Coffee Hour with Michigan Senator Wayne Schmidt,
Monday, April 3, 2017, 4:30 pm at the TC Pie Company
Senator Wayne Schmidt was met with a surprise crowd of Grand Traverse County citizens at the Traverse City Pie Co. on Monday afternoon eager to hear his positions on a number of issues that concerned them. Generally speaking, the Senator’s responses were often vague or noncommittal except in regard to the effort to solve the problem of gerrymandering of Michigan’s political districts by an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission. He went on record opposing this effort saying there is no such thing as non-partisan districting. When confronted with the disingenuousness of his statement, he grudgingly conceded that, “well, yah, there’s Arizona.”
When asked about his position regarding the Republican effort to repeal and replace the ACA, the Senator said he supports Healthy Michigan, but that if left up to the state alone to fund, he conceded that Michigan can’t afford to do that. When asked if there are any impact studies being done by the state as to the effect of various scenarios of repeal and replace, he said he didn’t know of any since they don’t know what will be decided in the US House. Asked if that were the case, why did Gov. Snyder ask all Michigan Republican representatives to vote against repeal and replace if he had no idea of the fiscal impact on Michigan’s budget? The Senator said he couldn’t speak for the Governor. It seems highly improbable that no one at the state level would be exploring possible effects to Michigan’s budget process if the ACA is gutted or repealed.
On the issue of Transparency in Government Act or HR 4245 introduced in 2014, Senator Schmidt seemed to indicate that there is information that should remain out of reach of FOIA, such as his private email correspondence with donors, etc. He emphasized that his donor list of campaign contributions is public information that anyone can access. The TGA would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act, requiring agencies to put all completed FOIA requests online in a format that is searchable, sortable and downloadable. The act would ensure that all agencies utilize the website FOIA Online to log, track and publish the status of requests. Finally, the TGA calls for the Judiciary branch to meet similar financial disclosure requirements that are already applied to the Executive and Legislative branches, and make those disclosure statements publicly available online for anyone to review. For the first time, this bill inscribes into law the public’s right to hear oral arguments in the Supreme Court as they are delivered. As of today, the bill remains stalled in committee https://www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4245.
About shutting down Line 5, Senator Schmidt felt he could not take a position until the two independent studies come out in June or July assessing the likelihood of the line breaking anytime soon, and what spill assessments are for alternative oil transport such as trucks or ships. When it was pointed out that the studies are funded by Enbridge, he said, “yes, we asked them to pay for the studies.” It was pointed out that in that case it was unlikely that the studies could be unbiased. He avoided the possibility of the oil being transported along an alternative underground line that would be far less risky than transport under water, ship or truck. He also felt there are too many damage assessments that contradict one another to be able to make good decisions.
When asked if he would vote for Gov. Snyder’s request to the Michigan Supreme Court to review the constitutionality of a law that would allow the state to allocate $2,500,000 in general fund dollars to be used to reimburse private schools for costs associated with state-mandated requirements, including employee background checks, compliance with state building health and fire code requirements and immunizations http://www.michigan.gov/snyder/0,4668,7-277--388560--,00.html, he said he would vote for such a bill if it comes up.
The Senator said he supports increased funding for public education, but said that we needed to keep in mind falling enrollment and the rising costs of teacher pension and health care costs. It was pointed out that the state is waging a war on teacher’s ability to collective bargain citing HR 4163 which would take away teacher’s right to bargain over the school calendar. The Senator feigned ignorance of the bill since it is still in committee in the House, but he would consider it. Members expressed the desire to see this bill die in committee, and that we are actively urging our representatives to kill the bill.
When asked where he stood on HB 4315 that would eliminate the two-year foreign language requirement to graduate and allow substituting computer or artistic classes. It was stressed this bill, if passed, would make it harder for students to get into college as most require two years of foreign language study. It was pointed out that we live in a global economy. Students with foreign language skills are more competitive in the market place. That this is a bad idea and should be opposed. The Senator waffled and said it shouldn’t prevent anyone from taking foreign language classes though not required to do so. It was pointed it out that once the requirement is gone, funding is likely to evaporate as well. One member who identified herself as a foreign language specialist stressed that beyond requirements for college admission, foreign language study has been shown to increase brain development, student’s intellectual capacity and ability to think critically. The Senator had no comment.
Finally, when asked where he stands on defunding Planned Parenthood, he said that the state has not provided funds for Planned Parenthood for the last two years.
GT Dems & TC Indivisible Member