December 6, 2022
The November 8 election brought a sea of change to Michigan in the form of an unexpected blue wave rather than a forecasted red tsunami. There was a record turn-out for Michigan’s midterm election on November 8, 2022 — 4,500,400 voters or 54.5 percent of registered voters. About 40 percent of the voters cast an absentee ballot on November 8, 2022, compared to nearly 60 percent of Michigan absentee voters in the 2020 statewide general election during the height of the pandemic. Detroit had about 35 percent turnout, lower than the 41 percent in 2018.
Each of Michigan’s 83 counties certified the November 8 general election results by the November 23 deadline without the upheaval that occurred during the 2020 elections. In a four-hour meeting on November 28, the bi-partisan, four-member Michigan Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously to certify the election despite more than two hours of public comment, most of which demanded the board overturn the results because of alleged election irregularities largely based on misunderstanding election law and procedures.
Political pundits credit revised political districts created by the new Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision repealing national abortion law, the economy, and the quality of candidates as the most important factors in high turnout this cycle.
Democrats took all top statewide executive positions in Michigan, flipped both chambers of the Legislature from the GOP to Democratic control, swept all four education boards to continue Democratic majorities on each of them, retained a 4-3 majority of Democratic Party nominees on the Michigan Supreme Court, and will be the 7-6 majority of Michigan’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. Additionally, women will be the majority in the Democratic Caucuses of both legislative chambers.
CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICTS (CDs)
Nationally, Republicans won 222 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, taking the majority by a narrow four-seat margin. Each major party picked up one of the two open Congressional seats in Michigan, Democratic incumbents in two tight districts were re-elected, and all other incumbents were re-elected. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) will be retiring after 36 years in Congress.
MICHIGAN STATE LEGISLATURE
State Senate — For the first time since the 1982 election, Democrats will have the majority in the Michigan Senate with a slim 20-18 margin. Democrat Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist is also available to break ties in the Senate. Statewide, Democratic Senate candidates won the votes of 50.7 percent of the electorate. In the Democratic Senate Caucus there will be 12 women and eight men (including three African-American women, one Asian woman, and one Asian man). The Senate Republican Caucus is composed of three women and 15 men, all white. The Michigan Senate will have 17 new members in 2023, for a turnover rate of 45 percent.
State House — For the first time since 2012, Democrats will have the majority in the Michigan House with a bare 56-54 advantage. Statewide, House Democrats won the votes of 50.6 percent of the electorate. There will be 31 women and 25 men among the House Democrats and 12 women and 42 men in the Republican House Caucus beginning in 2023. The Michigan House of Representatives will have 57 new members in 2023, for a turnover of 52 percent.
Notably, the Legislature’s LGBTQ+ caucus increased from three members to seven, including current members Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), and Reps.-elect Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), Emily Dievendorf (D-Lansing), Mike McFall (D-Hazel Park), Jason Hoskins (D-Southfield), and Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor).
All three statewide ballot proposals amending the State constitution passed handily. SERA Coordinating Council endorsed and members worked for passage of Proposal 2. Ballot proposals amending the Michigan Constitution go into effect 45 days after Election Day, December 23, 2022.
Recount — The Election Integrity Fund and Force (EIFF), a nonprofit, nonpartisan group based in Oakland County that says it seeks “transparent and trusted” elections, requested a partial recount of Proposals 2 and 3. It used a little-known provision of the Michigan election code that permits a voter, rather than a candidate, to seek a recount. The cost to EIFF is $125 per precinct for 47 precincts in four counties for Proposal 2 and 560 precincts in 43 counties for Proposal 3.
The cost of the recount filing is being financed by the America Project, a group run by Patrick Byrne, the founder and former CEO of Overstock.com, and former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who believe the 2020 election was stolen from President Trump. After some lengthy contentious testimony by an attorney for the EIFF and the attorneys representing the sponsors of Proposal 2 and 3, the Board of State Canvassers on December 5 approved the use of its adopted procedures for candidate recounts for the proposal recounts.
Fishing Expedition — Even if all the Yes votes were converted to No votes in all of the requested precincts, the outcome for both proposals would remain the same because the total of Yes votes in the requested precincts that could possibly be No votes does not equal or exceed the margin of victory for the proposals. Given these facts, the purpose of the recount is apparently not to reverse the outcome but to find some fraud or error that the EIFF could use in a lawsuit to overturn some or all of the election results, or get a court to nullify some election law or procedure, or continue the effort to make voters suspicious of all elections. The recounts will be conducted over two weeks starting December 7.
Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum wrapped up her recount December 8 of 86,000 ballots, which will cost taxpayers $8,200, $3,450 more than the challengers paid for the recount. Byrum said she had to hire 42 additional election workers and use the Ingham County Fair’s Community Building in Mason to work through the ballots from 38 precincts. The recount found 22 more Yes votes and 15 fewer No votes. Whether the electronic tabulators or the hand tabulation is the most correct is unknown.
LAME DUCK AND NEXT SESSION
Michigan’s lame duck session was short given the change in party control. Only 55 bills were passed, some designed to force an expected gubernatorial veto since they were not bi-partisan or negotiated with Governor Whitmer.
House Bill (HB) 4733 — A bill that will permit the sale of annuities through the pre-tax State employee 401(k) program was approved by the Senate without a hearing. SERA Coordinating Council opposed the bill when introduced in the House. We agree with the Department of Treasury, Investment Bureau analysis that younger and/or inexperienced investors are better off investing in target-date funds offered in the 401(k) defined contribution program rather than annuities. Annuities are more appropriate upon retirement, which the State currently offers.
The Governor’s office gave me advance warning of the Senate’s intention to discharge HB 4733 from the Senate Appropriations Committee so I was able to send an e-mail to all Senators urging a No vote the day before the discharge action. We got eight No votes on the bill (four more than we got in the House!), but it passed. I have sent the Governor a letter on our behalf urging a veto of HB 4733.
HB 4264 — Another bill affecting State employee retirees, HB 4264, also passed during lame duck. It made some technical changes to the State Employees Retirement Act that are already in practice or would be best-practice changes — adopt layered amortization; reduce the time frame over which a deficiency in the actuarially determined contribution must be paid; require that the most recent mortality tables provided by the actuary that are most appropriate for the characteristics of the population be used; and implement a reduced cap for the assumed rate of return and discount rate. We were neutral on the bill.
Senate Bill (SB) 450 — Passing by large margins in the Senate last May and the House on December 7 is SB 450. It would cap at 30 days the time period during which an emergency order issued by the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or a local health officer could prohibit or limit visitation by a patient representative to patients or residents of many health care settings. After that initial 30-day time period, even if an emergency order were extended due to health and safety concerns, the order could not limit, restrict, or prohibit visits (for example, a family member or other personal representative accompanying a person to a doctor’s appointment). SERA had no position on the bill.
Retirement Tax — Ending or amending the retirement tax was not addressed during lame duck but it is likely high on the Governor’s agenda for next legislative session along with an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit.
SB 775 — SB 775 to eliminate the $300 cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) cap on defined benefit pensions was never given a hearing this session. SERA is seeking a new sponsor to re-introduce the bill next session as the current sponsor, Sen. Curtis Hertel, has been termed out. The Governor will be asked to support the concept of updating our COLA as well.
There is a huge pent-up demand from many Democratic constituency groups for action from the new Democratic-majority Legislature and this second-term Governor. Stay tuned for an exciting two years ahead by “friending” Lansing SERA’s Facebook page where I post legislative and other news of interest to State employee retirees.
Statewide elected officials will be inaugurated beginning at 10:30 a.m. on January 1, 2023, on the Capitol steps. State Senators begin their terms on January 1 as well. House members will be sworn in on January 11. The Legislative schedule for 2023, Committee Chairs, and Committee assignments have yet to be announced.
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