MIRS provides comprehensive news and analysis of state government delivered in written reports detailing the activities of the House, Senate, Judicial and Executive branches of Michigan state government.

Michigan Press Association Capitol Recap, Week Ending Fri., Sept. 21, 2018

Gilbert Weighs Launching '20 No-Fault Auto Insurance Ballot Question

Asked if he's considering launching a petition drive to put initiative legislation on the 2020 ballot to reform no-fault auto insurance, Quicken Loans Chair Dan GILBERT told MIRS Thursday, "Every option should be on the table to ensure we get the kind of reform that lowers rates and makes our cities and state more competitive."

Gilbert, a prominent Michigan developer, made the comment in an emailed statement, prompted by questions about a rumored petition drive. 

"Michigan drivers pay the highest rates in the nation -- literally thousands of dollars more annually than across the border in Ohio, primarily, because Michigan is the only state in the nation where drivers are mandated to carry wasteful medical coverage on their auto insurance plan when they already are covered under their health insurance plan," he stated. "Additionally, the law also allows medical services and procedures to be billed at obscene rates when the medical coverage is being paid for by the auto insurance plans," he stated. 

The idea drew a variety of reactions. 

"The devil is always in the details," said Laura WOTRUBA, spokesperson for the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. ". . . We would have to actually see what would be in the language." 

"We have gone down this path before with insurance-backed ballot initiatives back in 1992 and '94 which the voters resoundingly rejected," said John CORNACK, President of the Coalition Protecting Auto No-Fault (CPAN). 

"We need to do whatever it takes to lower auto insurance rates and help Michigan families make ends meet," said House Speaker Tom LEONARD (R-DeWitt). "The current system is broken and needs serious reform. I have always been open to any plan that provides real rate relief for Michigan drivers." 

Pete KUHNMUENCH, executive director of the Insurance Alliance of Michigan, said he thinks it "demonstrates the frustration" people have with the lack of action on the part of the legislature. A ballot proposal would be "quite a large undertaking," but it would just be an up or down vote on whatever plan is submitted, he noted. 

"Hopefully, you get a better product through the legislative process," he said. 

Rep. Lana THEIS (R-Brighton), chair of the House Insurance Committee, agreed with Gilbert that every option "should be considered 'on the table,'" but she said she would prefer a legislative fix. 

Gilbert indicated he would too, actually. 

"Every day we wait is a day too long. There is an important election just weeks ahead, and we are hopeful that it will bring in leaders committed to delivering real reform and relief for all drivers in the state of Michigan," Gilbert said in his statement. 

Gilbert is the founder of Quicken Loans as well as Rock Ventures LLC, which is the umbrella entity for his businesses. He often gets credit for helping to revive the city of Detroit by moving his companies to the central business district there, where they now own more than 100 properties and employ more than 17,000 people. 

His frustration with no-fault shows in his statement. 

"In essence, a handful of unscrupulous plaintiff lawyers have gamed a system by literally legislating that Michigan drivers purchase car insurance at astronomical rates because of the compulsory provisions they have persuaded the legislatures to maintain in the current auto insurance law," he stated. "Next to auto insurance reform, there are few if any steps our leaders in Lansing could take that would have more of an immediate, positive impact on the pocketbooks of the majority of Michigan citizens." 

But Theis noted that the insurance code is "many hundreds of pages long and extremely complicated," so she sees a reform by initiative as unlikely. 

"If this were going to be addressed at the ballot, it would likely ask for a yes or no vote on the full repeal of auto no-fault. Based on my discussions at the doors over the last few months, such a measure would pass," Theis said. 

Wotruba said that ballot proposals "can get written a little sloppy sometimes." Her hospital association in the past has opposed proposals to get rid of the lifetime unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) now mandated in no-fault law. 

"For the hospitals, a lot of times we are the first point of contact for a patient who has sustained serious injuries in an auto accident. So our patients are our number one concern in this. That could be short term care or it could be long term care if the injuries are catastrophic," she said. "In any of these proposals, our litmus test for evaluating where we are going to be on those is, 'Is the care for that patient that they might need protected?' 

"And it can vary from proposal to proposal . . . The other litmus test is, does it actually deliver rate relief to drivers? Sometimes they're crafted and the talking point is that they do, but when you are looking at the information, it doesn't." 

Cornack said CPAN already has a plan out there that would address the problem. 

"We have put forth a comprehensive and well thought-out reform package known as the Fair and Affordable Package that can, and should, be used for legislative reforms that are necessary to improve and reduce auto insurance premiums for Michigan drivers. This includes cost containment, effective rate regulation including use of non-driving rating factors and transparency of state's insurance industry and regulatory system," Cornack stated. 

Kuhnmuench said he'd have to know what was in the proposal before he could say whether his Insurance Alliance would endorse it. But the keys points insurers want to see included in any reform is choice for drivers in the level of their PIP coverage, anti-fraud measures and a fee schedule for medical services. 

"Clearly, what we have on the books is a creature of the legislature and I think the legislature ought to fix it. In our view, we have a broken, outdated no fault system. It was implemented by the legislature and it can be fixed by the legislature," he said. 

He said he believed the 1992 ballot question was a very similar proposal, providing PIP choice and a fee schedule. 

"We're kind of talking about the same thing over and over again decades later," he said.

Republicans For Whitmer Have Given $11K To Her; Nearly $30K To Dems

At least eight of the 13 announced original members of the Republicans, Independents for Gretchen WHITMER club shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Combined, these eight have given the Democratic gubernatorial nominee's campaigns a combined $11,480 and Democratic candidates, in general $29,780, according a search of Secretary of State records. One of the 13 has given more to Democrats than Republicans and two have no history of donating to partisan candidates at all. 

The remaining 10 have a record of giving substantially more money to GOP candidates than Democrats, although only one has a record of only given to Republicans. Combined, the 13 have given a combined $77,705 to Republican candidates. 

MIRS reported the formation of the new coalition Wednesday night.

However, the official announcement of the Republicans for Whitmer club was made through a 7 a.m. press release that featured a quote from former Department of Community Health Director Jim HAVEMAN, who has no love lost for Republican nominee Bill SCHUETTE for his prosecution of his successor, Nick LYON

"Now more than ever, Michigan needs a governor who knows how to put partisanship aside to get things done," Haveman said. "As director of DCH under Gov. (Rick) SNYDER, I worked across the aisle with Sen. Whitmer when she was putting the votes together to pass Medicaid expansion, and because of the bipartisan work we did, 680,000 Michiganders now have access to health care. That's exactly the kind of leadership our state needs right now to keep building on Michigan's economic comeback." 

The release of the list was met with instant skepticism from the Schuette camp and most Republicans who scoffed that the names didn't represent anyone who was currently active in the party or a current elected official. 

The Schuette camp called it a list of "government insiders" who want to "protect them after Schuette stood up to the Lansing establishment on Flint and the Ingham County establishment" in the cases of Larry NASSAR and former Prosecutor Stu DUNNINGS

While Whitmer was extending her warm "thanks" to Republicans who were supporting her, the Republican leadership was busy saying "no thanks" and dismissing this Whitmer coalition as a "blip that quickly passes." 

The Michigan Republican Party fired off a news release quoting the party chair, Sen. Mike SHIRKEY (R-Clarklake) and Rep. Lee CHATFIELD (R-Levering) denouncing those rogue Republicans who were "not passionate about Whitmer" but more angry at Bill Schuette. 

They added that were hurting other Republicans with their anger toward Schuette. 

New Schuette spokesperson Stu SANDLER framed the defections in terms of their allegiance to Whitmer's father, former Gov. Bill MILLIKEN cabinet member Richard WHITMER, and their opposition to the Attorney General's prosecution of Lyon for his alleged role in the Flint water crisis. 

"This is about people who worked with Richard Whitmer and the Lansing establishment rallying around Nick Lyon just because Bill Schutte took them on for justice," Sandler said. 

MRP spokesperson Sarah ANDERSON rejected the Whitmer camp's assertion that this Republican and Independents for Whitmer was a sign of her commitment to bi-partisanship if elected. 

"I don't think she is bi-partisan and I think the people who believe that need to do some research. She voted with the Democrats 97 percent of the time when in the Senate," she said. And if the Democrats believe the coalition will push Whitmer over the finish line, Anderson noted that, "there were Republicans for Hillary CLINTON and Donald TRUMP is president," so at the end of the day this Whitmer group "is a blip that quickly passes." 

Here's the breakdown of the list of Whitmer backers and their contribution history, according to Bureau of Elections data. 

- Richard McLELLAN, former transition director to then Gov.-elect John ENGLER - Donated a combined $23,805 to a minimum of 30 Republican candidates, including $1,000 to Lt. Gov. Brian CALLEY, $3,300 to 2002 Republican gubernatorial nominee Dick POSTHUMUS and a combined $5,475 to the Ingham County Republican Party. He's given a combined $6,775 to Democratic candidates, including $1,500 to 24th Senate District candidate Kelly ROSSMAN-McKINNEY, $1,000 to Sen. Curtis HERTEL (D-East Lansing) and $1,750 to Whitmer. 

- Former Sen. John "Joe" SCHWARZ - Donated $11,715 to several Republican candidates such as $3,000 to Gov. Rick SNYDER, $2,132 to former Chief Justice Cliff TAYLOR and $550 to Rep. David MATUREN (R-Brady Twp.). He's donated a combined $1,000 to Democratic candidates, including $500 to Rossman-McKinney. 

- Trish FOSTERretired senior managing director and COO at CBRE-Martin - Donated $0 to Republican candidates. Donated a combined $3,350 to Democratic candidates, $100 to Rossman-McKinney and $3,250 to Whitmer. 

- Former Rep. Mel LARSEN - Donated a combined $1,535 to Republican candidates like former Secretary of State Terri Lynn LAND, former Rep. Pat GODCHAUX and Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike KOWALL (R-White Lake). Donated a combined $1,200 to three Democratic candidates including former Sen. Gilda JACOBS and $1,000 for Whitmer. 

- Vivian CARPENTER, former Deputy State Treasurer, Donated $7,500 to One United Michigan and $500 to Court of Appeal Judge Cynthia STEPHENS. Otherwise, no partisan political contributions were found. 

- Jim HAVEMAN, former Department of Community Health Director - Donated $18,335 to Republican candidates including Dick DeVOS, Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF and former gubernatorial candidate Pete HOEKSTRA. Donated $2,760 to Democratic candidates including $860 to Whitmer, $400 to Sen. Curtis HERTEL Jr. (D-East Lansing) and $100 to former Democratic Attorney General candidate Patrick MILES

- Gina YOB, vice president of sales and marketing for 3S International - Donated $1,480 to Republican candidates, including $1,000 to Michigan Board of Education member Tom McMILLIN and Hoekstra. No trackable donations to Democratic candidates. 

- Bill MILLIKEN Jr., real estate broker and son of former Gov. William MILLIKEN - Donated $250 to Snyder in 2014 and $100 to Whitmer last year. In 2003, he gave to Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan. 

- Mary McLELLAN, retired Department of Civil Rights employee - No political contributions were found. 

- John PIRICH, a partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn - Donated $8,500 to Republican candidates, including $1,000 to Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth CLEMENT and $550 to Justice Stephen MARKMAN. He's donated $4,250 to Democratic candidates, including $2,500 to Whitmer. 

- Rod NELSON, retired CEO of Mackinac Straits Health System - Donated $7,159 to Republican candidates, including $500 to Rep. Lee CHATFIELD (R-Levering) and around $2,500 to former Rep. Frank FOSTER. He's donated $1,450 to Democratic candidates, including $850 to Whitmer. 

- Paul TARR, president of PM Tarr and Associates - Donated $10,020 to Republican candidates, including numerous state legislators like former gubernatorial candidate Tom GEORGE and the late Sen. Patty BIRKHOLZ. He's donated $5,925 to Democratic candidates, including $200 to former Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM, $100 to former Lt. Gov. John CHERRY and $250 to Whitmer. 

- Dennis SMITH, retired CEO of the UP Health Plan - Donated $3,600 to Republicans, including $1,500 to former Senate Majority Leader Mike BISHOP's political action committee. Donated $6,320 to Democrats, including $920 to Whitmer and $1,335 to Granholm.

Legalized Pot Down 41% to 47% As National Anti-Group Puts In '6 Figures'

The self-proclaimed leading national organization against legalizing recreational marijuana is putting a "six-figure investment" in defeating Proposal 1 this fall as new polling from Target Insyght, commissioned by MIRS and Governmental Consulting Services Inc. (GCSI) show the ballot question down 41 to 47 percent.

Luke NIFORATOS, chief of staff for Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), was in Lansing Friday to make it known that the proposal allowing adults 21 and older to keep up to 10 ounces of pot taxed at 10 percent won't go before voters without their organization getting its say in the matter. 

Founded by former President Barack OBAMA official Kevin SABET, SAM is a non-profit with a 501(3) and 501(4) with paid staff in Washington D.C. and several states to fight legislative and voter-initiated attempts to create another "big tobacco.". 

The national outfit is working with Scott GREENLEE and Healthy and Productive Michigan to blow the whistle on a "false narrative" that legalizing marijuana will cleanse the jails and prisons of users rotting behind bars for pot use. Niforatos said they support further decriminalization for possession of a drug that is only strongly prosecuted if possession is leveraged with another crime. 

"We're here to support the operations of the committee for whatever needs to be done with this campaign," Niforatos said. "We don't have an endless supply of money. I wish we could outraise our opponents. We can't. We are routinely outraised 20 to one, 40 to one. However, the resources we have, we want to commit to this committee. 

The information comes as a MIRS automated survey released Tuesday from Sept. 11-14 shows legalized marijuana down after respondents were read the complete ballot language. When they are read only the title of the proposal, the gap is wider -- 40 to 49 percent in opposition with 11 percent undecided. 

On a party basis, 55 percent of Democrats supported legalization, 24 percent of Republicans and 39 percent of independents supported Proposal 1. 

"Without education or promotion, these ballot proposals don't stand by themselves," said Ed SARPOLUS, president of Target Insyght. "Similar proposals in the past, where we used promoter words, or biased words in, they pass 50 percent. But if you read the ballot language, they don't pass." 

Sarpolus is quick to say the poll results on Proposal 1 shouldn't be interpreted as suggesting they can't pass, just that without support and education, they won't pass based on the official ballot wording. 

The poll question wording was: 

The ballot proposal would allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption; Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces be secured in locked containers; Create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them; Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10% tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located; Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions. Should this proposal be adopted? 

The title of the proposal reads: A proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers. 

The six-point gap differs from a Detroit News/Glengariff Group poll that shows 56 percent support of marijuana legalization with 38 percent opposed. 

Josh HOVEY of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said the MIRS survey showing Prop 1 with 41 percent support is about 20 points lower than what they are seeing in their internal polls and may be an anomaly caused by automated polling. The Coalition used live polling. 

"We, by no means, have any assumptions that this is in the bag," Hovey said. "But we don't think the numbers are an accurate reflection of what's going on in Michigan and that, in the end, voters will end up supporting Proposal 1 in November." 

As far as SAM's commitment to Michigan, Hovey said he's not concerned. Outside of one race in Arizona, where a big drug company injected about $1 million into a no campaign, efforts to knock down legalizing marijuana are failing across the country with or without SAM's help, he said. 

"They've wasted a lot of money when they should be educating people on being smart about marijuana and making sure people are responsible," Hovey said. "We need to stop wasting taxpayer money on arresting people and throwing them in jail. Collecting tax dollars from the regulated sale of marijuana would be a smarter approach.

Interested in Running Articles Such As These In Your Publication?

MIRS has reached an agreement to allow syndication of content. If you like the articles you see in the weekly Michigan Press Association Capitol Recap, talk to Jim TARRANT at the Michigan Press Association at (517) 372-2424 or John REURINK, publisher of MIRS at (517) 428-2125.