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The Week in State Politics with Jack Lessenberry

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry in Studio East
Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry in Studio East

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time to get a roundup of the state's political news with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry.  He spoke this morning with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley.

- By Eliot Johnson

The Michigan Legislature is reconvening in Lansing today after already ending the legislative session for the year earlier this month. The meetings today will focus largely on procedural matters, says Lessenberry, and not everybody is happy about having to return to the capital. “Senate Majority Leader Bishop was very indignant about having to come back,” says Lessenberry, “He was chided by one of his Republican Senate colleagues for that.”

Some lawmakers were hoping to tackle larger issues during the Legislature’s return to Lansing, but Senator Bishop has refused to let that happen, says Lessenberry. As to why the Legislature has to return to Lansing in the first place, Lessenberry says, “They were rushing to get out the door. Anytime you rush to get out the door you sometimes forget your keys or leave a burner on or forget your hat. It was sort of like that.”

At an event on Monday which featured both Governor Granholm and Governor-elect Snyder, Mr. Snyder announced that Doug Rothwell will be the new chair of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Lessenberry says, “The MEDC is designed to sort of boost business in Michigan, make the state more business friendly, help smooth out things for businesses who want to move or expand here.”

Mr. Rothwell held the same position in the 1990s after former-Governor John Engler created the MEDC. Lessenberry thinks Rothwell’s appointment is a smart one. “Doug Rothwell is a popular choice,” he says, “He’s seen as sort of a more moderate member of the business community. People like and respect him. So, Governor-elect Snyder is sort of putting his stamp on the MEDC and most people are fairly optimistic and fairly supportive of what he did.”

While it’s still too early to know how the MEDC will change under the Snyder Administration, Mr. Lessenberry says he’s excited to see how Snyder’s approach to business will change the role of the MEDC. “The Governor-elect indicated that he was more inclined to try to make Michigan a more fertile ground for business to expand and grow here,” says Lessenberry, “Governor Granholm was forever going out to other countries to try to recruit business to come here, which was sort of moderately successful in getting small amounts of jobs. But it will be interesting to see how this approach changes what the MEDC does.”

The fact that Granholm and Snyder appeared at the event together is a positive sign, says Lessenberry. “They’re trying to send a message to Michigan of continuity, send a message to the business community that there’s going to be no dramatic breaks and everybody in the state is sort of on board,” he says.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the new federal health care law is unconstitutional because it violates the sovereignty of states. Michigan’s Attorney General, Mike Cox, is pleased with the ruling because he is leading Michigan in a lawsuit to repeal the new health care law. Along with Michigan, nineteen other states have also filed lawsuits against the bill.

Whether the judge’s ruling is good or bad news for the nation varies from person to person depending on how individuals viewed the health care legislation to begin with, says Lessenberry. Regardless of opinion, he says, “It (the ruling) means that the Obama health care plan is dead, and they have to start over, which, with Republicans controlling the House of Representatives, it’s just going to be a non-starter.”

While Mr. Lessenberry says the ruling is certainly a big setback for Obama and his health care legislation, he is quick to add that the case is far from closed. “This is not a final action,” he says, “This will inevitably go to the Supreme Court, and that may take some time.”    

As to the lawsuits filed against the health care bill on behalf of other states, Lessenberry says, “With all due respect to Attorney General Mike Cox, his efforts are now utterly irrelevant, as are the other state governors. They’re trying to get a little bit of credit, but what’s happened is this is now working its way through the federal courts. While these other governors’ suits may be part of it or bundled with it, the process has already started.”

You can hear the full interview with Mr. Lessenberry here.

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