A new legislative session has begun in Lansing. Representative Jase Bolger was re-elected Speaker of the House on Wednesday. That was a foregone conclusion, the only question was whether he would get unanimous support. But two Democrats cast no votes against Bolger as speaker.
Gongwer News Service Editor Zach Gorchow says some Democratic activists wanted greater opposition to Bolger’s election as speaker. But he says there were many potential consequences for Democrats voting against the Marshall Republican’s election as speaker.
Bolger was involved in a controversy last year when Representative Roy Schmidt switched from the Democratic to Republican Party. Bolger encouraged Schmidt to find a straw candidate to run as a Democrat. No criminal charges were filed against Bolger, but he did survive a close bid for re-election to his district in Kalamazoo and Calhoun Counties. Gorchow says that along with a flood of legislation at the end of last term, including making Michigan a “right to work” state, left many Democrats wanting to stage a symbolic protest. But he says it could have affected things like committee assignments and operations in the House. Gorchow says Democratic Leader Tim Greimel is indicating that he is willing to work with Republicans despite being upset over the end of the last session.
A unanimous vote for House Speaker has been a tradition in Lansing for years. But Gorchow says another tradition is that battles begin almost immediately after. He says Democrats are preparing for a fight over road funding. Gorchow says reconfiguring Blue Cross – Blue Shield could also be contentious.
But Gorchow says there will be some areas where common ground may be achieved. He says there seems to be support in both houses, and in both parties for early childhood education. But Gorchow says it still has to be determined where the money would come from.