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Lessenberry: the week in state politics

Glass floor inside the Michigan Capitol
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Glass floor inside the Michigan Capitol

Censure from Michigan's Supreme Court

This week, for the first time in state history, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly rebuked a former justice for violating court confidentiality. Former Justice Elizabeth Weaver was rebuked by the court for secretly taping deliberations and later making them public. Lessenberry says Weaver had been feuding for years with her fellow justices until she resigned this past summer after making a deal with Governor Granholm.

While Weaver says her actions were all about openness and transparency, Lessenberry says it seems she was focused on embarrassing a fellow justice she particularly disliked.

"Nobody likes being secretly taped," says Lessenberry, "It’s just a sad situation that calls attention to kind of disorder on the court.

The Supreme Court’s rebuke was nearly unanimous, with only Justice Diane Hathaway declining to sign, saying that Weaver deserved due process of the law.

Lessenberry says, “Former Justice Weaver said she did nothing wrong and she was going to keep doing it. So this may not be over, but, again, the Michigan Supreme Court has had its problems with its public image and this won’t help.”

New Leadership for the state's republicans

Elsewhere in Lansing, Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced this week that he would support Republican Party Finance Chair Robert Schostak in his run to become the next Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. State Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop and Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land were also considered potential candidates.

“The only real serious candidates were Schostak and Mike Bishop,” says Lessenberry, “Mike Bishop never got along that well with Governor-elect Snyder. He gave him some trouble during the campaign.”

Lessenberry says governors traditionally have strong influence over who becomes the chair of his or her party in the state.

“The governor is weighing in, and the governor almost certainly is going to win,” says Lessenberry, “He won by a landslide and most people in the party, whatever their reservations may be, think that he should get his own chairman.”

As Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, Schostak would be working to raise money for Republican candidates in Michigan while positioning them for strong campaigns in 2012, says Lessenberry.

Stabenow's position of power

In Washington D.C., Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow will be the next Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. The committee will be responsible for writing an influential 2012 Farm Bill. Michigan has not had a Chairman of the Agriculture Committee in over a century, says Lessenberry, adding, “Agriculture has always been the second-largest sector of Michigan’s economy, and with the decline of the auto industry, it’s sort of more important.”

Lessenberry says he wants to see how Stabenow uses her position of power. 

“It’s going to be very interesting to see what her position is on getting things for the state of Michigan.”

Lessenberry says, “things like urban farming.” he adds that Stabenow will “face what everybody thinks is going be a tough battle for re-election in 2012, and it’ll be interesting to see if she’ll try to use the Agriculture Committee Chairmanship for her own advantage. Now, there are some limits to what she can do because, of course, the Republicans control the House of Representatives and any bill has to get through both bodies.” 

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.