Sep 9, 2009

Do as I say not as I do

LANSING -- If you were in the Senate gallery for the last two sessions of the Michigan Senate on Aug. 27 and Wednesday, you got to see another example of Senate Republicans calling out Democrats for something they routinely do.

At the end of each session, usually, Senators are allowed to make a statement on any subject they want. Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland, chose to reply to an accusation Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, made against him on the last session day on Aug. 27. But Majority Floor Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, objected and stopped Anderson from talking about Cassis.

He then made a motion to deny Anderson’s constitutional right to have his remarks printed in the Senate Journal. After a brief recess to dig into the Senate rule book, Anderson was denied that right by a vote of 18-16, along party lines.

“Our rules say that we are not to speak inappropriately or to question another Senator’s motives,” Cropsey said.

The chain of events was set off when Senate Democrats tried to discharge House Bill 4922 from committee that expands the tax credits that can be given to new projects that create jobs under the Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA), like the energy park planned for the closed Ford Wixom plant, on Aug. 27. The discharge was defeated, mostly along party lines.

Cassis, chair of the Finance Committee, saw that as an opportunity to move her bills, Senate Bills 773-774, that would require the Michigan Economic Development Authority (MEDC) to make stricter reporting on the MEGA tax credits. She introduced them just the day before, and then she accused the Senate Democrats of breaking a deal they had never heard about.

“Earlier in our session today, my good Democratic colleagues attempted to break a deal and discharge House Bill No. 4922 which sits in the Senate Finance Committee,” Cassis said on Aug. 27 on the Senate floor during statements. “Interestingly, this bill came over to the Senate as a House Democrat bill simply expanding MEGA credits without any accountability.”

Most Senate Democrats had seen her bills just that day.

“There may have been some agreement between MEGA and the Senator, there has been no agreement between any of us and the Senator that we attempted to break any deal.” said Sen. Deb Cherry, D-Burton. “While I may understand her deal which she has made with somebody else, I resent the fact that I’m being told that I broke my word when my word was never a part of this.”

Cassis also launched an unprovoked attack against Anderson during the same statement, but he had already left the Senate floor and was not able to respond until two weeks later on Wednesday. No one challenged Cassis, and her attack was allowed to be printed in the journal.

“So I have one important question for the good Senator representing Livonia, who supported the discharge today,” Cassis said on Aug. 27. “Senator, where were you when Quicken Loans got almost $50 million in MEGA credits to locate in Livonia and then leave this fair city for Detroit and gain another $42 million in credits.
“Where was your voice then,” she said. “Why didn’t you stand up for your hometown Livonia, losing jobs, losing important revenue? It took a Senator from across 8 Mile Road, a neighbor from Novi, to do so.”

Quicken loans, the nation's largest online retail mortgage lender with a model spanning the entire country, was looking to expand, and they already had locations in Cleveland and Arizona they could expanded to. In fact, co-founder Dan Gilbert is the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he could have moved the headquarters there.

Wednesday was Anderson’s first opportunity to respond to Cassis’s attack.

“The Senator from Novi used the opportunity to launch another diatribe on how members from our side had broken a deal that no one seems to know anything about,” Anderson said. “Everyone here knows what that is really all about: a feeble attempt to divert attention from using her position as the chair of the Finance Committee to block action on legislation that will bring thousands of jobs to the state in order to get a bill moved that has her name on it.”

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