Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > March 1, 2024 | This Week in Government: Final Redistricting Map Changes

March 1, 2024 | This Week in Government: Final Redistricting Map Changes

March 1, 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.

Final Redistricting Map Could Mean Big Changes For Some Incumbents

On Wednesday, members of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Track voted to adopt a Detroit House district remedy map for court approval, days ahead of the federal three-judge panel’s March 1 deadline.

The chosen map, Motown Sound FC E1, a derivative of the Motown Sound map drafted earlier this month, will mean some level of change, in some cases significant, to House districts 1 through 14.

That is beyond those districts found by a three-judge federal court panel to have violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. Still, the court had acknowledged some neighboring districts could need alteration to make a new map work.

A Gongwer News Service analysis of the new map shows that it does not set up any incumbent versus incumbent Democratic primaries. Rep. Natalie Price (D-Berkley) and Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park) would remain in separate districts, as would Rep. Kimberly Edwards (D-Eastpointe) and Rep. Veronica Paiz (D-Harper Woods). Other versions the commission considered would have paired them up.

As far as the new map’s potential impact on partisan control of the House, a new 13th District consisting of Roseville, central St. Clair Shores, and eastern Warren has the potential to be competitive in a strong Republican year but leans Democratic. Otherwise, the changes have no effect on competitive seats, only redrawing solidly Democratic ones.

Additional analysis shows it would most likely mean no difference in the playing field between Democrats and Republicans in the battle for House control because 13 of the other 14 districts adjusted started solidly Democratic and would remain so under the new map.

Those facing the most drastic changes to their districts are Rep. Natalie Price (D-Berkley), Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit), Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park), Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit), Rep. Veronica Paiz (D-Harper Woods) and soon to be Rep. Mai Xiong (D-Warren).

Price would lose the Detroit portion of her seat, as well as the Oak Park portion, and see her territory shift north, adding most of Royal Oak and all of Huntington Woods.

Scott loses the Royal Oak and Royal Oak Township portion of her seat, picks up the rest of Ferndale, and sees the Detroit portion of her district expand south and west.

McFall’s district might change more than anyone else’s. He loses the Detroit and Highland Park portions of his seat, which instead moves east to add a large portion of Warren as well as all of Center Line.

Tate’s district would drop the Grosse Pointes and instead become a Detroit-only seat, adding Downtown and Midtown and roughly covering the portion of the city between I-94 and the Detroit River from the Grosse Pointe Park border on the east to the Lodge Freeway on the west.

Paiz’s district also changes radically. She loses the St. Clair Shores portion and picks up the Grosse Pointes and a little more of Detroit than it has now.

Xiong, expected to win a special election in April, would see wholesale changes upon seeking a full term in November. She would lose the Detroit portion of her seat and pick up Roseville and central St. Clair Shores. She would have less of Warren than the seat she’s seeking in the special election.

Further, the redistricting commission rates the district about 55% Democratic. That’s not quite tossup status, but it’s far more competitive for Republicans than the solidly Democratic district where she’s now running. It would take a good Republican year to put the new version into play.

Seeing smaller changes would be Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit), Rep. Tulio Liberati (D-Allen Park), Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn), Rep. Karen Whitsett (D-Detroit), Rep. Regina Weiss (D-Oak Park), Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck) and Rep. Donavan McKinney (D-Detroit).

Carter would lose Downtown Detroit and pick up Ecorse.

Liberati would lose Ecorse and add Melvindale.

Farhat loses Melvindale and most of the Detroit portion of his seat while picking up northeast Dearborn.

Whitsett loses the Dearborn portion of her seat and sees the Detroit portion of her district expand west to Dearborn Heights, move north of I-96, and east to Highland Park.

Weiss would now have almost all of Oak Park, all of Royal Oak Township, and see the Detroit portion of her district expand east to include an area within Livernois, Outer Drive West, and Wyoming and west to go past the Lodge Freeway to the Southfield Freeway.

Aiyash adds Highland Park, loses Downtown and Midtown Detroit, and sees his district pick up more of northeast Detroit.

McKinney loses much of the Warren portion of his seat, with what’s left largely running along Eight Mile Road, and instead sees the Detroit portion expand west past I-75 and east to Gratiot.

VOTE ENDS MONTHS OF MAPPING: A constitutional majority of commissioners (two Democrats, two Republicans, and two or more unaffiliated members) was needed to adopt the map. If after two rounds of voting, the commission would have moved to a third round with ranked-choice voting. The Motown Sound FC E1 map was chosen in the second round of voting.

Chair Cynthia Orton (R-Battle Creek), Marcus Muldoon (R-Lincoln Park), Elaine Andrade (D-Imlay City), Donna Callaghan (D-Farmington Hills), Juanita Curry (D-Detroit), Brittni Kellom (D-Detroit), Anthony Eid (I-Orchard Lake), Steve Lett (I-Interlochen), Janice Vallette (I-Highland) and Richard Weiss (I-Saginaw) all voted in favor of the derivative Motown Sound.

Eid said it was his top choice because “it’s the best map, just straight up.”

“It has the most VRA districts as long as you count District 10 as be a VRA district, which we heard earlier,” Eid said. “It has the best partisan fairness numbers of all the maps.”

Motown Sound FC E1 has a lopsided margin score of 5.5% leaning Democrat, with an average winning margin of 64.6% Democrat versus 59.1% Republican. However, the map still leaned Republican.

The per-district median percentage was 51.4% Democrat versus 48.6% Republican. Those margins widen looking at statewide mean percentage, with hypothetical election scores of a 53.8% Democratic victory over a 46.2% Republican loss, but the metrics overall showed that the map was still favorable toward Republicans by 2.4%.

Efficiency gap scores, measuring the amount of potentially wasted partisan votes due to the ideological lean of the map, was 3.1% with the Dems wasting 26.5% of total votes versus 23.4% Republican wasted votes. That makes the map on this metric more favorable for Republicans statewide from an overall standpoint.

That said, a seat-to-vote ratio test showed that the Motown Sound FC E1 map would hypothetically produce more Democratic seats in the House, with Democrats potentially picking up 60 seats with a 52.9% vote share; the Republicans could potentially pick up 50 seats in the House with a 47.1% vote share (editor’s note: this story has been changed to correct the Republican vote share).

Although other configurations up for consideration had more VRA opportunity to elect districts (some with 12), the one advanced Wednesday has 11 with the 10th District coming close to form a 12th VRA District. Several of the central Detroit area seats – the 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, and 9th districts – all have Black voting age population figures above 50%, some as high as 85% (District 8).

Some commissioners shared early concerns about those districts being too packed, as opposed to diluted as they were in the commission’s adopted 2021 Hickory map thrown out by the court.

The commission’s VRA attorney, Mark Braden of Baker Hostetler, said that was the likely result of a race-blind drafting process as ordered by the three-judge panel. Braden said that because of the racial makeup of Detroit, a race-blind draw would ultimately produce naturally packed districts and that the court wouldn’t necessarily look askance at those figures because they were drawn without race as a consideration.

The 10th District, with 37.7% Black VAP to 26.3% white VAP, could still offer an opportunity to elect a Black candidate of choice, albeit on a slim margin. This would be the new seat where Paiz likely would run, centered in the Grosse Pointes.

The same was true of the southwest Detroit-centric 1st District, which, as drawn, has 38% Black VAP to 16.8% white VAP. This would be Carter’s district and is one of the most racially diverse areas in the state.

Another hallmark of the map is that it has few districts that cross north of Eight Mile Road, eliminating some of the “bacon-mandered” spindly districts that drew ire in the Hickory map.

Kellom said the map also represented the clearest consensus from residents during public comment, noting that it kept key communities of interest together while representing the wide swath of Detroit’s diversity.

Orton initially held out and voted for the Willow map (editor’s note: an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Orton’s first map choice), defeating Motown Sound FC E1 in the first round. Her biggest gripe was that the Motown Sound E1 map didn’t include a Grosse Pointe-centric lakeshore district. But a brief effort lobbying Orton to flip from Curry, Eid, Kellom, and Lett moved Orton to change her mind.

Rebecca Szetela (I-Canton) was set on her individual map, and Erin Wagner (R-Charlotte) sided with her. Rhonda Lange (R-Reed City) initially wanted to abstain from voting, showing a distaste for all the maps in contention, but she eventually chose the Water Lily map.

On a second round, Orton joined the Motown Sound E1 map, giving the group the necessary Republican votes to move forward.

The map will now be sent to the federal three-judge panel that ordered the redraw after it found seven House districts violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause because the commission, in 2021, drew those lines based predominantly on race in mind.

The court is not bound to ratify the map approved on Wednesday. It could choose to go with a map that its special master would draw (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Feb. 23, 2024).

A statement for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they are working with the Michigan Democratic Black Caucus to submit proposed changes that “will optimize the greatest opportunity for Black leadership throughout the city of Detroit.”

The commission does not plan to reconvene until late March once the court has acted.

2024 Presidential Primary: Uncommitted Dems, Nikki Haley Snag Some Delegates

While the presumptive major party nominees handily won their respective primary elections on Tuesday, there are some apparent bumps in the road for President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump as they march toward Nov. 5.

According to unofficial results, 1.86 million voters participated in the presidential primary on Tuesday. There were 758,014 votes on the Democratic side and 1.11 votes on the Republican side.

Biden handily won the Democratic primary with 81.14% of the vote, amounting to 615,081 votes. The effort to vote Uncommitted to send a message to Biden received 13.25% or 100,450 votes.

Generally, those voting Uncommitted are dissatisfied with the administration’s role in the Israel-Hamas conflict and are seeking a permanent ceasefire in the region.

While the effort didn’t gain 15% of the statewide vote, it did receive 17% in the 6th and 12th U.S. House districts and will have two delegates at the Democratic convention later this year.

Trump also easily won his primary with 68.2% of the vote or 754,739 votes. Nikki Haley, the best performing still active Republican challenger, received 26.5% or 293,436 votes. Haley gets four delegates from the state.

The Michigan Republican Party is using a Saturday caucus to deliver the majority of its delegates, and Trump is likely to perform very well among the MIGOP voting delegates.

Still, Haley’s strong performances in Oakland and Kent counties, in particular, show Trump’s troubles remain there.

In Oakland, Haley received 48,301 votes to Trump’s 89,297. In Kent, Haley received 25,648 votes to Trump’s 44,125 votes. Compared to 2020 primary vote totals, Trump saw modest increases, although turnout was up more significantly.

In Oakland, for example, Trump received about 4,000 more votes in the 2024 primary compared to the 2020 election, but overall turnout was up by more than 53,000 votes.

On the Democratic side, the Uncommitted effort claimed victory with its 100,000 votes toward the cause. Still, the overall percentage of Democratic voters is not large, and many, but not all, voting Uncommitted are likely to vote for Biden in the general.

Still, organizers said their voices are being heard. Biden, in recent weeks, has made comments about Israel’s fight in Gaza being “over the top” and said this week he hopes to have at least a temporary ceasefire soon.

Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) told reporters Wednesday that he believed Biden showed “a lot of strength” in his showing Tuesday night.

In his district, he said the Uncommitted vote was lower, around 6% in some communities. Moss said that is not a sign of support for a prolonged conflict or lack of sympathy for the deaths of innocent people, but it reflects support for the administration’s efforts to try and have the conflict scaled down, the release of hostages, and eradication of Hamas.

He added that being on the ground in his district, there is not a lack of enthusiasm that is portrayed in the election narrative about the Biden campaign. He said Biden took 91% of the vote in Southfield, the largest bloc of Democratic voters of its size in the state.

“It’s heavily Democratic, and we turn out, so if Southfield is a barometer of where the base is, I think it is a good reflection for the Biden team,” Moss said.

Moss, who is Jewish, said he supports Israel’s right to exist and defend itself, adding he also hopes the conflict can come to an end soon. The senator said he trusts the Biden administration and the ability of his campaign to do the necessary outreach on its stance in the months ahead of the election.

At least one Biden adviser, speaking off the record to national outlets, has said the campaign will work to win those voters back between now and November.

In official statements following the primary, neither Biden nor his surrogates, like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, directly addressed the Uncommitted vote.

The Uncommitted vote did particularly well in Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Hamtramck, where it received more votes than Biden. In Wayne County as a whole, 16.8% voted Uncommitted; in Washtenaw County, 17.3% voted Uncommitted; and in Luce County, 15.7% voted Uncommitted.

Around 30,000 civilians have died in Gaza as a result of the war, which was sparked after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping hundreds more. Since then, there have been periods of temporary ceasefires and negotiations to get hostages back with varying success.

Backers of the Israeli counterstrike have said it is Hamas who bears responsibility for the death toll in Gaza because it struck Israel first, located civilian facilities near military targets, and continues to hold Israeli civilians hostage.

“We have done our part to utilize the vehicle that we had during this primary election to demonstrate that the issues unfolding in Gaza impact us directly,” Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said in a statement. “To demonstrate that Gaza is not some distant land where innocent men, women, and children are dying. These are family members and friends that are meaningful to not only us here in Dearborn who are losing family members on a daily basis, but it means something to the Michiganders and a broad coalition that looks like the very fabric of America. And that is what is hopeful. And understanding that this is not just a Muslim issue. This is an American issue.”

Moss also said there is admittedly work to do in engaging the Arab American community, but other parts of the Democratic coalition signaled their support for Biden and that there was a strong showing of GOP rejection of Trump as well.

“I hate to say here we go again, but this is a repeat of 2020, and I expect the result to be a repeat of 2020,” Moss said.

New Public Transit Caucus Holds First Meeting, Outlines Priorities

The newly formed bipartisan, bicameral Public Transit Caucus met for the first time this week.

Spearheaded by Rep. Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor) and Rep. Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park), the 47-member caucus will be dedicated to improving and expanding Michigan’s public transportation systems.

In the first meeting, members discussed strategies to increase public transit funding statewide.

Morgan, in an interview with Gongwer News Service on Thursday, said that public transportation is an issue that impacts every aspect of people’s lives, from access to education and health care to feeling connected to their communities.

“It impacts … how they access the things that they need and the people that they care for,” Morgan said. “And I think that’s why this is such a salient conversation.”

Public transportation has become a significant topic for the Legislature as lawmakers seek to draw more young professionals and keep Michigan’s youth in-state. Gen Z members of the Growing Michigan Together Council’s workgroups ranked a lack of adequate public transportation high among factors that drive their peers to leave the state.

“Mike and I, as younger legislators, have heard this from friends who have decided to live here and friends who’ve moved away, that they want to live in walkable, accessible communities that don’t rely on them owning a car,” Morgan said. “We’re hearing it from everyone that Michigan has to do a better job of public transit if we’re going to grow our population.”

Going forward, Morgan said the caucus hopes to address transportation needs in all regions of the state.

“We heard from (lawmakers) in rural parts of the state who need access to senior programs and door-to-door services. We heard from folks on the west side of the state who need more direct support for bus operating funds to make sure that as some of these communities grow, the bus providers are getting those resources to continue increasing access. And then we heard some from some folks up in northern Michigan who just need some more coordination and engagement around public transit,” Morgan said.

While there’s no planned legislation to expect from the caucus yet, Morgan and McFall said it will be committed to advancing transit priorities in the ongoing budget process.

House Labor Explores New Federal Independent Contractor Rule

A new federal rule on independent contractors is set to go into effect next month, so the House Labor Committee Track heard a presentation on Thursday to understand how it would affect Michigan workers and employers.

The new federal rule from the U.S. Department of Labor revises the guidance on how to determine who is an employee or independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is used to determine who can fairly be determined to be running their own business.

“Is this person in business for themselves? Or are they dependent on working in the business?” said Sally Dworak-Fisher, a senior National Employment Law Project staff attorney. “What has developed throughout the course of decades is this economic realities test.”

The new rule applies six factors to analyze employee status, including opportunity for profit or loss depending on managerial skill, investments by the worker and the potential employer, degree of permanence of the work relationship, nature, and degree of control, extent to which the work being done is an integral part of the potential employer’s business and skill and initiative.

Department of Labor and Economic Development Deputy Director Sean Egan and Randall Harrison of the Wages and Hours Division also discussed the federal change.

“Classification is important because most of our labor and employment laws apply to the employer- employee relationship,” Egan said. “When you are misclassified as an independent contractor when you should be an employee, you lose workplace safety and health protections.”

Egan said workers who are misclassified lose out on unemployment insurance benefits, social security contributions, workers comp coverage, paid or unpaid leave, wage and hour protection, civil rights protections and discrimination, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other access to training opportunities.

Harrison said the new ruling would address several of the problems he’s seen come through his division.

“I’ve seen some of everything when it comes to misclassifying an employee,” Harrison said. “A janitor should not be an independent contractor. Someone working the cash register at your store should not be considered an independent contract.”

The U.S. Department of Labor doesn’t go out looking for misclassified employees, Egan said, but rather, the evaluation takes place when there’s a complaint.

“Nobody’s investigating whether or not you’re classified correctly until something happens with your employment that pulls in one of those other laws that we cover,” Egan said.

In Michigan, different agencies have different tests for employment, so the new federal rule could cause complications, Egan said.

“This is going to lead to not only state disparate investigations but also now when you refer something, if you need, to the Fed, you’re going to have another different investigation,” he said. “It’s a return to decades of precedent; it’s what the courts use to establish employee status. It’s what we use in few of our agencies.”

Dworak-Fisher said misclassification of workers hurts the state.

“Businesses that should be paying into your unemployment insurance trust fund, workers comp policies, and things of that nature are not contributing their fair share,” she said. “It also hurts law abiding businesses because it creates a real race to the bottom. You can’t compete on labor costs if somebody else is misclassifying and cutting 30% of their payroll.”

The new federal ruling is not related to the ABC test for unemployment insurance, which is used in more than 20 states, but well known for California’s application.

“The reason why that’s important is that it’s a public policy issue,” Dworak-Fisher said. “The ABC test creates a presumption of employee status, and that presumption can be overcome by a business if the business can show the worker meets all the things.”

The new rule will be the floor for states, Dworak-Fisher said.

“Congress invites states to go higher, to do more to do what’s best for their communities,” she said. “There are certain red flags I think that state administrators or policymakers have noticed, like you have a business that’s an LLC, and they have no employees, but they have 200 independent contractors.”

The bottom line is that the new rule doesn’t mean that people who are independent contractors can’t be independent contractors, Egan said.

“When you start a business, that’s good. We like that. If you are an independent contractor, this rule is not going to change your ability to be an independent contractor,” he said. “It is going to make sure that as the departments are evaluating whether or not you have employees, this is what they’re going to look at.”

Just because employees sign something that says they’re an independent contractor doesn’t mean that legally they are.

“There’s still those six factors,” Egan said.

The new rule may be challenged in federal court, and Egan said he anticipated a stay on the ruling.

“This newly promulgated rule…doesn’t create a whole new ballgame,” said Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek), who chairs the committee. “It’s just a reiteration of the long-established judicial precedent.”

The committee also reported HB 5164 and HB 5165, which it heard testimony for last spring. The legislation would require Michigan to have a registry of call centers and disqualify call centers that have relocated internationally from economic development incentives from the Michigan Strategic Fund. Both bills passed 7-3 along party lines.

Renaissance Zone Flexibility Bill Passes Senate

Legislation to add flexibility for renaissance zones cleared the Senate in a bipartisan vote Thursday, moving the bill closer to the governor’s desk.

Passing 24-14 was HB 5096, which would amend the Michigan Renaissance Zone Act. It would enable the Michigan Strategic Fund to designate all remaining renewable energy, forest product process, and border crossing facility renaissance zones instead of the State Administrative Board. Extensions would also be allowed for other Michigan Strategic Fund-designated zones.

Bill supporters have said the bill would consolidate the Renaissance Zone classification into more flexible terms.

There was some crossover between parties in Thursday’s vote.

Six Republicans voted for the bill: Sen. Kevin Daley of Lum, Sen. John Damoose of Harbor Springs, Sen. Mark Huizenga of Walker, Sen. Ed McBroom of Vulcan, Sen. Roger Victory of Georgetown Township, and Sen. Michael Webber of Rochester Hills. Two Democrats voted no: Sen. Rosemary Bayer of Keego Harbor and Sen. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor.

Renaissance zones were created in 1996 with the intent of encouraging companies to target spending in particular areas and stimulate job growth while raising property values. Companies that build in Renaissance zones are not required to pay real and personal property tax, local income tax, and Michigan personal income tax for a set period.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised the vote in a statement, saying it was an economic development priority she supports and hopes to sign soon.

“By consolidating the previous, more rigid categories for these zones into a single, flexible category, we can support good-paying local jobs in a variety of industries, empower entrepreneurs, and build on our reputation as a great state to do business,” Whitmer said. “I called for several new economic development tools, including simplified Renaissance Zones, and I look forward to signing this bipartisan bill when it reaches my desk.”

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