Nov 29, 2010

Discharge vote on DRIC bridge expected

LANSING – When the final three days of the legislative session – at least in the Senate – get underway on Tuesday, the biggest issue to come out of the lame duck may be an attempt to discharge a bill from committee that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge.

Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, told the News Herald last week that he will try to discharge House Bill 4961 from the Senate Transportation Committee to the full Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, has been carrying water for Ambassador Bridge owner and Republican sugar daddy Matty Moroun, and earlier this month Bishop said the bill would not get a vote, reneging on a promise he made earlier this year in May.

The Moroun family has been fighting tooth and nail to keep their monopoly on the aging Ambassador Bridge, the only privately owned border crossing in North America. With that in mind, the Moroun family has contributed nearly $400,000 this year to political action committees (PAC) and candidates controlled by Bishop that helped Senate Republicans, Bishop's unsuccessful attorney general campaign or directly to Senate Republican candidate committees

The DRIC has widespread, bipartisan support, including the last three Michigan Governors, including Democratic Govs. Jim Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm and Republican John Engler, as well as Republican Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. It even has the support of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, long a GOP supporter.

If the DRIC is not built, no bridge will be built at all, and that could cost 10,000 to 35,000 jobs.

The bill would need a two-thirds vote – 26 votes – to be discharged. The bill was approved by the House in May, and the Senate Transportation committee held hearing on the bill in the late spring and early summer. Based on those hearings, the Chair of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac, worked with the various groups to come up with a bill that is acceptable to all parties.

After various versions, he was expecting a vote until Bishop killed it. That is the bill Basham will try to get a vote on.

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