Jeb Bush, done with politics, thinks a Democrat who preaches civility will win nomination

June 8, 2019

Detroit Free Press

Carol Cain

Washington is a “cesspool” right now and the landscape for the 2020 presidential contest promises to be “turbulent, chaotic and will define our country going forward.”

That’s the assessment from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose 2016 run was crushed by Donald Trump.

Bush was one of the headliners at the Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference, where he spoke to business leaders about education reform.

Bush said Florida’s gain as a state and improving reading levels and other metrics, (which started during his time as governor, was accomplished by focusing on early learning and literacy.

His state adopted a third-grade reading law that called for reading coaches to be hired for each school. He added that too many students aren’t reaching their potential because, “we don’t have the guts to say some things are working and some things are not. In this dynamic world we are living in, the lessons of Florida suggest we need dynamic policies to reflect it.”

Gretchen Whitmer, almost six months into her job as governor of Michigan, spent her first week at the Governor’s Summer Residence on the island the week the chamber’s conference was held.

The residence was built in 1902 as a summer cottage for Chicago lawyer Lawrence Andrew Young. Later the Hugo Scherer family of Detroit owned it, and then in 1944 the Mackinac Island State Park Commission purchased the home.

The residence, which has 12 bedrooms, has been used by Michigan governors to host events with national and state leaders. During the chamber’s conference, many of Whitmer’s department heads stayed there too.

Whitmer gave me a quick tour and talked about its history. Sen. John F. Kennedy visited the residence to talk with Gov. G. Mennen Williams to seek his support as he ran for president. She also pointed to a picture on the wall of the first car to drive across the Mackinac Bridge.

Speaking of building bridges, Whitmer, who signed a bill at the conference that changes to the state’s no-fault auto insurance, to the delight of business leaders who applauded as the two parties come together, is looking to the next challenge — fixing roads and infrastructure.

“We don’t have to look like Washington,” she said “We can focus on issues, compromise and get serious about things.”

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On Mackinac Island, leaders champion working together

May 29, 2019


Rick Albin

The first full day of the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island highlighted the idea of working together.

Officials are hoping Michigan is in a new era in divided government that produces results for the state. There was some evidence of that when Republican leadership and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer agreed to a deal to reform the state’s auto insurance law last week.

“When we meet our obligations as Michiganders, every one of us benefits. We have a historic agreement. We’ve done more in five months than anyone’s been able to accomplish on that in five years,” Whitmer said Wednesday. “I think this bodes well for where we are headed in our state and fixing roads and education.”

However, that big compromise did not sit well with all stakeholders. Several providers of long-term and critical care health services worry about the impact the law will have going forward.

But that bipartisan deal did seem to set the tone for other big endeavors. For example, Whitmer rolled out an ambitious plan to have multiple autonomous vehicles built and operating in just over a year.

That will fall to developers, universities and manufacturers already working on the technology, which will be featured at the 2020 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Michigan Governor Signs Overhaul to Cut High Auto Premiums

May 30, 2019

U.S. News

Associated Press

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed into law an overhaul of Michigan‘s car insurance system that will let drivers forego unlimited medical benefits to cover crash injuries.

The Democratic governor signed the bill Thursday at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s policy conference on Mackinac Island. She was joined by lawmakers and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

Whitmer says it’s a “historic day” because the cost of auto insurance will go down.

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Shirkey: Whitmer ‘moving the goal posts’ on no-fault reform

May 9, 2019

Crain’s Detroit Business

Chad Livengood


With the annual Mackinac Policy Conference about two weeks away, the possibility of a grand bargain on no-fault and road funding being hatched on the porch of the Grand Hotel seems remote.

These two sides aren’t even talking to each other directly about the high points of the highly complicated issue of auto insurance.

Whitmer argued allowing her insurance department to administratively prohibit the use of non-driving factors for setting rates doesn’t “cut it.”

“The public would be furious if something was passed into law and were told a problem was fixed and it wasn’t,” Whitmer told reporters at the Capitol. “That’s exactly what happened on the last gas tax — they were told the roads were fixed and everyone knew darn well they weren’t. I’m not going to play games.”

And Shirkey made it clear Thursday that the deadline to negotiate a resolution is fast approaching.

“This is days, not weeks, before it goes to the governor,” Shirkey said. “… And there’s no reason to let it sit around because 7 million policyholders are waiting to embrace the savings opportunties that we’re providing them.”

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Business leaders prepare for Mackinac conference

May 10, 2019

Rick Albin

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference will be held three weeks from now.

On Friday, leaders from both the Detroit and Grand Rapids Chambers of Commerce, as well as the West Michigan Policy Forum, talked to reporters about this year’s agenda.

About 1,700 attendees will talk about challenges and problems facing the state. They will also discuss successes and how to capitalize on progress made when it comes to the economy and employment in Michigan.

Patti Poppe, Consumers Energy CEO and chairwoman of the conference this year, says that education will be one focus, noting business leaders worry about the lack of performance of Michigan schools.

“The conference is perfectly timed and perfectly positioned opportunity for people to sit down at the table together and really talk about what is the best outcome for Michigan and stay in that space,” Poppe said.

Another important pillar for the conference will be encouraging lawmakers and other elected officials to work together as one Michigan.

“What we want this conference to be is a convening of those policymakers, creating the space where we remember that we’re one team here, we are not fighting each other. Our victories come together. Our losses come together,” Poppe said.

The conference will be held the last week of May on Mackinac Island.

Reforming auto no-fault is also expected to be discussed, which is another priority for many of the business leaders who will be in attendance.

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