Christy McDonald

Christy McDonaldChristy McDonald is the managing editor and anchor of One Detroit. She also anchored special coverage for WTVS Detroit PBS, including documentaries, live news events, and the Mackinac Policy Conference. McDonald appeared numerous times on the PBS NewsHour and CNN reporting on Michigan politics and Detroit’s financial crisis.

A sought-after moderator and speaker, McDonald has led lively discussions at the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit Policy Conference, Mackinac Policy Conference, International Women’s Day events, and Business Leaders for Michigan’s CEO Summit, among others. McDonald also co-moderated Gubernatorial debates in 2014 and 2018. She has appeared on WDET public radio as a guest host/panelist, and a featured guest on the syndicated radio show Remarkable Women and WJR’s Anything is Possible.

McDonald also connected with Detroit viewers for 10 years on WXYZ-TV and has received numerous reporting honors from the Associated Press, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and Society of Professional Journalists.

McDonald is a graduate of Michigan State University’s James Madison College with a degree in Political Philosophy.

Bill Huizenga

Congressman Bill Huizenga represents Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District, currently serving in his sixth term.

As a House Financial Services Committee member, Huizenga has focused on removing government-imposed barriers to private-sector job creation and increasing transparency across the federal government. He also serves as Ranking Member on the Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship, and Capital Markets Subcommittee.

Huizenga has focused oversight efforts on the Securities and Exchange Commission’s operations, activities, and initiatives. Huizenga is also serving on the Housing, Community Development, and Insurance Subcommittee.

Since January 2017, Huizenga has served as a co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force and has successfully rallied bipartisan support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This program aims to preserve and protect the Great Lakes ecology while also promoting opportunities for the Great Lakes economy.

Huizenga is also a founding member of the bipartisan PFAS Task Force, which focuses on PFAS education and crafting legislation to help communities recover from PFAS contamination.

Huizenga holds his bachelor’s degree in political science from Calvin College.

Business leaders silent so far on the fate of abortion access in Michigan

Bridge Detroit
Paula Gardner

May 4, 2022

DETROIT — Michigan business leaders join their peers across the nation in trying to figure out how they should react to often-divisive social and state policies that affect their communities and their employees, with the focus now landing on whether to take a stand on abortion access.

However, decisions on when and how to weigh in are not easy, Andy Johnston, vice president for government affairs at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce told Bridge Michigan.

One sign of the risk is the fallout to the Walt Disney Co., which initially was criticized for being silent on Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill — and then watched Republican lawmakers take retribution when it came out against the measure.

“Many of our communities are facing this major polarization and fractious political divide,” said Johnston, who has been part of national business discussions on it. “So many of our chambers are always struggling (with) where do you draw the line of engagement to some of these issues?

“It can almost feel like we can never do enough for either side.”

The result so far, as the state considers how it would respond to the apparent reversal of Roe v. Wade and possible new abortion restrictions, is general silence from the business community.

Both abortion-rights and anti-abortion advocates mobilized Tuesday to fundraise, plan their next steps and try to sway public opinion in their direction. A growing part of similar efforts in recent years is enlisting corporate support on watershed moments of public import — such as the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to halt certification of the presidential election, or the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The state’s biggest employers and business advocacy organizations have yet to comment on a leaked draft of a majority Supreme Court opinion that would, if it holds up, overturn Roe and reactivate a 1931 Michigan criminal law that would make abortion a felony in most instances.

Unclear is whether business will take a leadership role on the issue as the Supreme Court finalizes its decision, likely in June, and both Democratic and Republican leaders and party officials gauge what that will mean for Michigan.

Abortion, Johnston said, is not an issue that’s been discussed as a business priority.

To be sure, the issue has significant ramifications not only for women, but for businesses in Michigan, where 51.3 percent of the labor force was female in 2021 — about 1 percent higher than pre-pandemic.

Addressing abortion is “a weird tightrope,” said Alexis Wiley, principal at Moment Strategies, a strategic communications firm in Detroit.

Speaking up could lead to backlash. However, Wiley said, staying silent may carry its own repercussions, particularly if a business caters to women and already advocates for women’s issues.

Wiley’s advice to businesses considering whether and how to state a position as Michigan prepares for a ballot issue this November to change the state Consitution to allow abortions is to understand that controversy is likely to follow.

“Those who speak need to be committed to meaningful action,” Wiley said. “The big concern … is being viewed as hollow. This is a movement where platitudes are not wanted.”

Wiley continued: “If you’re interested in being vague, this is not the conversation for you.”

When it comes to reproductive rights, “every business has to make their own decision,” said Arn Tellem, vice chair of the Detroit Pistons and this year’s chair of the annual Mackinac Policy Conference, sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Making those decisions has sometimes been fraught for companies in an increasingly polarized political climate.

The National Association of Manufacturers was among the first advocacy groups to react to the January 6, 2021, insurrection by calling it “mob rule” and “sedition.”

Michigan business leaders urged the state Legislature not to disenfranchise voters when Republican lawmakers proposed a 39-bill package that would tighten voting rules in April 2021. That followed a show of corporate support in the fight against similar bills in Georgia.

Business voices also expressed concern and support for the nation’s racial reckoning following the police killing of Floyd and urged state Republican and Democratic leaders to unite over COVID-19 safety measures that often divided the business community itself.

“Business leaders have felt more of a responsibility to speak out on public policy issues than certainly any other time in my lifetime,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, during a media gathering to outline Mackinac Policy Conference.

The theme of this year’s conference, planned for May 31-June 2 on Mackinac Island, is “The business community’s changing civic role in polarizing times.”

Tellem said business leaders recognize that there are “certain issues where we have a responsibility to speak out,” including the 2021 state voting rights controversy.

That, he said, “was one issue that galvanized the business (community) because that is essential to part of our American values, of our American democracy.”

While many spoke out at that time, Tellem said, “You can’t speak out on everything.”

Yet, Baruah said, many employers are trusted to provide factual information to their employees and the public. Figuring out their roles amid social change is important so that they can maintain that trust, he added.

But reaction to public statements on social issues can leave businesses gun shy about weighing in on divisive topics due to harsh reaction from the side that disagrees, Johnston said.

Some business leaders are consulting more with their workers about how that message should be delivered, he added, particularly on issues like racial equity that have the potential to affect recruiting.

This year’s goal of the Mackinac Policy Conference, Tellem said, is for business leaders on both sides of the abortion decision to gain understanding of other viewpoints. Other issues also will be discussed.

“It’ll help inform us, too, so when the next crisis or next issue comes up, businesses will be better suited and better able to make (their) decisions.”

In Texas, which made its abortion laws more restrictive in fall 2021, some national businesses altered employee policies. Amazon, for example, told its workers in across the U.S. that it will reimburse them for trips for abortion services or other non-life threatening medical services.

Amazon’s decision followed similar moves in Texas by Citicorp, Yelp! and Apple, all of which experts said were initiated to retain employees. Uber and Lyft told drivers that they would pay for legal bills if drivers are sued for transporting people to abortions.

Those companies conveyed their moves to employees in staff-only emails or company meetings, not in public statements — such as the ones by the Walt Disney Company when it criticized Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in schools.

Disney made the statements after impacted members of its workforce and their supporters complained about the lack of support as Republicans moved legislation unfriendly to the LGBTQ community. When it did speak out against the school bill, the Republican Legislature initiated tax bills impacting the company.

Following the bombshell story Tuesday on the Supreme Court’s likely abortion ruling, Levi Strauss & Co., became the first major company to address the issue, telling the New York Times that restricting abortion access could have “far-reaching consequences for the American work force, the U.S. economy and our nation’s pursuit of gender and racial equity.”

With some issues, companies may feel like there’s no way to win, said Johnston of the Grand Rapids chamber. Their workforce may expect one action, while the community could anticipate another.

Business chamber groups often try to stay “the sane center” in a controversy, Johnston said, but that only goes so far today.

The Grand Rapids chamber must prioritize its most pressing business policy issues for its advocacy.

Today, its members are concerned about the labor force and finding enough workers, a critical issue made worse by the pandemic. Unclear so far is what changes in abortion laws in Michigan will mean, so for now it’s not a chamber priority, Johnston said. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is in a similar position, a representative told Bridge, as it isn’t hearing abortion access being addressed by members.

“We’re supposed to be a place where a bunch of people can live (even if) they don’t agree on a lot,” Johnston said, “but we live together peacefully and we agree on big-picture ideas.

“It’s gotten a lot harder.”

View the entire article.

5 of 10 Republican candidates invited to gubernatorial debate at Mackinac Policy Conference

MLive
Melissa Frick
May 13, 2022

DETROIT, MI – Only half of the declared Republican candidates in the running for Michigan Governor were invited to participate in a GOP gubernatorial debate at the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference next month.

The Detroit Regional Chamber invited five of the state’s 10 GOP gubernatorial hopefuls to participate in the June 2 debate, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, the Chamber announced this week.

The five candidates on the roster are James Craig, Perry Johnson, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Rinke, and Garrett Soldano, according to a Chamber news release.

The five gubernatorial candidates who were not invited to participate include Mike Brown, Tudor Dixon, Michael Markey Jr., Ralph Rebandt, and Donna Brandenburg. They were invited to attend the Mackinac Policy Conference, but not to participate in the debate, the Chamber said.

According to the Chamber, the participants selected for the debate were identified as the “top five” most well-known candidates based on a recent statewide survey of Republican primary voters.

The survey, conducted by The Glengariff Group Inc., polled 500 likely August 2022 Republican Primary voters between April 29 and May 1. Survey respondents were read the names of all 10 filed candidates in alphabetical order and asked who they would support as the GOP nominee for governor.

Nearly 45% of respondents said they don’t know yet who they’re voting for. But polling showed Craig, the former Detroit police chief, was the preferred candidate with 23% support from respondents. He was the only candidate with a double-digit lead.

Soldano, a Kalamazoo chiropractor, came in second with 8.2% of support from respondents. Rinke, a Bloomfield Hills businessman, earned 5.6% of support from respondents. Just below that came Kelley, an Allendale real estate broker, at 5.4%; and Johnson, a Bloomfield Hills entrepreneur, at 5.2%.

Brown, Dixon, Markey Jr., Rebandt, and Brandenburg each garnered less than 3% of support from respondents, according to the survey results. See the entire survey here.

The Chamber noted that the debate lineup could be subject to change based on future polling, if “new, public, independent polling further identifies additional competitive candidates.”

The lineup could also change if the Board of State Canvassers rules on ongoing ballot petition challenges involving Craig, Johnson, and Dixon, the Chamber said.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican Gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” said Sandy Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, in a prepared statement. “We look forward to the candidates for Governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”

The June 2 debate lineup was announced the same day that Republican candidates were scheduled for their first major debate ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election.

On Thursday night, eight of the 10 GOP candidates faced off during a debate at the Livingston County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner in Howell. All 10 candidates were invited to participate, but Craig and Brandenburg did not attend.

The gubernatorial hopefuls debated everything from school funding and curriculum to abortions, COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election.

Michigan’s GOP primary election is scheduled for Aug. 2.

The winner will challenge Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November’s general election.

View the entire article.

Detroit chamber limits field for Michigan GOP gubernatorial debate in June on Mackinac

Detroit Free Press
Dave Boucher
May 12, 2022

Only five of the 10 declared Republican candidates for governor were invited to participate in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s primary debate, slated for early June at the organization’s annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

The chamber ultimately did not invite either of the two women running for the party’s nomination to participate in the debate, instead opting to go by the most well-known and supported candidates among recently surveyed Republican primary voters.

Candidates James Craig, Perry Johnson, Ryan Kelley, Kevin Rinke, and Garrett Soldano made the cut, according to a news release. But that means Tudor Dixon, Michael Brown, Donna Brandenburg, Ralph Rebandt, and Michael Markey won’t be onstage with their competitors.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican Gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in a statement. “We look forward to the candidates for governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”

Every candidate invited to participate in the debate received at least 5% support in a recent poll conducted for the chamber. The remaining candidates were invited to the conference, but not to take part in the debate.

The chamber indicated it may change the debate lineup if a candidate drops out, is disqualified from the ballot, or if “new, public, independent polling” shows additional competitive candidates.

The chamber worked with the Michigan Republican Party to set its debate lineup based on a poll it commissioned. The party and chamber agreed to the questions in the poll and additional metrics used to set the debate field, according to the chamber’s announcement.

The poll was conducted by the Glengariff Group and surveyed 500 likely Republican primary voters between April 29 and May 1. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Although almost 45% of those surveyed said they were undecided, former Detroit police chief Craig garnered the most support of those with a preferred candidate at 23%.

Soldano, a Kalamazoo chiropractor who has frequently come in second in Republican primary polls, earned 8.2% support. Bloomfield Hills businessman Rinke received 5.6%, Ottawa County realtor Kelley notched 5.4%, and Oakland County businessman Johnson obtained 5.2%.

No other candidate earned more than 5% in the poll.

The field is far from settled ahead of the Aug. 2 primary, but overcoming a substantial polling deficit at this point in the race could prove difficult. Dixon polled at less than 2%, despite being the only gubernatorial candidate named by former President Donald Trump during a recent visit to the state

Dixon earned the only praise among gubernatorial candidates when former President Donald Trump recently visited the state. But almost 43% of those surveyed said Trump’s endorsement was not important in helping them decide their preferred candidate, despite 81% saying they had a favorable opinion of the previous president.

The news comes the same day Republican candidates were set to square off in the first primary debate of the campaign season, hosted in Livingston County.

Craig, Johnson, and Dixon all face challenges to the signatures collected by their campaigns to place their names on the primary ballot. In Michigan, gubernatorial candidates must submit nominating petitions with at least 15,000 signatures, but there are questions about the veracity of thousands obtained by the Craig and Johnson campaigns and an incorrect date that appeared on Dixon’s nominating petitions.

The chamber’s debate is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on June 2.

View the entire article.

Tina Freese Decker

Tina Freese Decker is the president and chief executive officer of BHSH System—formed by the joining together of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health in 2022. She provides executive leadership for 22 hospitals, 300+ outpatient locations, 11,500+ physicians and advanced practice providers, 64,000+ team members, and a health plan, Priority Health, serving 1.2+ million members throughout Michigan. Prior to her current role, Decker served as president and chief executive officer of Spectrum Health.

Decker serves on the boards of the American Hospital Association, Business Leaders for Michigan, The Economic Club of Grand Rapids, and the Gerald R. Ford Foundation. She is currently board chair of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and The Right Place. Her recent accolades include Crain’s Detroit Business’ 100 Most Influential Women in Michigan, Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare, and Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.

Decker holds a Bachelor of Science in finance from Iowa State University and a Master of Health Administration and Master of Industrial Engineering from the University of Iowa.

Metro Detroit county executives address rumors, mental health crisis

Detroit Free Press
Carol Cain
May 14, 2022

DETROIT — It was as if we hadn’t skipped a beat Wednesday as Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, and Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter gathered with me to talk about things at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Advocacy in Action event at The Mint in Lathrup Village.

This was among the chamber’s first in-person gatherings since the pandemic started and was attended by about 200 people who seemed happy to see other people, versus Zoom screens.

The last in-person gathering I moderated with the county executives was for the Detroit Free Press’ “Breakfast Club” speakers forum, held just before things turned upside-down. That 2020 gathering included the three county executives plus Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Jason Morgan, former chair of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners. The topic then was regional transit.

On Wednesday, the focus with the three county leaders shifted a bit as we talked about how to make the region more competitive, particularly in the electric space, picking up the pieces as the pandemic still has its hold, how to take advantage of things like the two airports (Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run, which are only 4 miles apart as Evans noted, calling that area, “a diamond in the rough”), and why it’s paramount to dedicate more funds for mental health.

May is Mental Health Month and Evans, Hackel, and Coulter talked about the need for additional dollars to address this crisis, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We need to pay as much attention to our mental health as we do physical health,” said Coulter.

Hackel, former sheriff of Macomb County, came to office with his slogan, “Make Macomb Your Home” and joked he might change the slogan to “Make Macomb Your Electric Home,” given the vast amount of economic development and jobs growing from the electric sector. The auto industry remains the bedrock of our region as it goes through seismic change as we move from gasoline-powered vehicles and communities to electric.

Coulter talked about his open invitation issued to President Joe Biden, who visited Ohio last week and talked up 3-D printing opportunities in the Buckeye State.

“We invited him to come to Oakland County to see what’s taking place here. … We already have firms doing that,” Coulter added.

Hackel also talked about an issue near and dear to him: roads.

“We can fix any road or bridge that needs it,” Hackel said. “That’s not the problem. We need to fix the model of how to pay for it. … That’s the issue.”

And there was talk of politics, too, which is inevitable as they are the top three elected executives who oversee the region.

Hackel, who is running for reelection this year, as is Evans, talked about how he is doing his job and focusing on it, and will let the voters decide in November.

Evans, who helped steer his financially beleaguered county when he stepped in seven years ago, finds it in a healthier space.

Evans added a quick “no comment” when asked what he thought about prospects of former Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers, who has filed paperwork to run for Wayne County executive.

Hackel addressed rumors he is looking ahead and considering running for governor in 2026 when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (if she wins reelection this fall) would be term-limited.

“I would not say I would not consider it,” he said. He talked about running for governor in 2010 and 2014 and decided against it both times.

Latest rumors suggest Hackel, who describes himself as a moderate Democrat, might consider switching parties to run as a Republican. In response to the idea he would run as a GOP candidate, Hackel added: “I am very much a Democrat.”

Regional transit was also discussed, though not much changed from where we left off in our last gathering two years ago. Between opt-in and opt-out communities, and differing opinions about what metro Detroit needs when it comes to meaningful regional transit, the needle hadn’t moved.

Then again, the three executives have had to contend with a pandemic, issues evolving including social justice and equity, and growing talent needs as the workforce has changed dramatically.

“There was no playbook for dealing with these things,” said Coulter, as he summed up what the past two years has been like.

Up close and personal
One thing most agree on is that there is something to be said about having important conversations in person and it made sense for the chamber to have this particular event with participants together onstage with an audience.

“Like many, we’re slowly returning to many pre-pandemic routines,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the chamber. “This event with our county execs really needed to be in person. These guys have great chemistry and the conversation would not be nearly as dynamic if it were on Zoom.”

Baruah is looking ahead to the Mackinac Policy Conference at the end of this month when folks from across the state gather on Mackinac Island. The chamber has protocols in place and has limited attendance to 1,300 versus 1,700. The conference is booked with a wait-list.

“Society is in the process of transitioning from pandemic to endemic,” said Baruah. “It’s still too early to tell what pandemic habits and protocols might be a part of a new post-pandemic normal. We feel comfortable returning the conference to in-person and the steps we have taken to protect Michigan’s top leadership — but that doesn’t mean we are back to normal yet.”

Claude Molinari, president and CEO of Visit Detroit (aka the Detroit Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau), was among those in the audience Wednesday. We chatted after the program about our region getting back to normal when it comes to events and meetings.

“I’m pleased to see shows coming back,” Molinari said. “My biggest concern is that labor shortages will make it difficult to provide the level of outstanding service that our clients expect when they come to the metro Detroit region.”

Pamela Dover, senior director of marketing and business development at Comcast Business, was also in the audience and talked about the state of gatherings.

“I don’t think we will return to the same normal,” Dover said. “Because of a hybrid workforce and, at events, some people still will be masked up and others won’t participate at all.”

Yes, I think we can also count gatherings and events among things that will be changed going forward thanks to a health crisis that changed so much.

View the original article.

May 13 | This Week in Government: 5 Republicans Invited To Mackinac Conference Gubernatorial Debate; Term Limits, Financial Disclosure Changes Headed To Ballot

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. 5 Republicans Invited To Mackinac Conference Gubernatorial Debate
  2. Term Limits, Financial Disclosure Changes Headed To Ballot
  3. Disclosing Dollars Spent By Detroit Zoo, DIA Debated By Senate Panel
  4. Shirkey, Industry Leader Tout Proposed Blockchain, Crypto Study
  5. MI Opts Out Of Fed Requirements For Physician Supervision Of CRNAs

 


5 Republicans Invited to Mackinac Conference Gubernatorial Debate

James Craig, Perry Johnson, and Kevin Rinke are three of the five Republican candidates invited to the Detroit Chamber of Commerce’s Mackinac Policy Conference gubernatorial debate on June 2, assuming they all make it on the ballot.

Also invited to the debate are Ryan Kelley and Garrett Soldano. Notably missing from the list is Tudor Dixon who, along with Mr. Craig and Mr. Johnson, is facing petition challenges.

All three have since filed responses to the challenges (See Gongwer Michigan Report, May 11, 2022). Mr. Craig appears in the most serious trouble for being blocked from ballot access.

In its release, the chamber said its members and the Michigan Republican Party determined the selection process and a recent statewide survey of Republican primary voters informed the selection. The survey collected its votes from 500 anticipated August 2022 Republican primary voters between April 29 and May 1.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” Sandy Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in a statement. “We look forward to the candidates for governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”

If the Board of State Canvassers rules on ballot petition challenges, the chamber will switch up the debate participants. The other five candidates – Mike Brown, Ralph Rebandt, Donna Brandenburg, and Michael Markey Jr. – will not appear on stage, however they have been invited to attend the conference.

Related: [Chamber Invites Top 5 Candidates To Participate In GOP Gubernatorial Debate]


Term Limits, Financial Disclosure Changes Headed to Ballot

The Legislature took historic votes Tuesday morning to send the first significant changes to the state’s 30-year-old term limits law to the November ballot, but not before weakening the proposed financial disclosure requirements within the ballot measure in an amended form.

Introduced Tuesday by House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), HJR R was passed by a 76-28 vote in the House and then quickly passed by the Senate 26-6, obtaining the necessary two-thirds votes for sending the proposed constitutional amendment directly to the ballot.

The joint resolution contained much of the language being pushed by the coalition Voters for Transparency and Term Limits (See Gongwer Michigan Report, March 1, 2022).

House lawmakers are currently capped at three, two-year terms of service, though can go on to be elected to the Senate and serve for two, four-year terms for a total of 14 overall years of public service. That would be lessened to 12 years under this joint resolution, though a person could choose to serve all 12 years in a singular chamber.

In addition to the stipulations surrounding cumulative years served, the proposal also would require financial disclosures from officials for the first time.

It specifies that by April 15, 2024, the Legislature, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general must electronically file an annual financial disclosure report with the Department of State.

The disclosure would require a description of assets and sources of unearned income, sources of earned income, description of liabilities, and positions currently held. That would include a position held as an officer, director, trustee, or employee of any business enterprise, nonprofit, labor organization, or institution other than the state itself.

The positions required for disclosure would not apply to positions held in any religious, social, fraternal or political entity, or positions that are solely of an honorary nature.

Additional disclosure requirements would include:

  • Agreements or arrangements with respect to future employment, a leave of absence while serving as a legislator or state officer, continuation or deferral of payments by a former or current employer other than the state or continuing participation in an employee welfare or benefit plan maintained by a former employer;
  • Gifts received and required to be reported by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent, as prescribed by state law;
  • Travel payments and reimbursements received and required to be reported by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent as prescribed by state law; and
  • Payments made by lobbyists or a lobbyist agent to a charity in lieu of honoraria.

Of significance, however, were the several changes to the proposed financial disclosure requirements contained in the coalition’s proposal that were weakened prior to coming before the Legislature.

Language in the ballot group’s proposal stating the financial disclosure rules must be at least as strict as those for Congress was removed. Also removed in the resolution was language referring to a requirement to disclose “purchases, sales or exchanges of a security or real property.”

The coalition’s language would have required the reporting of liabilities, income, and assets. Under HJR R, that language instead requires a description of liabilities, assets, and sources of income.

For reporting gifts and travel reimbursements, the proposal dictates that lawmakers must report all gifts and travel reimbursement. The resolution only requires what is currently required for lobbyists to report.

Asked why the House felt the need to move the joint resolution Tuesday, Mr. Wentworth was short in saying that the caucus has “been talking about this for weeks as a caucus and as a Legislature.”

“When the votes are there, you move it,” he said. “So, that’s what we did.”

There is, though, a massive caveat in the joint resolution which relies heavily on yet-to-be-passed legislation.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for Mr. Wentworth, said that would include what qualifies as a conflict of interest along with how to implement this portion of the joint resolution. Residents would be able to bring legal action against the state directly to the Supreme Court should the Legislature not enact legislation by December 31, 2023.

“The alternative was to just adopt the congressional standard which doesn’t fit … existing Michigan requirements – for example, lobbyist interactions – but then … it creates a standard for what is a conflict of interest for our congressmen, which may not apply to be a conflict of interest for a state rep,” Mr. D’Assandro said.

Mr. Wentworth said that aligning lawmaker reporting requirements with lobbyist reporting requirements would make it so both parties are playing by the same rulebook. Therefore, if a lobbyist doesn’t report something that a lawmaker does, it would be easy to see where reports are falling through the cracks.

“I think it’s absolutely a slam dunk,” Mr. Wentworth said of reporting requirements. “Right now, under current law, it’s on lobbyists to report, right? This would actually require the legislator to report as well so that checks and balances. If a lobbyist were not to report something, there’s no (current) balance, there’s no check on that.”

He continued: “If a legislator then actually discloses, and the lobbyist doesn’t, then there’s a check and balance there. I think this is actually much stricter of an approach we need to make, to make sure that this is a focus.”

Asked why the House didn’t carve out terms within the joint resolution ahead of passing it out of the lower chamber, Mr. Wentworth said it was important that voters knew what they were voting on and that there was only “a certain amount of space you can do that with.”

“To make sure that they know that these are the priorities of financial disclosure and term limit changes is key,” he said. “Then the Legislature can enact the policy going forward.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) did not make himself available to reporters following session, but in a statement praised the proposal as being a solid option for the voters to weigh in on the fall.

“By enabling lawmakers to serve out all their time in one chamber, even if for an overall shorter period of 12 years instead of the current 14, individuals would be free to focus on issues that are important to the communities they represent rather than on their next career move,” Mr. Shirkey said. “Likewise, it is also important that we strike a reasonable balance when it comes to the financial information elected officials must disclose to help make government more transparent, and not further discourage good folks from running for office.”

Mr. Shirkey has long been a supporter of changing the state’s laws on term limits. He has also been opposed to certain levels of financial disclosure, which he has repeatedly said might dissuade otherwise qualified persons from running for office.

Patrick Anderson from the Term Limits Defense Fund slammed the Legislature’s action as lacking any discussion. He said he was in the lobby in the Senate when the 26th vote went on the board and “the lobbyists around me quietly cheered.”

“This was adopted with no notice to the voters. It was hastily passed it with no debate. They even suspended the rules so they could avoid reading it out loud,” he said in a statement. “Whether you like term limits or not, this is a disgrace. These elected officials just reminded voters why they need to limit the power of incumbency. The stench of this ambush of the voters will last all the way to November.”

The breakdown of Tuesday’s House vote on HJR R split members of both caucuses:

HOUSE DEMOCRATS VOTING YES: Breen, Bolden, Cambensy, Camilleri, B. Carter, T. Carter, Cavanagh, Cherry, Clemente, Coleman, Ellison, Garza, Harris, Hertel, Hood, Hope, Jones, Koleszar, Kuppa, LaGrand, Liberati, Manoogian, Morse, Neeley, O’Neal, Pepper, Peterson, Pohutsky, Sabo, Scott, Shannon, Sowerby, Steckloff, Steenland, Tate, Thanedar, Weiss, Whitsett, Witwer, Yancey, and Young.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS VOTING NO: Aiyash, Brixie, Haadsma, C. Johnson, Rabhi, Rogers, Sneller, and Stone.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOTING YES: Alexander, Beeler, Bellino, Berman, Beson, Brann, Calley, Clements, Eisen, Filler, Frederick, Green, Griffin, Hall, Hoitenga, Hornberger, Howell, Kahle, Lightner, Lilly, Marino, Meerman, Mekoski, O’Malley, Outman, Paquette, Posthumus, Slagh, Tisdel, Vansingel, Wakeman, Wendzel, Wentworth, Whiteford and Yaroch.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOTING NO: Albert, Allor, Bollin, Borton, Carra, Damoose, Farrington, Fink, Glenn, Hauck, S. Johnson, LaFave, Maddock, Markkanen, Martin, Mueller, Reilly, Rendon, Roth, and VanWoerkom.

HOUSE MEMBERS NOT VOTING: Anthony, Brabec, Lasinski, Puri, and Bezotte.

In the Senate, the six members who voted against the resolution were Sen. Betty Alexander (D-Detroit), Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township), Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington).

Six members were absent and did not vote Tuesday. Those included Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint), Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon), Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Niles) and Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit).

Related: [Advocacy In Action Update: Chamber Supports Term Limit Reforms]


Disclosing Dollars Spent By Detroit Zoo, DIA Debated By Senate Panel

A pair of bills that would require the Detroit Zoological Society and the Detroit Institute of Arts to disclose how they spend their money saw some pushback during a Tuesday testimony before a Senate committee, with some questioning if this was a move to make now private nonprofits subject to regulations reserved for public and government entities.

SB 818, heard by the Senate Oversight Committee on Tuesday, would amend the Open Meetings Act to include accredited zoological institutions and art institutes that receive tax money and require all meetings to be open and available to the public. A separate bill, SB 819, would amend the Freedom of Information Act to also include zoological institutions and art institutes to disclose how they spend the money they receive upon request.

Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), SB 818’s sponsor, said the issue at hand was about transparency. Mr. Runestad said approximately $22 million annually is dedicated to the DIA and $5.8 million is given to the Detroit Zoo.

Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties have authority boards that levy taxes for each of the institutions, and once the millages are approved by the voters, the authority boards allocate the money to the DIA and the Detroit Zoo. These authorities are subject to FOIA, however, the Detroit Zoo and DIA do not have to disclose how they spend those dollars.

“What happens with the money once it’s at the two institutions? We don’t know,” Mr. Runestad said. “We are told that the entities, they’re private, so you shouldn’t be able to look at them. Well, are they, when 70 percent of (the DIA’s) funding, 33 percent of (the Detroit Zoo’s) funding is from public taxpayer dollars?”

Mr. Runestad said he is open to including a prohibition of disclosing the donors and open to modifying the bill to allow for leaders at the DIA to discuss purchasing art in a closed session.

Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) raised some concerns about the bills, asking why the two institutions were explicitly named and were the only vendors subject to the Open Meetings Act and FOIA while other vendors the authorities use, such as a vendor for accounting and a vendor for auditing, would not be included.

“It’s concerning to take a private entity and make it public through government action,” Mr. Irwin said.

Mr. Runestad replied he saw a real difference between a private company that’s among a multitude of private companies competing for the business of the authority, adding these two entities do not operate like other private companies.

“The way I see it and I think the general public sees it as nothing more than a pass-through entity – the authority – to a quasi-governmental agency, Mr. Runestad said.

Speaking on behalf of the Detroit Zoo was Kirk Profit, the director of Government Consultant Services, while Honigman LLP attorney Peter Ruddell spoke on behalf of the DIA. Both said they valued transparency and Mr. Profit said the entities receive the funding they do because of their transparency with the public.

“You look across different budgets – community health, education, social services, roads, transportation, public safety – a lot of that money is going to go to a private vendor,” Mr. Profit said. “By exposing those private vendors to this kind of sunshine, by law that is appropriate, and we embrace it for government entities … should we expand the notion of a public body to a nonprofit private entity?”

Mr. Ruddell clarified the DIA does not receive 70 percent of its funds from public entities. He also said the bills’ language is so vague it could be argued for example if Sen. Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Township) donated to the DIA in his will, his will could also be subject to FOIA.

No other action was taken on the bills. Committee Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) said he hopes to discuss the bills again in the coming weeks.

OTHER BUSINESS: A bill that would require the Legislature to appropriate and disburse each year the amount needed for local governments to pay mandates required by the state saw no action.

Mr. McBroom, the bill’s sponsor, said an amendment for SB 449 is currently being worked on.

Under this bill, local governments could choose not to provide a new service required by the state unless a fiscal note is prepared, and the state appropriated the necessary funds.

If the money is not appropriated to the local governments, the bill would also prohibit the state from imposing a penalty, withholding funds, or imposing any form of monetary sanction on the local governments for failing to comply with the state requirement under certain circumstances.

The Department of Treasury would also be required to develop an account system to assist in the fiscal note process and the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget would be required to adjust the necessary funding to meet the state’s funding responsibility for each fiscal year.

Depending on the workload, the Senate Fiscal Agency estimates an additional full-time employee may be needed in the Legislature. Treasury would also experience additional costs to develop the accounting system.


Shirkey, Industry Leader Tout Proposed Blockchain, Crypto Study

Senators were told Thursday a proposed study of blockchain and cryptocurrency could eventually open the state up to the technology while making Michigan attractive to an educated workforce and new financial capital.

Before the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee for testimony only was SB 888, a bill that would create a Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Commission.

Membership of the 16-member commission would include a member apiece appointed by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders, two gubernatorial appointees, the heads of the departments of Attorney General, Treasury, Technology, Management, and Budget or their designees, and several others.

The duties of the commission would be to investigate blockchain and cryptocurrency and develop a set of recommendations for the expansion of blockchain technology and the cryptocurrency industry in the state.

“I can’t think of a topic today that is more pertinent than making sure Michigan is welcoming to the trends in the use and application of blockchain technology and everything associated with cryptocurrency,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), a co-sponsor of SB 888, told the committee. “This is not simply to create a commission. This is really sending a signal to the nation and the world that Michigan is paying attention.”

Mr. Shirkey testified in the place of Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), the bill’s main sponsor, who was not available to testify Thursday.

Bob Burnett, co-founder of Florida-based Divvy Systems and Barefoot Mining, told the committee bringing blockchain technology and cryptocurrency mining to Michigan could have huge implications.

Mr. Burnett said advantages include having a finite amount of currency in the system, being able to make transactions more quickly than a traditional bank and there being a permanent chronological record of all transactions.

He also explained, when asked about prices for bitcoin cratering in recent days, that the currency is better for investment rather than attempts at short-term gain.

“It’s an appropriate place to save money in the long term,” Mr. Burnett said, using the example of placing some bitcoin aside for a grandchild’s college education.

For mining purposes, Mr. Burnett said Michigan is an advantageous location due to its moderate climate and diverse resources.

When asked about environmental concerns of mining, Mr. Burnett said the industry’s percentage of renewable energy is higher than other industries. Further, he said mining can locate right next to an energy source, saving on expensive transmission methods and potential increases in emissions.

The time to begin researching blockchain technology and cryptocurrency is now, he said.

“By doing nothing … you’ll get ignored,” Mr. Burnett said, adding relationships and infrastructure may be in place elsewhere if Michigan were to wait to get involved.

Under SB 888, factors to be studied would include the feasibility and risks of the technology’s use in state and local government and Michigan-based businesses would be among the commission’s areas of investigation.

Areas of government use to study would include government records, delivery of services, use in statewide registries including for firearms, marijuana, and elections processes.

For business use, areas of study would include whether it is advisable for businesses to maintain corporate records through blockchain technology.

Other areas of study would include the impact on state revenues, what changes to the state’s tax structure may be needed, whether cryptocurrency transactions should be part of state sales tax, the feasibility of regulating energy consumption associated with cryptocurrency, and best practices for its use to government, businesses, and residents.

A report containing the commission’s recommendations and draft legislation for implementing recommendations would be due to the House and Senate within one year of the commission being appointed and seated.


MI Opts Out Of Fed Requirements For Physician Supervision Of CRNAs

Michigan will become the 20th state to opt-out of federal requirements for a physician to supervise certified registered nurse anesthetists after Governor Gretchen Whitmer late last month penned a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid asking to do so.

“I have concluded that it is in the best interest of Michigan Citizens to opt-out of the current physician supervision requirement, as provided in the federal regulations, and that the opt-out is consistent with Michigan state law,” Ms. Whitmer wrote in an April 18 letter to the CMS. “This letter constitutes my formal notification of the State of Michigan opt-out.”

The decision was informed after her own review of the topic and done in consultation with both the Michigan Board of Nursing and the Board of Medicine, as well as on the advice of legislative leaders, Ms. Whitmer noted in the letter.

It directly follows the creation of PA 53 of 2021 – formerly HB 4359, sponsored by Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Township) – which allowed CRNAs to work in accordance with national standards while also mandating that a CRNA hold a specialty certification for at least three years before practicing without supervision.

Another requirement would be for physicians, podiatrists and dentists to be part of a patient-centered care team (See Gongwer Michigan Report, July 13, 2021).

Michigan Association of Nurse Anesthetists President Adam Kuz praised the move in a Thursday statement, saying: “Governor Whitmer’s action in signing the opt-out ensures Michigan’s patients have access to efficient and value-based, high-quality care which optimizes healthcare teams across our state.”

Roughly 2,600 CRNAs are currently practicing in Michigan making up 70 percent of all anesthesia providers in the state.

Chamber Invites Top 5 Candidates to Participate in GOP Gubernatorial Debate

DETROIT (May 12, 2022) – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber invited five candidates for Michigan Governor to participate in a Republican Gubernatorial debate. The Chamber is hosting the debate, in coordination with the Michigan Republican Party, during its 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference on Thursday, June 2, at 4:30 p.m. at Grand Hotel. The candidates invited today are:

  • James Craig
  • Perry Johnson
  • Ryan Kelley
  • Kevin Rinke
  • Garrett Soldano

The candidate selection process was determined jointly by the Chamber and the Michigan Republican Party. A recent statewide survey of Republican primary voters conducted by The Glengariff Group Inc., the Chamber’s polling partner, informed the selection. The survey polled 500 likely August 2022 Republican Primary voters between April 29 and May 1, 2022.

The selection was based on the following survey question: respondents were read the names of all 10 filed candidates in alphabetical order and asked who they would support to be the Republican nominee for Governor. Each of the selected candidates received a response of 5% or higher to this question. The entire survey is available online.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican Gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” said Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We look forward to the candidates for Governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”

While five candidates were invited to participate in the debate, the Chamber also extended an invitation to the additional five candidates to attend the Conference. The Chamber reserves the right to modify debate participants if the Board of State Canvassers rules on ballot petition challenges or if new, public, independent polling further identifies additional competitive candidates. Candidate polls will not qualify as independent polling. Candidates that exit the race will be excluded.

View the latest Conference updates at detroitchamber.com/mpc.

Advocacy In Action Roundup: County Executives Give Outlook on Regional Transit, Talent Shortage

On May 11, the Detroit Regional Chamber hosted the county executives from Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties to discuss the significant business issues of the region. Hosted at the Mint Conference Center in Lathrup Village, this was the first time that all three were in-person together since early 2020 when they last held an event to discuss regional transit. Carol Cain, senior producer and host for CBS 62 Michigan Matters and columnist for the Detroit Free Press, led the conversation.

 

 

Leading Through COVID-19 Brought Valuable Lessons on Problem Solving

Cain started with the topic of what the past two and a half years have been like as a county executive dealing with COVID-19 and the fallout in their communities.

Oakland County Executive David Coulter said nothing really prepared him for this job. He lamented that there’s “hardly ever a training manual for your job, but you will do just fine if you let your values and style guide you.”

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans said that Wayne County, and he personally, faced “difficult and troublesome” times, but he was able to learn from the situation.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel looked at COVID-19 as an insightful experience, learning who would “step up and address the current problems, instead of sitting back and creating more problems.”

 

Unified Regional Transit Services Have “Larger Price Tag” But Should Introduce More National Opportunities

The topic of discussion quickly shifted to regional cooperation and a transit system to service Metro Detroit.
Coulter pointed out that the pandemic highlighted the need for regional transit and that it “holds the region back” from more significant events like hosting the Super Bowl again.

Evans agreed with a unified approach to transit but said that the solutions could be “hard to swallow due to their larger price tags.”

Finishing the group off, Hackel pointed to Macomb’s “all in” approach with transit. Every community in Macomb is a SMART community, paying an annual mileage to the transit service. Hackel believes that a regional transit system would exist if the other two counties opted entirely into SMART, saying it would be “SMART-er.”

 

To Solve Talent Shortage, Schools and Employers Must Strengthen Requirement Coordination

Later in the discussion, the topic became the talent shortage that the region is currently facing.
Coulter wants to connect Oakland County employers with Michigan’s colleges and trade schools to ensure students graduate with the relevant experience employers seek.

Evans pointed to some of the extreme requirements employers put on potential job seekers, saying that some testing and education requirements may be “too strenuous in this employment market.”

Macomb County currently has 35,000 job openings, for which Hackel blamed a lack of coordination between schools and employers.

 

“Economic Competitiveness” and Infrastructure are Expected Conversation Topics at Mackinac Policy Conference

Wrapping up the event, Cain asks what issue they hope to discuss on the porch of the Grand Hotel during this year’s Mackinac Policy Conference.

Coulter finds that our economy should be the number one topic. He says we need to focus on site readiness and economic competitiveness as a state.

Evans agreed with the economy being a central point of discussion but instead primarily focused on the backfilled tax losses with the new investment that the region is receiving. Evans specifically pointed to all of the investment coming to the airport.

Hackel joked that the topic of discussion should be three things: “sustainable funding for roads, roads, and roads.” Finishing off the discussion, he warns if the region “does not get serious about infrastructure problems now, it will be too late in the future.”

Watch the full discussion below.