Detroit Regional Chamber > Advocacy > April 5, 2024 | This Week in Government: Senate Map Could Mean Big Changes

April 5, 2024 | This Week in Government: Senate Map Could Mean Big Changes

April 5, 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.

IPPSR Detroit-Area Senate Map Could Mean Big Changes If Emulated

A draft Senate map for the Detroit area drawn by professors at Michigan State University (MSU), done as a potential guide for the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission as they redraw the area under court order, could mean at least one open seat, an opportunity for a Republican pickup and some changes for incumbent senators.

Commissioners are in the beginning phases of redrawing the Detroit area’s state Senate map and have hard deadline of July 26 to have a new map drawn, submitted to the court, out for public comment and any last-minute changes before submitting its adopted map.

A federal three-judge panel late last year ruled the commission had used race as predominant factor when drawing some of Detroit’s House and Senate districts, a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. That triggered a redraw of both maps in Detroit. The court has approved the commission’s redrawn House map, leaving the Senate map still on the board.

Commissioners will begin drawing the Seante map soon, and will collect public comment throughout the mapping, input and revision phase.

The map drawn by Professor Jon Eguia with MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research is one such community map. It was submitted to the commission on Wednesday through the commission’s public comment portal.

“I utilized a three-step process to create the new maps per the federal court ruling. First, I drew districts without attention to race or any data input on race. I then evaluated whether race-informed targeted adjustments were needed to attain compliance with the U.S. Voting Rights Act,” Eguia said in a statement. “Finally, I sought comments from the communities affected by the redraw. The resulting map creates more opportunities for Black representation and also better represents communities with common economic interests while preserving the partisan fairness of the official 2022 Michigan Senate map.”

IPPSR Director Matt Grossmann said the Eguia map would hopefully serve as proof of concept that the commission could follow as it contemplates necessary changes.

“We believe that Professor Eguia’s work and evaluation on the previous round of House maps helped the commission and people across our state to better understand how they could comply with the federal court order, and IPPSR hopes to provide the same service this round.”

If the commission uses it as a basis for any new iteration of Detroit’s Senate seats, the proposed remedial map from Equia would be a dramatic change for the city’s political landscape in the upper chamber of the Legislature.

The city would be split three ways across eight districts, affecting all Democratic lawmakers: Sen. Sylvia Santana of Detroit, Sen. Erika Geiss of Taylor, Sen. Mallory McMorrow of Royal Oak, Sen. Jeremy Moss of Southfield, Sen. Paul Wojno of Warren, Sen. Stephanie Chang of Detroit, Sen. Veronica Klinefelt of Eastpointe and Sen. Mary Cavanagh of Redford.

Santana, Geiss, Moss, Wojno and Chang cannot seek reelection in 2026, when the new maps would come into play, due to term limits (editor’s note: this story earlier implied potential incumbent matchups that would not materialize because of term limits).

The biggest changes would affect Klinefelt, who would be drawn into a much more completive district and could hurt her in terms of territory because Eastpointe is now drawn out of her existing district.

This new open seat would largely consist of Klinefelt’s district but picks up eastern Sterling Heights. It would also be a 50-50 district and would be much tougher for her to hold.

Chang’s current seat includes most of the city’s east side and some territory near Eight Mile Road. It would lose that Eight Mile portion in the Eguia map, and become more of an east side district.

The current Geiss district would become a more suburban Wayne County district anchored by Dearborn and her hometown of Taylor but would lose the entire Detroit portion of the current seat.

The Wojno district would lose its entire Detroit portion and would become more of a southern Macomb County district.

McMorrow would lose everything south of Eight Mile in her current district. The current Moss district would pick up pieces of Farmington Hills and Livonia, taken away from Cavanagh’s district.

Sen. Kevin Hertel of St. Clair Shores would be untouched by any map resembling Eguia’s, which is a big sigh of relief for Democrats.

Whitmer Seeks Federal Help For Biz After Warm Winter

The federal government should develop solutions that can ensure businesses impacted by an exceptionally “warm winter” can seek appropriate relief, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a letter Thursday.

The letter, sent to congressional leadership and the heads of the federal Small Business Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, urged them to create new paths of federal relief for those affected by exceptionally warm winters.

Amid the warmest winter on record, Whitmer said she worked with the federal government to secure assistance for businesses in previously designated drought areas, but some counties in the Upper Peninsula and most of the Lower Peninsula are not currently eligible under federal guidelines.

“Michiganders are used to tough winters, but this year’s record-setting warm winter has been tough in a different way, causing economic hardships for small businesses and regional economies that rely on snow,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I appreciate the federal government working with us to deliver financial relief to businesses in 43 counties around the state. However, this solution left out many counties that truly need assistance, which is why I’m asking the federal government to create new paths of federal relief for all impacted. We know climate change will only exacerbate this issue in future years, and there needs to be reliable and well-tailored programs to help in those cases.”

Whitmer noted the UP200 was canceled for the second year in a row because of warm weather. The CopperDog 150 in the Keweenaw Peninsula and the Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race in Newberry were also canceled due to warm weather.

“For our many businesses and regional economies, this exceptionally warm weather has dealt a devastating blow. The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) has shared that some ski areas were not able to make snow before Christmas at all, and those that did lost all or most of their base prior to the Christmas/New Year holiday week, when the average ski area draws in approximately 22% of their winter revenue,” the Whitmer letter said. “They also shared that normal revenue at Michigan’s 30 ski areas over the Christmas/New Year holiday week totals between $39 and $40 million, but revenue this holiday week was only $12 million. MSIA also estimates that the additional losses are over $13.7 million and will increase, while in total, they estimate Michigan ski areas have lost over $41 million.”

The letter also references lawn maintenance companies losing business due to lack of snow and snow-mobile reliant resorts experiencing significant downturns in normal winter business.

“Furthermore, while some businesses – like ski resorts and nearby restaurants and shops – may be able to point to a lack of snow as the reason their business is suffering, others affected by an unseasonably warm winter – like ice fishing guides, businesses tied to ice fishing festivals, and shops who sell cold weather gear – may struggle to tie their warm weather impacts to the lack of precipitation, even in counties that are covered by drought declarations,” the letter said.

The governor also announced that the SBA approved a new declaration that extends relief to Houghton County, bringing the total areas eligible for assistance to 43 counties.

Due to drought conditions, the new Houghton County declaration covers business impacts from Feb. 20, 2024, and beyond only. The SBA also extended the deadlines for businesses to apply for assistance in some counties, which will allow owners more time to calculate losses and submit those for federal financial assistance.

Schuette Takes Over House GOP Campaigns With Game Plan

Rep. Bill Schuette (R-Midland) is ready to play ball as the new chair of the House Republican Campaign Committee.

He discussed his appointment in an interview with Gongwer News Service on Thursday, which was Opening Day for Major League Baseball, saying that he and his Republican roster were ready for November.

“I’m aware that it is a big responsibility,” he said. “But I’m ready for it.”

He also said the caucus had a great team working with him, between the executive committee and the various chairs and vice chairs.

“We’re going to be able to have a finely tuned operation that will go and win in November,” he said.

Schuette said his philosophy and that of House Republicans will be to work hard and to bring lots of energy to campaigning.

“Don’t let anybody outwork you, and nobody will outwork our House Republican team,” Schuette said. “Nobody will outwork us in the field on Election Day, and because of that, we’re going to go on and win.”

Schuette’s goals as chair are fairly standard for anyone leading a campaign committee: recruit good candidates, raise a lot of money and campaign well – doing the “blocking and tackling” needed to win in November.

“I like to think of campaigning as sort of a three-legged stool,” Schuette said. “You’ve got your campaigning, which is your ads, your media, your door knocking, which is one leg. You’ve got resources, and that’s a very important pillar. And then the third leg is the candidate, and I know that we can recruit great candidates in our competitive seats, and I also know we’ll have the resources to support those candidates.”

Republicans’ message going into campaigning is bringing balance back to the state and making the cost of living more affordable.

“Our state has been better, categorically, under Republican control, from a cost-of-living standpoint, from a safe community standpoint, and from a general economic environment standpoint,” he said. “Most people would say their life has been better off with Republican policies, and I think also being a check and balance against the far-left progressive agenda of the current Democratic trifecta will resonate a lot with voters.”

Schuette said he’ll be ready for whatever “October Surprise” the election season has in store.

“An election will always throw you with the unexpected, but I think we have a team that is ready to expect the unexpected,” he said. “We’re a fundamentally sound team, and – it’s Opening Day for baseball season – those teams that are strong in the fundamental seem to go farthest in the fall.”

The drama that unfolded earlier this year in the Michigan Republican Party won’t present a problem for House Republicans, Schuette said.

“From the beginning of this election cycle, the House Republican Campaign Committee has realized that we’re going to need to be self-sufficient in the type of fundraising we do, the counting that we have, our get-out-the vote operations,” he said. “Beyond that, the brand that the House Republicans have built really resonates with voters across the political spectrum.”

He pointed to the fundraising ability the HRCC has had during the last year, noting that the HRCC has more cash on hand than its Democratic counterpart.

There are several seats that Republicans lost by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2022, Schuette said.

Those seats are the ones currently held by Rep. Joey Andrews (D-Saint Joseph), Rep. Jaime Churches (D-Wyandotte), Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek), Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) and Rep. Denise Mentzer (D-Mt. Clemens).

“As a guy who knocked on a couple thousand doors himself, that’s just painful to think about how close those races were,” he said. “And that was with a blow-out at the top of the ticket.”

And this year, Democrats won’t have Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the ballot to turnout voters, Schuette said.

“When you look at past presidential cycles – in 2020, there were four seats currently held by Democrats that Trump won, and there’s an additional six if you go back to 2016,” Schuette said. “In neither of those two years was Trump every polling ahead of his Democratic opponent, and you factor in, also that Republicans have overperformed the top of the ticket at the State House level in the past four election cycles, this is going to be a big year.”

Schuette said there are a lot of Democratic policies that voters aren’t happy with, such as the energy policy passed late last year.

A Republican House would put the brakes on those policies, Schuette said.

“Then we’re going to have an opportunity where you know the Democrats are going to have to come and negotiate with the Republican majority in the state House that is committed to making life more affordable for people across our state,” Schuette said.

The need for Democrats to negotiate with Republicans in the House has been touted by Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) since the beginning of the year when the House became temporarily split at 54-54. The result has been less negotiation and more gridlock.

If Republicans win the majority in November, Schuette said he was optimistic things would be different.

“I’m optimistic we’ll be willing to work to advance policy to make our state more competitive, and to make our state more affordable and to make our state safer,” Schuette said. “And the Democrats will want to play ball with us.”

Anthony: Budget Timeline Similar to Last Year, Sustainability Key

Crafting a state budget that is completed on a schedule in line with last year’s process, while ensuring fiscal sustainability are among the top priorities as lawmakers continue work on funding for the new fiscal year, the chair of the Senate appropriations panel said Monday.

The process of crafting the 2024-25 budget is going along a more traditional after using the remaining billions in federal monies for the most recent fiscal year, said Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“Last year was such an anomaly. … All of us were kind of learning,” Anthony said of the unprecedented federal dollars and a Democratic-controlled Legislature for the first time in decades leading on crafting budgets. “This year mirrors budget cycles of the past.”

Anthony told Gongwer News Service on Monday her hope is the budget timetable will be in line with last year’s.

“If we can aim for a similar timeline as last year, I’d be happy,” Anthony said.

Last year, the Senate voted its budget bills over to the House during the session week of May 9-11, 2023, with 176 Republican floor amendments offered and rejected.

Budget subcommittee chairs for this year’s budget have continued working with stakeholders and other lawmakers over the legislative spring recess ahead of their return April 9.

Anthony said she is focused on developing stronger relationships with members and stakeholders. She said that also includes Republicans, adding her hope is to incorporate more ideas from across the aisle where possible.

“Really good ideas don’t have a partisan stamp on them,” Anthony said.

When asked about the support for proposals the governor offered, such as state dollars for two years of community college and for reducing the yearly contribution to the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System to allocate monies for other priorities, Anthony was optimistic.

“I was very excited to see many of those proposals,” Anthony said. “Her recommendations mirror what Democrats in the House and Senate have been calling for for years.”

Anthony said she was particularly excited about the governor’s education proposals, and people can expect a response to Whitmer’s recommendations when the Senate’s budget bills move in the coming weeks.

What those proposals might look like is still being worked out and is a subject of ongoing discussions, she said.

Anthony said sustainability has been important during the current budget cycle while still pursuing a goal of “building a budget that’s people-centered.”

“It needs to be effectively lifting up our working men and women,” Anthony said.

Whether the Michigan Supreme Court upholds lower court rulings that a 2015 law that triggered an income tax cut was for one year only and not permanent is another item the appropriations chair will be monitoring.

The income tax formula triggered a cut from 4.25% to 4.05% for 2023. At issue is whether the reduction was intended to be permanent under the law as passed.

“It’s something that we’re very mindful of,” Anthony said. “We’ll always have a contingency plan if the courts were to point in a different direction.”



Whitmer Signs Hotel-Motel Tax Bill

A bill passed by the Legislature in 2023 was finally signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

HB 5048, now PA 35 of 2024, allows counties with less than 600,000 people and a city within the county of at least 40,000 people to assess a hotel-motel tax of 8% on accommodations charges, up from the current 5%, with approval from county voters. The bill also would allow Kent County to enact an ordinance to collect a separate excise tax of 2% of the total charges for accommodations, also subject to county voter approval.

The funds from both taxes can be used to support construction and maintenance of convention and entertainment facilities. A potential amphitheater and soccer stadium in Kent County have excited the region’s leaders and created the impetus for the bill.

The bill passed the House in October 2023 and the Senate in November 2023. It was not presented to the governor until March 20, 2024.

The legislation appeared to get tangled up in other bills designed to improve economic development.

“Today’s bipartisan legislation will ensure Kent County and the City of Grand Rapids can continue to grow and thrive,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Grand Rapids is one of the fastest-growing cities in Michigan and with more tools in their toolkit, they can finish two significant projects – a stadium and an amphitheater – to make their community a better place to live, work, and play. We must collaborate on commonsense, bipartisan economic development legislation that supports local small businesses and shows young people that Michigan is the best place for them to build their lives. Let’s keep building housing, revitalizing downtowns, and securing projects that improve quality of life.”

Grand Rapids officials, including Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks and bill sponsor Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Wyoming), praised the new law.

“Our convention center and downtown arena demonstrated that these projects provide a significant return on investment and add to the vibrancy of our entire region,” said Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. “This enabling legislation provides another great opportunity to continue to support catalytic projects, that will have an impact for generations to come.”

The governor also signed HB 4012 (PA 33), which amends the process of how modified speed limits are determined, and HB 4183 (PA 34), which extends the exhibition period that allows historic vehicles to be driven on the road with historic license plates from one month to three months.

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