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11 freshman chairs named to policy, approps subcommittees

January 31, 2017

Courtesy of MIRS News Service

House Republican leadership rolled out a committee assignment list for 2017-18 that included 11 freshman chairs in both the policy and appropriations subcommittee arenas, a striking number considering a pair of third-term Republicans and six second-term Republicans didn’t get a chair position. 

Outside of seniority, the headliners include Rep. Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville) chairing Health Policy, Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Midland) heading Energy Policy, Rep. Jim Tedder (R-Clarkston) chairing Tax Policy, Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) chairing Judiciary and seven freshmen chairing policy committees.  

As expected, Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) is heading up Government Operations and Michigan Competitiveness, Rep. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) is heading the Insurance Committee and Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw) taking the lead of the House Education Reform Committee and the K-12 Appropriations Subcommittee. 

House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) confirmed he expects Kelly, who will have control of both the policy and appropriations sides on education issues, to tackle large policy changes. 

Rep. Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) is leading House Transportation and Infrastructure, Rep. Eric Leutheuser (R-Hillsdale) is leading Commerce and Trade and Rep. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville) is moving from Military and Veterans Affairs to leading Agriculture. Rep. Aaron Miller (R-Sturgis) is getting Elections and Ethics and Rep. Brandt Idea (R-Oshtemo) Regulatory Reform.  

Possibly the biggest news, however, is that seven freshmen were given chairmanships — Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) was given Military and Veterans Affairs; Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton) Communications and Technology; Rep. Diane Rendon (R-Lake City) Families, Children and Seniors; Tom Albert (R-Belding) Financial Liability Reform; Steve Johnson (R-Wayland) Joint Committee on Administrative Rules; Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake) Local Government; and Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) Workforce and Talent Development. 

On the Appropriations side, four freshmen were given chairmanships — Rep. Kim LaSata (R-St. Joseph), Higher Education; Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming) Licensing and Regulatory Affairs/Insurance & Financial Services; Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine) Natural Resources and Rep. Shane Hernandez (R-Port Huron) Transportation.  

Chatfield, who chaired the Committee on Committees, said the large number of freshman chairs can be attributed to the fact there are many Republican freshmen with legislative or government experience. Also perhaps giving members a leg up is the reduction in committee assignments, which Leonard said would allow members to focus their field of view and specialize in certain areas. 

Rep. Ed Canfield (R-Sebewaing) supplanted Rep. Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) as chair of the Health and Human Services (HHS) appropriations subcommittee due to Canfield’s experience “on the frontlines of health care” as a doctor, Leonard said.  

With the new President Donald Trump administration, Leonard and Chatfield said they expect the HHS subcommittee to have an especially complex task funding the state’s health care obligations in the coming years. 

Rep. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), also a doctor, will chair the Medicaid subcommittee under the HHS subcommittee, dubbed the Medicaid sub-sub. Appropriations chair Laura Cox (R-Livonia) said the sub-sub was brought back because Medicaid matters make up the “lion’s share” of the HHS budget. Significant changes to the federal Affordable Care Act may not affect this year’s budget, Cox said, but she could foresee Bizon’s committee having work to do by June. 

Bizon will also chair the Military and Veterans Affairs subcommittee, instead of Rep. Larry Inman (R-Traverse City) who chaired the committee last session. Inman is now chair of the Joint Capital Outlay subcommittee.    

VerHeulen made the switch from health care to general government, a change he said he is “excited and enthused” about. VerHeulen cited revenue sharing as a key issue he looks forward to working on as head of the subcommittee on General Government. VerHeulen said he also relinquished the role as HHS subcommittee chair to be vice chair of the Appropriations Committee. 

“I hope to be a resource to Chair Cox and I hope to be a resource to the new members,” said VerHeulen. He will also head the House Judiciary Appropriations Subcommittee. 

Rep. Dave Pagel (R-Berrien Springs), charged with chairing the House Corrections Appropriations Subcommittee, has already come forward with new legislation allowing the Department of Corrections to hire felons. He is expected to reintroduce legislation concerning medically frail.  

As far as third-term Republicans, both Rep. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) and Rep. Mike McCready (R-Bloomfield Hills), last year’s chair of the House’s Higher Education Committee, will not lead a committee. 

As far as second termers, two members of the VerHeulen leadership team — Mike Webber (R-Rochester Hills) and Daniela Garcia (R-Holland) didn’t get a chair post. Neither did Reps. Dave Maturen (R-Vicksburg), Brett Roberts (R-Charlotte), Rep. Kathy Crawford (R-Novi) or Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.). 

Leonard said he believes Democrats got everything they wanted, citing his good working relationship with Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) over the last four years.  Press Secretary for Singh, Katie Carey, confirmed Singh was satisfied with committee assignments.

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