September 11, 2022
Lawmakers won’t be in Lansing very much in the run-up to the voting period of September 29 (when early absentee voting at your clerk’s office begins) and November 8 (the last day to vote). There is uniform apprehension about being away from their districts on the part of over 80 of the 148 sitting State legislators who are running for re-election.
POST PRIMARY ELECTION NEWS
Debate — Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and her Republican opponent, Tudor Dixon, are scheduled to participate in a debate October 13 in Grand Rapids arranged by host WOOD-TV. It likely will be aired on local broadcast network TV in most areas of the state and/or recorded and made available later on websites.
Whitmer, who won her first term in 2018, is leading Dixon by 13 percentage points, 48%-35%, according to a poll released September 6 by The Detroit News and WDIV-TV (Channel 4). The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. Campaign finance reports filed in late August indicate Whitmer has a 28-1 cash edge over Dixon, but outside groups not subject to Michigan’s campaign finance laws could finance independent messaging in support of or opposed to the candidates.
Minor party candidates not appearing in the debate but on the ballot are Mary Buzuma (Libertarian), Donna Brandenburg (United State Taxpayers), Kevin Hogan (Green), and Daryl Simpson (Natural Law).
No Debate — It appears there will be no pre-election, same-stage debates between the Attorney General and Secretary of State candidates.
Pension Tax — The Michigan Democratic Party is funding 15-second ads in key districts that tout, among other things, getting rid of the retirement tax. Incumbent Republicans have favored modification of the pension tax in budget negotiations last spring. Please ask legislative candidates of all parties or their representatives what their position is on the pension tax when they come to your door or are at community events where you can talk to them. While you’re at it, ask whether they support getting rid of the 1987 cap on our annual cost-of-living adjustment (Senate Bill 775).
Voting Machine Tampering — Attorney General Dana Nessel has asked for a special prosecutor to review the investigation her office completed for possible charges against Republican attorney general candidate Matt DePerno, State Representative Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, and several others allegedly involved in a scheme to take vote tabulators from several townships and one county. They are alleged to have tampered with the equipment while performing tests to find evidence of fraud in the 2020 election. The AG asked for the outside review due to a conflict of interest as Mr. DePerno is her chief opponent in the November 8 general election. The Prosecuting Attorneys Coordinating Council announced that it had chosen 10-year Muskegon County Prosecutor DJ Hilson, the current president of the Council and a Democrat, for the role.
Redo of 2020 Election — In Ickes v. Whitmer, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, plaintiffs ask that the court order the Department of State to rerun the 2020 presidential election through a special election, with paper ballots only, on a single election day, with votes being counted by hand, with members of all political parties present and a public livestream of all vote counting. The lawsuit claims that no Michigan counties used an electronic voting system that was properly certified, and therefore, the results could not be certified. The Plaintiffs include the Macomb County Republican Party, Donna Brandenburg (a former GOP gubernatorial candidate whose nominating petitions did not qualify her for the ballot and is now running as a U.S. Taxpayers candidate), Sharon Olson (Irving Township clerk), and the Election Integrity Fund and Force.
BALLOT INITIATIVES FINALIZED
After Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) challenges, there will be three statewide constitutional amendment proposals on our ballots due by November 8.
Change Term Limits/Require Financial Disclosure, Proposal 22-1 — The Board of State Canvassers (BOSC) certified the measure for the ballot on August 19. The Term Limits Defense Fund challenged the measure to the MSC because it contained more than one subject. The complainants in the case were Patrick Anderson, the author of the 1992 constitutional amendment that installed term limits; former Secretary of State Terri Land, former Rep. Tom McMillin, and former Rep. Leon Drolet. On September 7, the MSC said the constitution doesn’t require just one subject in a ballot proposal.
The 100-word summary that will appear on the November ballot for Proposal 22-1:
A proposal to amend the state constitution to require annual public financial disclosure reports by legislators and other state officers and change state legislator term limit to 12 total years in legislature.
This proposed constitutional amendment would:
Promote The Vote (PTV), Proposal 22-2 — The Bureau of Elections recommended that there were sufficient valid voter signatures gathered and that the measure to expand voting rights should be certified for the ballot. The BOSC deadlocked along party lines to certify it for the ballot and the PTV ballot committee appealed to the MSC. On September 8, the MSC ordered Promote the Vote on the ballot. The 100-word summary that will appear on the November ballot for Proposal 22-2:
A proposal to amend the State Constitution to add provisions regarding elections.
This proposed constitutional amendment would:
Reproductive Freedom for All (RFFA), Proposal 22-3 — The Bureau of Elections recommended that there were sufficient valid voter signatures gathered and that the measure to assure reproductive rights should be certified for the ballot. The BOSC deadlocked along party lines and the RFFA ballot committee appealed to the MSC. On September 8, the MSC ordered RFFA on the ballot. The 100-word summary that will appear on the November ballot for Proposal 22-3:
A proposal to amend the state constitution to establish new individual right to reproductive freedom, including right to make all decisions about pregnancy and abortion; allow state to regulate abortion in some cases; and forbid prosecution of individuals exercising established right
This proposed constitutional amendment would:
Related to Proposal 3, Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher issued an opinion September 7 permanently barring enforcement of Michigan’s long-dormant 1931 criminal abortion ban because it is unconstitutional under the 1963 Michigan Constitution and its amendments. Appeals are expected. If RFFA passes, it would become law in late December and effectively nullify the 1931 stringent abortion ban, but leave in place many of the abortion restriction Michigan statutes such as parental consent, waiting period, insurance ban, clinic regulations, etc., unless a legal challenge determined their unconstitutionality in light of the new amendment.
MORE PRISONS CLOSING
The Michigan Reformatory in Ionia will close in November, with the male prisoners now housed there moving to other facilities, according to a recent Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) announcement. In Adrian, the south side of the Gus Harrison Correctional Facility will be shuttered by November.
The consolidations will help address two problems: prison units that are underutilized because of a dropping prison population and a shortage of employees to operate all the current facilities. Currently, some State prison employees work mandatory overtime weekly. The State’s prison system now has 33 closed prison units. Michigan’s prison population peaked with over 51,000 inmates in 2007. Today, the prison population is about 32,000, the lowest level in 30 years, according to the MDOC statement. The State’s aging population has contributed to the decline as has a drop in the recidivism rate in the past two decades, from 45 percent of ex-cons returning to prison to about 24 percent.
AUTO INSURANCE UPDATE
More than $906 million in $400 refund checks from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association surplus to insured drivers was distributed in May 2022 due to the bi-partisan auto no-fault reform law passed in 2019. However, there has been an ongoing legal dispute over the retroactivity of the 45 percent rate cut to entities providing health care to those catastrophically injured in traffic crashes under the former law. The former law required lifetime medical and personal care for those permanently and catastrophically injured in auto crashes. The new law permits drivers to choose which tier of coverage they want to purchase.
Since July 21, health care centers offering care to patients injured in a catastrophic auto accident have discharged 7,000 patients (some to hospitals, some to other general Medicaid-funded assisted living facilities) and more than 4,000 health care workers have lost their jobs, according to a study commissioned by the Brain Injury Association of Michigan released August 11. Organizations representing auto insurers have panned the report.
On August 25, the Court of Appeals (COA) in a divided decision held in Andary v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company (COA Docket No. 356487) that the Legislature failed to clearly indicate the law applied retroactively to the 45 percent cut to entities providing health care to those catastrophically injured in traffic crashes. Therefore, it cannot be applied retroactively and it unconstitutionally infringes upon contracts. The decision slammed both the GOP-led Legislature and the administration of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
On September 9, auto insurers appealed the COA decision to the MSC and asked for immediate consideration and a stay of the decision. Specifically, the appeal takes issue with the majority’s stance that the 2019 auto insurance laws were retroactive when the plain language of the statute puts the cost controls in place for services rendered after July 1, 2021 (whether or not the injury occurred before or after July 1, 2021).
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