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Dec. 18 | This Week in Government: Poll Data Shows Support for Mask Mandate, Small Business

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. Poll: Most Voters Support Indoor Mask Mandate, Help For Biz
  2. Negotiations on Supplemental Spending Bill Move to Friday
  3. Candice Miller For Governor? She’s Thinking About It
  4. State: Minimum Wage Increase Unlikely to Happen For ’21
  5. Justice for All Task Force Releases Service Assessment Report

Poll: Most Voters Support Indoor Mask Mandate, Help For Biz

More than half of voters surveyed in a recent Detroit Regional Chamber poll released Tuesday said they will get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as they are able while 68% indicated support for a legislative indoor mask mandate to help combat the virus.

But even with attempts to stop the virus, 84% of all respondents believe the state – specifically its economy – is in a worse situation now than it was in April. Almost half of respondents, 46%, said that was specifically because elected officials continued to shut down businesses.

One in four signaled that their household finances had seen a major to catastrophic change, with the greatest impact being on those under 40-years-old.

“We all know that the COVID crisis will last a year, if not longer, and it’s going to have long-lasting impacts on our businesses, society, politics, etc.,” said Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Since day one, the Chamber has looked at the public health crisis and the economic crisis as one. These challenges must be addressed together and solving for one without factoring in the other is, frankly, not realistic and never has been.”

The survey data, gathered between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4, comes from 600 responses. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4%, with a 95% confidence level. Pollsters asked participants a wide array of questions dealing with their perceptions on how the pandemic has not just affected their own lives but how lawmakers have responded, and what the priorities should be for the state moving forward.

Data collected also broke down responses by political leanings – from strongly Democrat, leaning Democrat, independent, leaning Republican, and strongly Republican – illustrating that the more center, center-left, and deeply left a person was, the more likely they were to not only approve of things like required mask use and vaccinations, but the more apt they were to say Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was doing everything she could to bring the pandemic under control.

More than 90% of people who identified as a Democrat in some capacity said they would support a mask mandate, 72% of independents said they would, and exactly 50% of people who said they lean Republican supported a mask mandate. Only 33% of voters who identified as strongly Republican said they would support a mask mandate.

Those numbers stayed roughly the same when asked how well a job Gov. Whitmer has done during the pandemic, with more than 89% of all Democratic-leaning persons and 63% independent persons indicating she is doing everything she can. More than half of all Republicans believed she was not, although one-third of both strongly identifying and moderately identifying Republicans believed that she was.

For those who indicated Gov. Whitmer was not doing everything she could to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, when asked what more she could or should be doing, 27% indicated she should reopen businesses or do nothing to impede the spread of the virus.

When turning to the Legislature’s response, however, only 29% of all respondents believed lawmakers were doing enough to combat the virus. The highest levels of approval from any group, 38.9%, came from moderate Republicans. Roughly 40% of all responders indicated the Legislature should be working toward a compromise with Gov. Whitmer on handling the pandemic.

There was also cohesiveness in wanting to help small businesses recover from the pandemic. More than half, 58%, said that in particular should be the state’s primary focus, followed by improving access to health care and job training for those hurt by the pandemic.

About that same amount, 52% overall, also indicated they will get a vaccine as soon as they can. The older a person was, the more likely they were to say they will get the vaccine, with 64% of those aged 50-64 and 71% of 65 and older saying they would get the vaccine. That number significantly dropped off under the age of 50.

Race, too, was a factor in saying yes to a vaccine. While 58% of white responders said they would get the vaccine, only 33% of Black responders indicated they would as well. Another 27% of Black responders said it would depend on if they got a vaccine or not, with data not indicating what, exactly, was the deciding factor.

Nearly half of individuals who identified as strongly Republican, 48%, said they would not get the vaccine at all.

“There’s nuances in these numbers,” said Glengariff Group President Richard Czuba, whose company issued the survey on the chamber’s behalf. “(Voters) recognize the health threat. They recognize the Governor is doing what she can to mitigate that health threat. They also recognize this is a tremendous hit to the economy … And I think what voters overall in the state are saying is: balance these two issues out.”

Related: New Survey Reveals Statewide Opinions on COVID-19 Economic Impact, Business Priorities, Vaccine, and Government Action


Negotiations on Supplemental Spending Bill Move to Friday

Legislative Republicans and the administration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will continue negotiating on a spending bill related to the coronavirus with the Senate coming back to session at 10 a.m. Friday.

The House is meeting at 8 a.m. Monday and can concur in any legislation that is potentially passed.

Senate Republicans on Thursday announced a spending plan related to the coronavirus without revealing exact dollar figures. House Speaker Lee Chatfield said in a statement he expected more details from the administration tonight.

Yesterday, sources familiar with the situation said the House and Senate Republicans agreed to a less than $300 million spending bill to provide COVID-19 relief and Gov. Whitmer’s office was reviewing. A statement from Senate Republicans Thursday evening announced a “supplemental relief package,” though didn’t include specific funding amounts. It also was worded as a Senate plan as opposed to a House-Senate plan.

Chatfield (R-Levering) said in a statement that providing COVID relief has long been a priority for the Legislature.

After session – a long day for the House, which began at 10 a.m. and didn’t adjourn until after midnight – Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for Chatfield, said a few final details will be worked out Friday.

“The House previously added Monday as a session day in case more time was needed to finish needed legislation, and now that is the case,” he said. “Talks are still ongoing between the House, Senate, and administration. COVID relief is a shared priority, and House Republicans are working hard to get it done and get it done right for the people who need it most.”

The House sent SB 604, which extends the duration of unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks until March 31, 2021, back to the Senate so the chamber can send back a final version for the House to concur in if and when there is an agreement. The bill passed 95-6.

The Senate statement said the spending would go toward expanding testing and vaccine distribution and helping hospitals and nursing homes address their shortage of nurses, including an extension of the pay increase for direct care workers.

It would also provide assistance to businesses and furloughed or laid-off workers, the statement said.

“Gov. Whitmer continues to go it alone on COVID-19, closing down businesses and laying off workers in the middle of the holiday season,” said Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland). “But Senate Republicans are stepping up to help the thousands of Michiganders struggling financially and to ramp up testing and vaccine distribution to a point where we can safely reopen our state once and for all.”

The tone of that statement suggested a deal was not close. Gov. Whitmer has called for $100 million to aid businesses affected by the pandemic and another $300 million General Fund for state response to the pandemic.


Candice Miller For Governor? She’s Thinking About It

If it is gubernatorial candidate speculation season, there’s always one name reliably on the shortlist of potential A-listers, and that is Candice Miller.

For the better part of two decades, Miller’s name will come up as a possible Republican candidate for Governor given her two terms as secretary of state, seven terms in the U.S. House, and powerhouse performance at the polls with voters, but she has always passed. Now the Macomb County public works commissioner, Miller’s name again is circulating among Republicans as an ideal challenger to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2022.

Miller would represent a major threat to Gov. Whitmer because of her strength in Macomb County. She knocked out a Democratic incumbent in 2016 with 55% of the vote and then boosted that to 62% in her reelection win this year.

Gov. Whitmer narrowly won Macomb in 2018 and, while losing it, even by a lot, would not be fatal, Miller would likely do much better than the 2018 Republican nominee, Bill Schuette, did in Oakland and suburban Wayne counties.

Miller also has had an everyday approach that has long proven successful with voters.

Jamie Roe, a longtime top aide to Ms. Miller when she was at the Department of State and then Congress, told WILS-AM on Thursday that Ms. Miller has had several people ask her to consider running for governor and she is looking at it.

Roe said Miller is unique among the potential Republican candidates in her ability to win votes in the Detroit suburbs.

Contacted after the program on whether Miller would be interviewed about a possible run, Roe said not just yet.

“Right now, she is sort of sticking to her knitting as she likes to say,” he said.

At this point, no Republicans have begun laying the groundwork for a challenge and as of a couple weeks ago, Republican operatives said no one had really started making the rounds just yet.


State: Minimum Wage Increase Unlikely to Happen For ’21

The Michigan Bureau of Employment Relations, Wage and Hour Division announced today the state’s scheduled minimum wage increase is not expected to go into effect on Jan.1, 2021.

The state’s Improved Workforce Opportunity Wage Act of 2018 prohibits scheduled minimum wage increases if the state’s annual unemployment rate for the preceding calendar year is above 8.5%. The annual unemployment average from January through October is 10.2% and is unlikely to dip below the 8.5% threshold when the final 2020 unemployment numbers are released.

If the annual unemployment rate does not fall below 8.5%, then Michigan’s minimum wage will remain at $9.65 per hour. Tipped employees rates of pay will remain $3.67 an hour and the training wage for newly hired employees aged 16 and 17 will remain at $4.65 an hour for their first 90 days.

The next minimum wage will increase to $9.87 following the next calendar year when the annual unemployment rate is less than 8.5%.


Justice for All Task Force Releases Service Assessment Report

Michigan’s Justice For All Task Force on Tuesday released its strategic plan and service inventory report, which took a critical look at 15 civil justice areas and barriers for residents within those areas.

The report found that several of those areas were lacking and were rated as having only partial, minimal, or no progress toward 100% access, with none of the areas presented in the report reaching sufficient or advanced progress ratings.

However, members of the task force and its liaisons in Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and Justice Brian Zahra said Tuesday during a news conference with reporters that the stark evaluation was important if Michigan was to truly transform its civil justice system and meet its access goals.

“Unlike in criminal cases where the Sixth Amendment guarantees everyone charged with a crime a lawyer, civil cases have no corollary,” McCormack said. “But of course, many civil proceedings can have very serious consequences for people and the lack of access to justice also costs the rest of us. The rule of law is, after all, only a set of ideas that require our collective buy-in, and when access to justice is unequal, that buy-in is threatened.”

Created by the high court in 2019, the task force set its sights over 18 months to produce the inventory assessment and plan released on Tuesday, which is also the national day of remembrance for the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The task force also announced that it would be forming a new commission, which will be active starting next year to implement recommendations.

Much of the assessment and strategic planning work was spearheaded by Zahra, who said the report makes it apparent that the processes and procedure of the state’s legal system make it difficult, if not impossible, for those without robust financial or educational resources to get a fair shot.

To that, Zahra said the recommendations would help to level the playing field.

“For example, to a small business owner, justice for all might mean the expeditious resolution of a contract dispute and getting paid so that the frontline employees can get paid,” he said. “To a battered spouse, justice for all might mean quick and effective access to a personal protection order. … The list of possibilities goes on and on. Regardless of the specific factual scenario, however, it’s fair to say that justice for all is the process of making our civil justice system accessible and understandable to our neighbors throughout our communities and to the people in every corner of Michigan.”

Per the report, the 15 civil justice areas were partitioned into five categories, including governance and innovation; consumer needs and community integration; assistance without a lawyer; representation by a lawyer; and court services and education.

Of 15 total services areas, the only ones rated as making partial progress were jurisdiction infrastructure, stakeholder capacity, community integration and prevention, self-help centers, triage and referral, alternative dispute resolution, full representation, judicial and court staff education, and compliance assistance services.

Some of the gaps and barriers identified in these areas are the fact that localized funding of courts makes system change difficult to implement. Decentralized court technology or a lack of online court records and a uniform case management system also makes data-oriented change in the courts difficult overall.

There are also too many work groups and committees that address overlapping justice access issues, with a lack of clarity and roles and responsibilities, and a lack of coordination among groups, among several other identified gaps.

Areas making minimal progress include emerging practices and innovations, consumer needs and experiences, limited scope representation, plain language forms, and courtroom assistance services.

Identified barriers include overly complicated court processes that are not easily navigable and the fact that disparate rules and procedures among the courts make it difficult for legal aid attorneys to do their jobs, recruit volunteers to take pro bono cases, among others.

The lone “no progress” rating was given to navigator services, as no such service exists in Michigan’s civil justice system – the biggest barrier to its success. There is also not a clear and consistent definition of what “navigator services” are and may be confusing to stakeholders.

To address each access area and move it toward sufficient or advance progress, Mr. Zahra said the strategic plan will focus on creating a civil justice system that is not only welcoming and understanding, but collaborative, adaptive, and trusted by its end users: the people of the state of Michigan.

Strategic goals outlined in the plan include creating a service culture that is pervasive across the Michigan civil justice system, where stakeholders are focused on serving and strengthening their communities. That also entails simplifying and streamlining the system’s processes, rules, and laws so it is easier to navigate, understand, and use.

If those pillars are met, people can get what they need when they need it to address their legal issues, the report says, with a spectrum of affordable services available to everyone. An inclusive collaborative network of diverse partners should also be established by working together to integrate resources.

That last part is where the new commission will come into play, as task force members hope its presence will ensure court infrastructure is in place to achieve recommended goals.

While none of the 15 civil justice components in the inventory report were rated as sufficient or advanced, that doesn’t mean every service currently available throughout the state’s judiciary is flawed, said Angela Tripp of the Michigan Legal Help Program.

Rather, it was an admission of what it can do better and sets a high bar for new standards.

“The overarching goal of this work is 100 percent access, and that does not mean that 100 percent of people get an attorney to represent them. That is not practical, and I’d argue not necessary,” Tripp said. “Instead, we need to build a strong continuum of resources so people can get what they need when they need it to resolve their problems. We need different kinds of help for different people in different situations. The strategic plan sets out tactics to achieve this simplified processes, increased resources, new and innovative models of service delivery, and a shared framework for collaboration.”

McCormack also added Michigan courts have already engaged in the kind of collaboration and multi-pronged problem-solving tactics floated in the report, as evidence by its eviction diversion program which became a huge lifeline for residents during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The data shows that tenants provided an attorney achieved positive results in 94% of cases,” she said. “Keeping families in their homes, of course keeps them in their jobs, keeps them providing for their families, paying their taxes, supporting their communities. And preventing evictions helps stabilize neighborhoods and promotes economic development. That’s a win-win for Michigan. Now imagine if we could duplicate the creative thinking of the eviction diversion program dozens of times over tackling every civil justice issue from family law to elder abuse?”