All of us who have been following the saga of Senate Bill 97 (SB97) are beyond disgusted. It’s one of the most egregious legislative power-grabs in recent memory. According to MichiganVotes.org, the measure if passed would give “state and local government agencies the power to enter into joint operating arrangements for building hospital and transportation businesses” and would allow private operators to “benefit from tax exemptions and its governmental partner’s power to impose property taxes, borrow, take private property using eminent domain and more.” This is as anti-free market as it gets.
The bill predictably sailed through the Senate without much debate and discussion. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, known for his lack of spine and principle, fast tracked it last year. The Senate committeemembers who approved SB97 were all bought off by the hospital and transportation industries that will make a killing off the legislation, and all but four Senators voted to approve it during the full Senate vote. Sens. Colbeck, Hune, Emmons and Shirkey were the only hold-outs.
The House committee that approved SB97 was similarly bought off by the monied interests that will benefit from the bill. This is how the Lansing swamp operates. Right now, the fate of SB97 is in the hands of House GOP leadership. House Speaker Tom Leonard has the reputation of being a staunch conservative. He is running for Attorney General right now off of his conservative bona fides.
To his credit, Leonard is no Arlan Meekhof. He seems far more fair-minded than his predecessors, but who is funding Leonard and the rest of the House GOP leadership?
Leonard is taking money from the same hospital and transportation interests that have papered over the legislature to push forward SB97. According to data compiled by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Leonard’s top donors include Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, and Matty Maroun. Could this financial support come as apart of a quid pro quo in order to move SB97 up for a vote in the House?
Additionally, other members of House GOP leadership are getting paid off by these interests. Speaker Pro-Tempore Lee Chatfield is getting cash from Blue Cross Blue Shield, Matty Maroun, the Health Care Association of Michigan, and Meridian Health Plan. Majority Floor Leader Dan Lauwers is funded by the Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and One Tough Nerd PAC. Majority Caucus Chair Eric Leutheuser is getting greased over by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Based upon these troubling connections, it does look like House GOP Leadership is planning to move SB97 forward for a vote to complete another legislative screwjob on the taxpayer. Make no mistake about it, these massive industries (hospital, healthcare, transportation) that will make untold amounts of cash from SB97 did not pay off House GOP leadership to receive nothing in return. But we are far from powerless to stop this corrupt process from playing out as planned.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Although the big money is against us, there is a way to strike back. Our reps need our support, and Leonard particularly needs the support of dedicated conservative activists at this moment for his campaign for Attorney General. It is up to the Republican Party precinct delegates to elect the nominee for AG later this year at state GOP convention.
If enough duly-elected precinct delegates call Speaker Leonard and unequivocally tell him that his ambitions for AG are finished if he schedules SB97 for a vote, this legislation WILL die.
Call House Speaker Leonard at (517) 373-1778 to deliver that message now. Have a nice discussion with him or his aides. Let him know the importance of refusing to schedule SB97 for a vote. Do not accept the excuses, and inform him what the consequences will be. Be firm, but polite.
It doesn’t matter who his opponents in the AG race are. It doesn’t matter if he intends to vote against the bill after he schedules it (which is a total cop out anyway). We have to stand strong if we are going to stop this power-grab.
I would love to support Speaker Leonard for AG and tell delegates about how he heroically stopped SB97 from being passed. How he told the special interests they were going too far and put his foot down. That is the type of leadership profile I would love to see from an AG. But Speaker Leonard, this is the line in the sand. It is time to show whether you have the courage to lead, or you simply do not.