe this will be a very lame lame duck,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said during an interview last week on WKHM-AM radio out of Jackson.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer indicated Monday one thing she and Shirkey agree on is the likelihood of a quiet lame duck.

Shirkey said more executive orders will be codified related to COVID-19. A supplemental appropriations bill to address some budget items is also likely, he said.

Shirkey said a lengthy list of items that were not taken up because of COVID-19 and the elections will probably also be put through.

“I don’t see any huge, big things done in lame duck,” Shirkey said. “We’ve got, again, a gap there between the Legislature and the governor.”

Asked Monday about her wish list for lame duck, Gov. Whitmer told reporters, “I think one of the few things that Senator Shirkey has said recently with which I agree is it should be a lame lame duck.”

In terms of legislative action on the pandemic, Gov. Whitmer said she would love to find some common ground with the Legislature, but signaled she has little hope of that happening.

“They have had eight months with which they could have been passing legislation geared toward addressing the public health crisis that we have. They haven’t done anything,” she said. “When I see the criticisms, it just doesn’t seem particularly serious because they haven’t done anything, and they haven’t offered up anything, and in fact I think they’ve recklessly endangered their colleagues and all of you.”

House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) pointed to a legislative COVID-19 response, including allowing for remote participation in the Legislature, criminal justice reform, and auto insurance follow-up bills as her top priorities.

On auto insurance, a statement from Greig indicated further protections for non-driving bystanders, like pedestrians or cyclists, are needed along with legislation to narrow or eliminate non-driving factors that affect a person’s insurance rate.

Greig also pointed to a plan from the House Democrats to help individuals by implementing paid sick leave, unemployment benefit changes, expanding access to health care and mental health services.

“Our introduced legislation, which addresses eviction and water shutoff moratoriums, small business grants and loans, unemployment benefit amounts and expanding Healthy Michigan, must be enacted to help the people of Michigan and our state’s economy get back on track,” she said.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said COVID-19 related items should be a priority during lame duck, whether that involves codifying more of the items the governor previously issued through executive orders or addressing other pandemic-related issues.

“We have to stop the community spread that’s going on,” said Ananich, who recently tested positive for COVID-19.

He pointed to legislation from Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) that would place a moratorium on water shutoffs for residents as an example of a basic item that could be addressed. He said without clean water to drink and the practice of good hygiene at home, the virus could spread further.

With the pandemic looming large, he said he would also hope that during lame duck lawmakers are not brought into session to sit for long periods of time to await negotiations on items that might be able to wait until Jan. 2021. He said with the rise in infections, it is difficult for members and staff to distance and they should not increase the risk of viral spread by being forced into close proximity for long periods of time.

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) said he has a few priorities he would like to see move during lame duck but, overall, he expects it to be a slow lame duck this year.

Among them are packages of bills that would create a registry for convicted child abusers and legislation he is working on to help small entertainment venues that have been shuttered and affected by the pandemic to help them survive.

Some bipartisan legislation such as criminal justice reform including additional expungement bills could be good instances of both parties working together.

However, he said one concern he has is meeting more than is needed during lame duck given the spike in COVID-19 cases and the recent positive test of the minority leader. He said the Senate Democrats have a member who is pregnant and another that just recently became the father of another child in his family, so there are concerns for those types of situations, among others.

“When we are spiking in cases, we’re all coming together,” Hertel said. “It’s impossible to completely socially distance.”

Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said his main priority for the end of the year is finalizing reform of the Sex Offender Registration Act. A federal judge has ruled that law is unconstitutional and changes to the law have been in the works for some time. There have been work groups on the topic with a substitute for HB 5679 recently distributed to stakeholders.

The committee had the bill on the agenda last week before the House canceled session.

Rep. Filler also said he has been in conversations with other legislators on how to best help hospitals with staffing issues and space constraints during the surge in COVID-19 cases seen across the state.

Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) said he too believes this lame duck may be lighter compared to past years.

He said there is the possibility of a supplemental appropriations package being negotiated but it is too early to know what it may end up looking like. No discussions on a supplemental have yet taken place. Due to the downturn in revenue stemming from the pandemic, he said there may not be much funding in a supplemental.

“It could be shifts in funds or program supports,” Sen. Stamas said.

Sen. Stamas said there are also a pair of legislative transfers that will also need to be taken care of during lame duck.

Other items that could potentially come up during the last weeks of session include the Historic Preservation Tax Credit, which was built into the budget though legislation has not yet moved and COVID-19 measures the Legislature codified with a Dec. 31, 2020 sunset.


Related:

Detroit Regional Chamber’s Perspective on Michigan’s Pause to Save Lives