Nov 5, 2010
Following large contributions, Bishop officially kills DRIC bridge
Outgoing Senate majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, gave Ambassador Bridge owner and Republican sugar daddy Matty Moroun an early Christmas present on Thursday and 10,000 potential Michigan workers got a lump of coal when Bishop announced that there would not be a vote on House Bill 4961 that would authorize Michigan to enter into a public-private partnership with Canada to build the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) bridge and take advantage of Canada agreeing to fund Michigan’s share of the bridge.
Back in May Bishop promised an up or down vote on the bill to allow the new bridge to be built to replace the aging Ambassador, but in September he indicated he might renege on that promise after some large contributions to the Senate Republican caucus and to PACs controlled by Bishop. Despite that threat, work continued on the bill by the Chair of the Transportation Committee, Sen. Jud Gilbert, R-Algonac.
But on Thursday, Bishop put to rest the notion that the bill would get a vote in the lame duck session. In fact, he also said there will be no lame duck session at all, and he’s giving the Senate the last month off.
Bishop said the Senate will adjourn on Dec. 2, meaning there are only five session days left before the new session in January. That means that some good public policy that has been worked on for the past two years will simply die, like the DRIC bill, anti-bullying bills and no reason absentee and early voting bills. It’s unclear if the House will keep working, but it almost seems like a waste of time.
Subscription only Gongwer reported 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 to keep their monopoly.
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.
Sarah Hubbard of the Detroit Regional Chamber, told Gongwer that the Moroun family's efforts were key, “between money, organizing protests in the Capitol and taking aggressive legal action.”
"That's just the public money you found," she said of the disclosed political donations. "Outside of even the money, they've had significant influence on the process."
Hubbard told Gongwer she was dismayed at Bishop’s decision.
“There are several senators on both sides of the aisle who are very supportive of moving this project forward, but there's always been concern on the part of Mike Bishop," she told Gongwer. "It requires a legislator to really engage to understand this issue fully. You can't understand it at just the talking points level."
It appears no bridge will be built at all to replace the aging Ambassador Bridge because Moroun cannot get permits from either the Canadian or U.S. governments. Canadian officials are adamant that they do not want a bridge emptying into downtown Windsor.
The new DRIC crossing would alleviate frequent traffic jams and long delays on the Ambassador Bridge and through the Windsor-Detroit tunnel caused by the 17 traffic lights semi-trucks must go through in downtown Windsor to reach the highway. The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America.
Gongwer said attempts to reach Canadian officials were unsuccessful, but they “were reportedly furious with Bishop's decision.”