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Leonard, Singh call for a bipartisan 2017-18 session

January 18, 2017

Article courtesy of MIRS News Service

Leaders from both caucuses called for an attitude of bipartisanship in the next two years, as a break from the divisive tactics of the last election cycle.

House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt), in his address to the chamber during the opening day of the 99th Legislature Wednesday, called for more civility and cooperation than in prior years.

“Friends, as we look back at the last election cycle that we had, it probably was one of the most uncivil in our nation’s history, all the way from the federal to the local level,” Leonard said. “And I believe that over the next two years, the citizens of our state will not only want to see more civility in our political process, I believe they are going to demand it from us.”

As the Republican Policy Commission, headed by Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw), works behind the scenes to put together the caucus’ agenda for the 2017-18 session, Leonard revisited some of his top-line priorities. In the next two years, Leonard said he would like to work on mental health, teacher retirement reform, reducing health insurance rates and building the skilled trades workforce.

Leonard also said he believes that bipartisan priorities include working to “offer more opportunity and better schools for our students,” more good-paying jobs and a business climate “where risk is rewarded and dreams can be realized.”

House Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) seconded Leonard’s nomination. In the process, he proffered the bipartisan olive branch.

“There are many paths this chamber could take over the next two years. My hope is that the next path will be one of bipartisanship,” Singh said in his remarks.

Members on both sides of the aisles expressed hope that changes in leadership will herald a more cooperative atmosphere than in the 2015-16 session.

But while the efforts of Leonard and Singh to set the tone may be noble, how the caucuses will come together in practice remains to be seen. Rep. Gary Howell (R-Lapeer Twp.) said he believes the Republican caucus is more conservative than it was last year when Howell took office in a special election to replace former Rep. Todd Courser.

Singh laid out in his remarks some of the Democratic caucus’ priorities for the next two years. Singh appears to have streamlined his caucus’ message, focusing on issues tied to the economy.

“We must grow our economy, create the jobs our state needs and improve incomes for everyone,” Singh said. “We need to invest in Michigan’s infrastructure to protect the health and quality of life we enjoy as residents of the Great Lakes state. We must improve access to education and training, so that Michigan workers can compete in the global marketplace.”

Both caucuses appear to have coalesced around the need to promote skilled trades education. The deficit of skilled labor for Michigan’s manufacturing sector has been long-documented, most recently in a report by economists from the Federal Reserve.

New Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Markman and Justice Bridget McCormack conducted the swearing in ceremony. Gary Randall was re-appointed the House clerk.

– Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is forecasted to grow between 1.3 to 2.3 percent, continuing a recent trend of slow growth that is also reflective in the job growth numbers.

– Forecasted inflation levels for 2017 is 2.2 percent and 1.9 percent for 2018.

– Michigan’s per capita personal income growth in 2015 was 4.6 percent, better than the 3.7 percent rate nationally. It’s the state’s highest growth since 6.2 percent in 2011 and second highest since at least the last 10 years.

– Building permits continued to recover, but are about half of what they were when the housing market crashed in late 2006. The numbers are climbing up, but would be still considered recession levels.

–      The Detroit Three’s share of auto sales has stabilized at just below 44 percent.

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