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This time, something feels different

January 14, 2019

By Brian Calley

Last week, I had the honor of joining my wife, Representative Julie Calley, as she was sworn in to the 100th State Legislature. It was a beautiful ceremony. 

It’s not unusual for talk of bipartisanship and cooperation to abound during the opening days of a new session. After all, these are the winners of the recent elections. They are excited and gracious. Unfortunately, in most cases, there is usually a swift return to the old battle lines. This time, something feels different.

I have personally witnessed the installation of five new Speakers of the House during my time in Lansing. The new Speaker is 30-year-old Lee Chatfield from the northern tip of the lower peninsula. As you might imagine, he’s a very smart and very dynamic man to have achieved so much at such a young age. 

He will surely be tested given that we are entering into a period of divided government for the first time in eight years. But I walked away from that first session with a high degree of optimism that Speaker Chatfield is up to the challenge. Here’s why…

Many leaders talk about bipartisanship. It’s a buzzword. In practice, it usually means that one side tries to get members of the opposite side to change their position. If they succeed, that’s what the system calls bipartisanship. But lasting and sustainable bipartisanship requires compromise. Unfortunately, the word “compromise” has come to be a bad word in politics.

Speaker Chatfield was specific in saying that without compromise government cannot operate, schools won’t get funded, roads won’t get fixed and auto insurance won’t be made more affordable. He didn’t just say he’s willing to compromise to get things done. He said compromise is essential. That’s different. I’ve never heard a Speaker kick off a session that way. 

Don’t get me wrong. They will still have fights and disagreements. The process is not pretty. And no one is expected to compromise their sincerely held principles. What I took away from this opening day of the 100th session is that the Speaker and the House of Representatives are committed to working through differences and getting things done. 

In the coming weeks, I’ll share additional thoughts about other leaders, the process and how I expect SBAM’s role to grow in this time of divided government. We have a special and important role to play. I look forward to working with you on building the best possible future for small business.

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