5 things to know about new Michigan Legislature
Jul 21, 2015 at 12:02 PM
1. GOP IN CHARGE
Republicans have full control for two more years. Before 2011, the last time the same party held the governor's office and House and Senate was 2002, another period of GOP dominance. Envious Democrats haven't been in the same position in nearly 30 years.
2. SLOWING DOWN
With comfortable legislative majorities behind him, first-term Republican Gov. Rick Snyder succeeded in driving an ambitious agenda. Quick passage of a right-to-work law late last year may have been the biggest victory. It's hard to see Republicans matching the pace of the 96th Legislature and the breadth of what went on the books. Unlike last year, when only House elections were held, Snyder and senators also will run for re-election in 2014.
3. TOP ISSUES
While the GOP could tackle fewer issues, top items on the agenda are tough ones. Three stand out: road spending, education reforms and an overhaul of big insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to prepare for the federal health care law and loosen regulations. Raising gas taxes or vehicle registration fees hasn't gained traction for years despite calls to improve roads and bridges. Snyder recently vetoed Blue Cross bills because of abortion language added to secure Republican support. Efforts to expand a system created to run low-performing schools will restart after stalling in December.
4. NEW FACES
Twenty-eight new members will be sworn into the House, where Republicans have a narrower 59-51 edge, down from 64-46 in 2012. House Democrats have a new leader, Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills, who takes charge after serving as a representative for under 11 months. He's a labor lawyer by trade. The Senate, controlled 26-11 by the GOP, is unchanged with one exception. Democrat John Gleason's departure to be Genesee County's clerk means Snyder can call a special election to fill the vacancy.
5. PARTISAN RANCOR
Making Michigan the 24th state to prohibit requiring union dues or fees as a condition of employment was a huge blow to Democrats and organized labor. Republicans are calling for bipartisanship going forward, yet Democrats are sure to challenge the law in as many ways as is feasible. How much that fight is limited to the courts and a possible ballot initiative — as opposed to impacting other items on the legislative agenda or leading to bitter recall drives — remains to be seen.