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.
- Redistricting Commission OKs 10 Maps For Public Hearings
- MDE Nets $1.2B In ESSER Funding From Feds To Address School Needs
- Hollier Warns Redistricting Plans Disenfranchise Detroit
- House OKs Lifting Sales Tax On Tampons
- Hundreds Rally To Demand 2020 Election Audit, Again
Redistricting Commission OKs 10 Maps For Public Hearings
Ten total redistricting plans for the Michigan House, Senate and U.S. House were approved Monday following months of public input, mapmaking and handwringing by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission.
The body voted Monday to approve each of the maps for publication, working ahead of a vote originally scheduled for Tuesday. It also marked the end of the body’s primary mapping phase, which has taken longer than expected due to several setbacks, the among them an initial lack of timely census data and the struggle for a group of citizens to take on a complex task they had never previously handled.
As significant a hurdle as Monday’s action was, the commission’s approved draft maps are far from final and already are facing scrutiny from residents once they are published later next week. Republicans are targeting the maps from all angles. Detroiters are unhappy at the possibility of most of the city being represented by suburbanites. Democrats and Republicans have said the commission’s decision not to use 50 percent as the threshold for minority voters in a district to meet U.S. Voting Rights Act requirements is a fundamental error that will likely require wholesale revisions in the Detroit area.
Now the commission will move its maps to five scheduled hearings. The first of those hearings was set to begin Monday in Grand Rapids, but that date was scrapped in favor of October 22. Now, the first meeting is scheduled October 20 at the TCF Center in Detroit.
On Monday, commissioners voted to approve all three of their completed draft Senate plans, all three of the completed draft House plans and four of its five U.S. House plans. A sixth U.S. House plan initially slated for consideration was removed because it was found to be a duplicate of an approved plan.
The commission assigned codes to each of its approved maps for tracking on its map portal and collecting public comment based on the date it was presented and the commissioner who offered it.
U.S. HOUSE: The commission approved four congressional map plans: 10-05-21 v1 CD DW, 10-08-21 v1 CD RAS, 10-07-21 v1 CD DC and 10-07-21 v1 CD AE.
On the October 5 map brought forward by Commission Dustin Witjes (D-Ypsilanti), the proposed 9th U.S. House District in southwest Michigan would stretch east from New Buffalo to Niles and upward through Van Buren County to most of Muskegon County, which is separated from Newaygo and Oceana counties. That could spell trouble for U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga as his hometown of Zeeland is now squarely in U.S. Rep. Fred Upton’s territory, if Upton sought reelection.
This iteration would also put Grand Rapids together with city of Kalamazoo, which would give U.S. Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) a much tougher district that would lean Democratic.
The October 5 version also has the Midland – Republican U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar’s hometown – drawn away from the sprawling 13th District and into the 11th District, which contains Flint, most of Saginaw County and all of Tuscola County and is U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) territory.
In the October 8 map alternate proposed by Chair Rebecca Szetela (I-Canton Township), the 9th District stretches further east to include Kalamazoo and Barry counties, while Grand Rapids stands alone in the 4th District including all of Kent County, the western half of Ionia County (excluding the city) and the furthest east portion of Ottawa County – which is also split three ways between the 4th, 9th and 13th districts. This map also has Midland drawn into the 11th District.
A second October 8 alternate, created by Commissioner Doug Clark (R-Rochester Hills), includes many of the same boundaries displayed on Szetela’s version but makes some key changes to the 3rd, 6th and 10th U.S. House districts across Oakland and Macomb counties.
Szetela’s version has the 3rd containing almost all of Oakland minus Clarkston, Brandon Township and Oakland Township to the north (drawn into the 10th District with large parts of Macomb and much of the Thumb), and without Troy, Royal Oak, Ferndale and Oak Park and the Rochesters (drawn into the 6th District with Sterling Heights, Fraser, St. Clair Shores and Eastpointe). Warren and Center Line in Macomb have also been drawn into the eastern Detroit-centric 1st District.
Clark’s version has the 10th District consuming much of Oakland County, the 3rd District containing the West Bloomfield Township, Farmington Hills, Novi and others east to Royal Oak, but minus Troy, Birmingham and the Rochesters (drawn in with the 6th District). The 1st District also contains Warren and Center Line and brings in Madison Heights.
The October 7 iteration proposed by Commissioner Anthony Eid (I-Orchard Lake) differs in its Downriver districts in southeast Michigan.
Each of the other three maps contain the same groupings with Taylor, River Rouge, Melvindale and Allen Park drawn into the 1st District and the community’s southern counterparts in Woodhaven, Wyandotte, Southgate, Trenton, Gross Ilse, Flat Rock, Rockwood and Gibraltar drawn into the Ann Arbor-centric 7th District. Romulus is drawn into the 2nd District with Dearborn.
Eid’s has Allen Park, Taylor, Southgate and Romulus drawn into the 1st District and its southern counterparts in Grosse Ilse, Flat Rock and Brownstown Township drawn into the 1st District.
Three of the maps draw U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Township) into the same district as U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield). However, the Eid map puts Lawrence in the same district as U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn).
All four maps would shift U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills) to a heavily Macomb County-based district compared to her current Oakland/Wayne configuration.
SENATE: The maps approved for the Senate, 10-04-21 v2 SD, 10-07-21 SD RAS BK and 10-08-21 v1 SD, have less pronounced differences.
The October 4 and October 8 maps differ largely in their treatment of Southeast Michigan. The latter map has a proposed 14th District that stretches into Farmington Hills, which is split between two districts on the October 4 version and between three districts on the October 8 map. The 5th District in metro Detroit on the October 8 map splits Chesterfield in half with the 7th District but the October 4 plan keeps it intact in the 7th District.
Another difference is that the October 8 plan puts Detroit’s Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood in with 7th District, which stretches to the southern half of St. Clair County.
Comparing the October 4 map with Szetela’s October 7 alternate, the chair’s map has Manistee County split between the 34th and 36th districts. It also has the 33rd District rising up into Lake County and splitting it with the 35th District. All of Saginaw County minus the city of Saginaw (drawn in with Midland and Bay City) is in the 15th District on the October 4 map, while Szetela drew a Saginaw County split that put its western portion into the 35th District.
At the intersection of Oakland, Genesee and Lapeer counties, the October 4 map has the 2nd District taking up portions of northern Macomb and Oakland counties while the Szetela map has the 2nd District stretching into southern Lapeer and a small southeast portion of Genesee near Grand Blanc.
Kalamazoo County is kept whole in the 27th District in the October 4 plan, while Szetela’s cuts into the eastern portion of the county with the 3rd District stretching around and into Kalamazoo County. The Szetela map also keeps Macomb and St. Clair counties separated between the 7th District and 25th District along their borders save for Armada Township to the north of Macomb, which is drawn into the latter district. The October 4 map has the 7th stretching into the lower half of St. Clair.
Highland Park was also drawn into 17th District on the October 4 map but is drawn into the 8th District on the Szetela alternate. Similarly, Grosse Point Park is split east to west on the October 4 map between the 6th and 7th districts, while Grosse Pointe is split east to west along the same lines.
HOUSE: The House maps are 10-06-21 v1 HD, 10-08-21 v2 HD and 10-08-21 v1 HD RAS.
The October 6 iteration keeps Midland County intact and separated from the city of Saginaw, as well as away from Bay City, which is separated from its southeastern counterparts in Bay County.
The configuration also partitions Grand Rapids across four districts, with the 76th House District taking up the city’s downtown core and its western neighborhoods and Walker; the 75th District gobbling up East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Township and some of the city’s northeastern neighborhoods; and the 78th District containing the Ridgemore, Garfield Park and East Beltline neighborhood in the city’s southern area. The adjacent 86th District to the east would contain the East Paris neighborhood.
Kalamazoo is kept mostly whole in the 73rd district, with Kalamazoo Township drawn in. The South Westnedge neighborhood of the city is now drawn into the 80th District to the south.
Ann Arbor is split in half north to south with a majority of the city’s urban core in the 69th District, its southern neighborhoods included with Pittsfield Township in the 68th District and all of Ypsilanti drawn in with its adjacent township and Superior Township in the 67th District.
The commission’s October 8 configuration eschews the October 6 version in that it keeps Midland separate from its namesake county and connected to Bay City in a proposed 53rd House District. Saginaw is still pushed off by its lonesome in the adjacent 30th District. Its configurations for the Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids area are the same.
Another noticeable difference between the October 6 and October 8 plans is the creation of a step-ladder-style southwestern Michigan shoreline 87th House District stretching from New Buffalo in Berrien County to near Fennville in Allegan County. It also contains an upside-down U shaped 74th District connecting Battle Creek to Albion.
A third plan known as the October 8 alternate initially proposed by Chair Rebecca Szetela closely resembles its October 8 base map but with changes to the Ann Arbor area (the city is with Hudson Mills and a northeastern portion of Jackson County, and Ypsilanti is with Ypsilanti Township in the 67th District).
All three maps contain the same configuration for the Lansing area, with the city’s core in the proposed 91st House District, its lower half in the 90th District to the south and almost all of East Lansing in the 89th District with Meridian Township to the east.
There were also no major differences in the Detroit area except for its Downriver configurations. The October 6 map has Taylor drawn in with Woodhaven in the 40th House District and Flat Rock, Rockwood and Brownstown Township drawn in with most of Monroe County, including Monroe proper, in the 60th District. Its 22nd District contain Wyandotte, Grosse Ilse, Trenton and Gibraltar.
In the October 8 plan, Gibraltar is halved north to south, with its remaining portion in the 60th District that also contains Woodhaven and Flat Rock just before Taylor, which drew in New Boston, Carleton and Steiner. The city of Monroe is in the 61st District on this one.
Szetela’s alternate has the same Downriver configuration as the October 8 base map.
PARTISAN FAIRNESS: Between the House plans, Szetela’s map appears to score the best comparatively with a margin of 5.8 percent, a mean-median score of 2.7 percent and an efficiency gap of 5.7 percent – leading to a map that has the potential for 56 Democratic seats and 54 Republican seats. Still, the map leans Republican and disfavors Democratic candidates by 1.4 percent.
Among the Senate plans, Szetela’s plan also scored well compared to the other plans, with a margin of 4.5 percent, a mean-media score of 2.2 percent and an efficiency gap of 3.4 percent – leading to a map that has the potential to elect 20 Democrats and 18 Republicans. This map leans Democratic and disfavors Republicans by 0.3 percent.
The U.S. House maps have near identical scores, but Eid’s version was hailed by his colleagues has having some of the best partisan fairness scores among the various plans. The Eid map had a lopsided margin of 4 percent, a mean-median score of 2.2 percent and an efficiency gap of 0.8 percent – leading to a map that could elect seven Democrats and six Republicans in a map that leans Democratic, disfavoring Republicans by 1.5 percent.
MDE Nets $1.2B In ESSER Funding From Feds To Address School Needs
Michigan has been awarded more than $1.2 billion for the safe reopening of schools and to address the impact of lost instructional time due to the COVID-19 pandemic after seeing a green light from the federal government over the state’s submitted plan for the funding.
To date, Michigan has received more than $3.7 billion through the federal American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. This most recent allocation will largely be used to support improving the health, safety and wellness of all learners; improving early literacy achievement; and expanding early childhood learning opportunities.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in a statement with Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice, praised the funding as an investment in students as they recovered from the effects of the pandemic.
“This investment in Michigan’s schools will help our kids thrive and ensure teachers and staff have the resources and support they need,” Ms. Whitmer said, also touting the recently signed education funding bill which invested the most amount of funding into K-12 education in state history. “That bill closed the funding gap between schools in Michigan and delivered critical mental health resources. Together, we can continue putting Michiganders first and get things done that make a real difference in their lives.”
School districts will have until December 14 to submit to the state Department of Education plans using the funds, which would have to be spent by 2024.
The money will be used to reimburse school districts to support safe, in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health and academic needs of students with a specified focus on those hit hardest by the pandemic, the department said.
“Our state ARP plan will help Michigan students better rebound from the disrupted learning that they experienced during the past year,” Rice said. “I am very pleased that Secretary Cardona and the U.S. Department of Education approved our state plan and released the remaining $1.24 billion in federal funds for Michigan schools to improve our schools in myriad ways for children.”
Approval of the plan releases $363 million in state equalization payments appropriated to districts that did not receive $1,093 per pupil in their ARP ESSER formula allocation. That formula allocates 90 percent of the ARP ESSER funds based on federal Title I requirements.
“We appreciate Secretary Cardona and his team for supporting the work taking place in classrooms across Michigan,” Kenneth Gutman, superintendent of Walled Lake Consolidated School District and President of the K-12 Alliance, said in a statement. “The ESSER III Equalization Fund was included in Michigan’s bi-partisan budget deal to ensure that every school district has the resources necessary to help their students overcome the unique challenges they have faced over the past year. Today’s approval of that plan is a welcome step forward and gives our schools the assurance that they can continue providing their students with the support and top-notch educational experience they both need and deserve.”
Hollier Warns Redistricting Plans Disenfranchise Detroit
With the Detroit poised to host the first public hearing for maps proposed by the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, Sen. Adam Hollier (D-Detroit) on Monday announced a news conference at the Spirit of Detroit statute in the city at 1 p.m. Tuesday to discuss how the maps would treat the city.
Several residents have lodged criticisms at the commission for its handling of districts throughout Detroit. Hollier in a news release issued Monday noted there are currently 17 majority black districts in the state and the commission has drawn zero in its maps that will see public hearings start October 20 (see separate story).
Of note, the commission’s consultants have said the 2011 reapportionment plan contained heavily packed Democratic and Black districts in Detroit, which was clearly done to segregate the Black Detroit vote. The commission was therefore tasked to spread out the Black vote across several districts instead of concentrating minority voters in the city to better comply with the Voting Rights Act while also ensuring their vote power to elect a Black candidate of choice.
Much of the criticism leveled against the commission thus far has focused on the advice of the body’s VRA consultant, Bruce Adelson. Some have said on social media and in public comment that Adelson he has given the commission questionable advice.
Hollier said in his statement that the districts are drawn in a way that will not ensure Black Detroiters equal access to the ballot and elected office.
“They drew districts that are not indicative of Black communities and Detroit,” Hollier said. “They drew the City of Detroit into districts that Detroiters will not win, and Black people will not win because a majority of the voter base are in suburban communities particularly in primaries where Democratic races are decided. … The commissioners have been very responsive to communities that have testified. I think the commissioners want to draw good maps they just need Detroiters to participate.”
House OKs Lifting Sales Tax On Tampons
Ending taxation on feminine hygiene products took a big step toward reality Thursday after both pieces of legislation in a two-bill package passed the House, the first time the bills have cleared a legislative house after years of effort.
Two bills, HB 5267 and HB 4270, both passed by 94-13 votes. Working in tandem, the two bills would exempt feminine hygiene products from the state’s 6 percent sales and use tax by rewriting Michigan’s Use Tax and General Sales Tax acts.
Only a smattering Republicans voted against the package with the caucus overall voting 43-13. Those voting no were Rep. Sarah Lightner of Springport, Rep. Pam Hornberger of Chesterfield Township, Rep. Matt Maddock of Milford, Rep. Daire Rendon of Lake City, Rep. Andrew Fink of Hillsdale, Rep. Steve Carra of Three Rivers, Rep. Beth Griffin of Mattawan, Rep. Sue Allor of Wolverine, Rep. Steve Johnson of Wayland, Rep. John Reilly of Oakland Township, Rep. Ann Bollin of Brighton, Rep. Luke Meerman of Coopersville and Rep. Julie Alexander of Hanover.
“I am proud that our tireless work has finally paid off,” Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) said in a statement. “With these bills making it through the House, we are that much closer as a state to eliminating this unjust tax, helping those struggling with period poverty and creating a more equitable world for women and girls. Now it’s time to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure this essential legislation becomes law.”
Kuppa testified in support of the bills before the Tax Policy Committee in August and championed the policy this term with her own bill.
Rep. Bryan Posthumus (R-Cannon Township), sponsor of HB 5267, in a speech on the floor said it was time that taxes were cut for average persons and done so in a way that had a real impact on a person’s health.
“Today we have an opportunity to directly cut taxes for families and individuals by simply eliminating unnecessary taxes on these very necessary items,” he said. “We can make a big difference toward improving public health and putting money in the pockets of our constituents. This is a small step that will make a big impact.”
The bills now move to the Senate for consideration.
Also passing the House Thursday was SB 25, sponsored by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), which saw overwhelming support in a 105-2 vote. The bill provides for student loan forgiveness for disabled veterans under the total and permanent disability discharge program.
It passed the Senate in March unanimously.
Hundreds Rally To Demand 2020 Election Audit, Again
Several hundred supporters of former President Donald Trump, nearly a year after his loss in Michigan and the 2020 election overall, gathered on the Capitol grounds Tuesday to demand a forensic audit of those election results.
A crowd, many with signs and flags in support of the former president as well as various slogans demanding “fair and accurate” elections and a new audit of the results – despite more than 200 audits in the state following November 2020 showing no evidence of widespread voter fraud. A handful of criminal charges have been brought in relation to the election involving less than 100 votes.
A group of called Election Integrity Fund and Force organized the noon rally at the Capitol, the latest chapter in a nearly year-long push by supporters of Trump disputing and questioning the 2020 election results. Dozens of lawsuits across the country in the months following the election were all unsuccessful regarding allegations of voter fraud, and various claims of fraud circulating among supporters have long since been debunked.
Nonetheless, Tuesday’s speakers thrilled the crowd with a string of speeches containing many of the debunked claims.
Receiving some of the biggest cheers was attorney Matthew DePerno, a Republican candidate for attorney general, who was also endorsed by Trump last month.
“Today is about protecting individual constitutional rights of every registered voter in the state of Michigan, whether Democrat or Republican. This should be a nonpartisan issue,” DePerno said. “If we allow the manipulation of ballots during and after they are processed, then the government cannot guarantee that the fundamental constitutional right of our citizenry is protected, and that’s what we’re seeing today.”
DePerno has spent most of the last year seeking to prove that Trump won the 2020 election. However, the claims he has repeatedly made in these efforts were highlighted and debunked in a Senate Oversight Committee report on the 2020 elections, which found no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The Senate report recommended that the Department of Attorney General investigate those who have raised funds off of the inaccurate election clai
There is an ongoing probe into individuals who have been pushing election misinformation for alleged financial gain. The Senate report did not suggest DePerno specifically for investigation, but he might be among those whose activities may be under review. Attorney General Dana Nessel said an isolation wall was put in place when the investigation was launched to avoid any conflict of interest between her and DePerno, who could end up being her Republican opponent in 2022.
Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) told attendees her gut told her something was amiss after the November 2020 election and that “we were being fed a line,” prompting her to work to protest the results.
“They’re telling us that there was nothing wrong with the election, that we all saw had our candidate way ahead the night of the election. Come on, we’re not that stupid,” Rendon said. “We know better, and now we’ve seen the evidence. Evidence from Maricopa County (Arizona), evidence from Antrim County.”
What evidence Rendon was citing in Antrim County is unclear but it has long since been proven that the error on election night that showed Biden winning the strongly Republican county, was a human error regarding software uploading, and one that was quickly corrected during the canvassing process. The review of Maricopa County, Arizona, ballots – ordered by that state’s Senate – was widely criticized as unscientific and not done according to proper protocols and even still found Biden’s margin not statistically different than the certified results.
Rep. Steve Carra (R-Three Rivers), who has begun a primary bid against U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Saint Joseph), was also endorsed by Trump and spoke Tuesday. It’s not clear whether Carra will actually run against Upton, however, because he has been drawn into a district where the incumbent is U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Tipton).
“Why have we passed dozens of election integrity bills if there was no problem with the last election?” Carra said. “We have major issues from the last election, and if we want to have fair, honest and transparent elections, we need to demand a full forensic audit.”
The Senate committee’s 2020 election report slapped down numerous claims made by those speaking at the event.
Allegations of voting machines and equipment being connected to the internet on Election Day have also long been debunked, as have claims of fraud in Antrim County, where human error in handling a software update has long been established as the real reason for initially incorrect vote tallies. The count in Antrim County was quickly corrected and has been explained at length yet rally attendees, and other supporters of Trump, continue to point to the county as alleged evidence of wrongdoing.