Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > Jan. 19, 2024 | This Week in Government: Xiong Racks Up Endorsements

Jan. 19, 2024 | This Week in Government: Xiong Racks Up Endorsements

January 19, 2024
Detroit Regional Chamber Presents This Week in Government, powered by Gongwer, Michigan's home for Policy and Politics news since 1906

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides 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.

Xiong Racks Up Endorsements in 13th House; Split Persists in 25th

Macomb County Commissioner Mai Xiong received the nod from several more organizations, including the Detroit Regional Chamber PAC, this week as she continues to build support for her run for the Democratic nomination in the 13th House District while the Democratic primary in the 25th House District is seeing split support among three main candidates.

The 13th District in the Warren area and the 25th District in Westland will see special election primaries on Jan. 30. Both seats are safely Democratic, so whoever wins the primary later this month should be elected to the House on April 16.

In the 25th District, three candidates are splitting the support across labor groups, elected officials, and other advocacy organizations. Five Democrats are seeking the nomination.

This week, Layla Taha of Westland, who is in the progressive wing of the party, received the endorsement from a slew of grassroots advocacy groups, including the Michigan People’s Campaign, We the People Action Fund, Detroit Action, Rising Voices, and Mothering Justice Action Fund. Taha also has the backing of U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) and Rep. Dylan Wegela (D-Garden City).

The UAW and the Chamber PAC also endorsed Andrea Rutkowski of Westland. Rutkowski is on the city council and has the support of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“With a background in local government – serving as president pro tem of the Westland City Council – as well as her experiences as a teacher, parent, and former small business owner, Andrea Rutkowski is well-informed and equipped to represent residents’ and businesses’ needs in Lansing,” Brad Williams, the vice president of government relations for the Detroit Chamber, said in a statement. “Her understanding of brownfield redevelopment, LARA regulations, and economic development make her the ideal candidate to represent the interests of the 25th district’s economy.”

Peter Herzberg of Westland, who is on the city council, is also picking up endorsements. Westland Mayor Kevin Coleman, the former representative in the 25th, is backing Herzberg along with the Small Business Association of Michigan.

Xiong of Warren is in the three-person primary that includes former Rep. LaMar Lemmons III of Detroit. She has consolidated support across organizations and has Whitmer’s endorsement.

“Layla and Mai will be champions for working people in Lansing,” Art Reyes III, executive director with We the People Action Fund, said in a statement. “With voices like theirs, and most importantly, our own determination to create the future we deserve, we can rewrite the rules so that everyday people thrive for generations to come.”

Analysis: Lions-Bucs Playoff Game Could Spur $50M Economic Impact

The city of Detroit could see a $50 million economic boost when the Detroit Lions host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the scheduled divisional playoff game this weekend, an economic consulting firm reported Wednesday.

In an analysis issued Wednesday, East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, LLC said it estimates about a $31.7 million direct economic effect from those attending Sunday’s game at Ford Field. The firm estimated an additional indirect economic effect of $20.6 million would bring the total effect for the city to about $52.2 million.

In a release, Anderson Economic Group said its estimate includes expenditures from inside and outside the stadium by those attending the game as well as accounting for fans who travel to Detroit and stay in hotels.

“Showcasing Detroit in a positive light on national television will lead to further indirect community and economic benefits on top of the direct benefits related to the second playoff game,” Tyler Theile, AEG’s vice president and director of public policy and economic analysis, said in a statement. “Not only will Ford Field be nearly sold out, but we’re expecting increased consumption at hotels, restaurants, retail stores, and bars from metro Detroit residents and people traveling in for the game as well, and those indirect benefits will extend far past Sunday’s game.”

Last Sunday, the Lions defeated the Los Angeles Rams 24-23 in Detroit. It marked the ball club’s first postseason victory since a 38-6 blowout win over the Dallas Cowboys in the divisional playoff round in 1992. It was also the Lions’ second-ever postseason win in the Super Bowl era.

“Americans like winning sports cities, and Detroit is a fabled town for its Tigers and Red Wings,” Patrick Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of AEG, said in a statement. “Adding the Lions to that and getting downtown Detroit the prime-time exposure it deserves is going to be worth more in the future.”

Secretary of State: Punt New Maps to ’26 Elections

The order requiring the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to redraw House districts in time for the Aug. 6 primary “threatens an orderly administration of that election,” attorneys for the Department of State argued in a Wednesday court filing.

Responses to the commission’s request for a stay to the U.S. Supreme Court were due by 4 p.m. Wednesday, with attorneys for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and the Black Detroiters who successfully sued over the maps each submitting briefs.

Benson’s attorneys said she supports a stay of the order to the extent it requires her to implement new district lines in time for the August primary.

A three-judge panel ordered the redraw of seven House districts and six Senate districts. With the filing deadline for House candidates looming at the end of April and the primary just months later, the court has put a Feb. 2 deadline on the commission, which is drawing now (see separate story).

Although Benson told the district court she could “likely or probably” implement revised district lines in time for the primary, it is still unclear how many districts will be affected and how much work will need to be done.

“Thus, it remains uncertain whether the secretary can put in place district changes without risk of error or disruption to the August 2024 primary election,” the filing says. “Further, even if the changes can be implemented in time and with an acceptable risk of error or voter confusion, should this court later reverse the injunction, the secretary and her staff will be confronted with reverse-engineering the changes they just worked with all speed to implement.”

The plaintiffs in Agee v. Benson argued SCOTUS should not review the case at all, so the question of a stay is moot.

“Based on an overwhelming factual record, the three-judge panel saw through the commission’s smoke and mirrors, finding that the commission’s use of race was not ‘narrowly tailored’ in any sense of that phrase,” the filing says. “This court’s review is not warranted.”

Further, the filing argued there are more important redistricting cases that only SCOTUS can resolve, and Agee is not one of them.

“The commission made a grievous error by using racial targets to draw down Detroit-area districts to never-before-seen (Black voting age population) levels without a basis in election data to do so,” the filing says. “Black voters in Detroit have already lost substantial representation in the Michigan Legislature, and that unconstitutional deprivation will continue until the remedy maps are in place.”

COA Orders Hearings For 18-Year-Olds Serving Life Without Parole

Eighteen-year-olds who received mandatory life without parole sentences could see new hearings to determine if the sentences are proper under a Court of Appeals decision issued Thursday.

A 2-1 Court of Appeals panel in the published People v. Poole (COA Docket No. 352569) decision vacated the sentence of the defendant, John Poole, who was 18 at the time of a shooting and sentenced to mandatory life without parole.

Judge Anica Letica, in an opinion signed by Judge Stephen Borrello, ruled, “The attributes of youth that defendant shares with juvenile defendants must be considered by the sentencing court.”

The decision comes in the wake of the 2022 Michigan Supreme Court decision in People v. Parks, which held those 18 years old and younger could not be sentenced to mandatory life without parole (raising the age from the 17-year-old threshold the U.S. Supreme Court established in Miller).

In a statement celebrating the decision, the State Appellate Defender Office said more than 250 individuals in the state now have the potential to receive new sentences.

In 2001, Poole was recruited by his uncle, Harold Varner, to kill Henry Covington, the fiancé of Delora Lester. Varner was having difficulty entering into a real estate transaction with Lester because she needed additional financing from Varner to purchase a home from him. Varner would later explain he had Poole shoot Covington to death because it would make Lester easier to handle.

Poole was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for first-degree murder. Varner would be convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20-35 years in prison. He was paroled in 2022.

Letica said the Parks ruling, like Miller’s, was substantive, not procedural. As a result, she wrote, retroactivity applies.

“Our state prohibition against cruel or unusual punishment protects criminal defendants ‘against barbaric and inhumane punishments,’” she wrote. “As explained in Parks, the purpose of the Miller/Montgomery requirements is to ensure individualized sentencing in order to avoid imposition of an unconstitutionally cruel or unusual sentence of mandatory life without parole sentence. Therefore, the attributes of youth that the defendant shares with juvenile defendants must be considered by the sentencing court.”

Judge Michael Riordan dissented. He held that the Parks decision did not apply retroactively, and the Michigan Supreme Court never indicated otherwise.

“For almost half a century, Michigan prosecutors relied in good faith on a decision of our Supreme Court upholding the constitutionality of life-without-parole sentences for defendants convicted of first-degree murder,” he wrote. “Also, retroactive application of Parks on collateral review would have a detrimental effect on the administration of justice. As the prosecutor notes, such retroactive application would likely mean that every living criminal defendant who was 18 years old when committing first-degree murder would be eligible for relief.”

Poole attorney Maya Menlo, in a statement issued from SADO, praised the decision.

“We are gratified by this decision,” Menlo said. “Mr. Poole and so many others like him who received unconstitutional life without parole sentences deserve an opportunity to demonstrate that they are capable of rehabilitation.”

Senate Dems Make Several Committee Member Changes

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks announced changes Thursday to 11 committees, all involving the addition or removal of Democratic members, which was said to be a move to better accommodate majority members’ schedules and improve efficiency.

A spokesperson for Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said Thursday the changes were to allow members to better manage their time, focus on policy areas of interest, and make the legislative process more efficient.

Brinks said last year future changes were always an option when asked about the heavy committee workload being maintained by several members of the Democratic caucus. Various lobbyists and stakeholders in the opening months of the session last year, the first with full Democratic control in 40 years, said gaining access to individual members was at times proving to be difficult (See Gongwer Michigan Report, May 26, 2023).

Seb. John Cherry (D-Flint) was removed from the Senate Economic and Community Development Committee.

Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Township) was removed from the Senate Elections and Ethics Committee, the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Senate Appropriations Health and Human Services Subcommittee, and the Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee. Camilleri was added to the Senate Finance, Insurance, and Consumer Protection Committee.

Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) was removed from the Senate Finance, Insurance, and Consumer Protection Committee, and Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) was moved up to the majority vice-chair position that Moss had previously held.

Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) was removed from the Senate Appropriations General Government Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Department of Education Subcommittee.

Replacing Camilleri on the Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee will be Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Keego Harbor).

Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) was removed from the Senate Appropriations Environment, Great Lakes and Energy Subcommittee and the Senate Appropriations Universities and Community Colleges Subcommittee. She was added as a member of the Senate Appropriations PreK-12 Subcommittee.

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