Recently, I received an email showing all of the “conservative leaders” throughout the state of Michigan who support House Speaker Tom Leonard for Attorney General. This list of leaders assured me that Leonard’s leadership record in the House was impeccible and that he is a man who “truly understands our issues and stands up for our values.”
Then I saw that he voted for House Bill 5325 (HB5325), legislation that hikes property taxes on homeowners for the purposes of crony giveaways to well-connected private interests. This scam is called a “special assessment” and a similar scheme may be on a local ballot in your municipality in the near future. This fraud is now picking up steam because of Leonard’s actions.
MichiganVotes.org describes the bill as follows:
“To expand the taxing power of local authorities created to deliver direct and indirect subsidies to business property owners in “principal shopping districts” and “business improvement districts,” by letting them impose property taxes styled as “special assessments” on home and residential property owners. Under current law residential property is excluded from the “assessments” these entities are authorized to impose.”
HB5325 is a power-grab that will allow private businesses to soak up your property taxes in order to make their businesses more profitable at your direct expense. This is one of the latest cons that Lansing has devised to rob us of our hard-earned money and funnel it into the coffers of their cronies. No doubt the lobbyist who cooked up with this scheme was rewarded handsomely by their special interest masters.
Unsurprisingly, HB5325 passed through the House by an overwhelming 76-32 margin. It was the Republicans, under the “conservative leadership” of Speaker Leonard, who overwhelmingly supported this legislation, although it did pass with a massive bipartisan consensus. Only 16 Democratic lawmakers and 16 Republican lawmakers had the courage to oppose it. Leonard’s right hand man, Speaker Pro Tempore Lee Chatfield, also voted affirmatively on the legislation. The young guns of the MIGOP are apparently as dismal and underwhelming as the young guns of the national GOP.
While I am accustomed to politicians flagrantly breaking promises to their constituents, the brazenness of Leonard’s betrayal stands out to me. I had figured that he would schedule the bill for a vote in the House knowing it would pass and then vote “NO” against it during roll call. This is a classic move that leadership figures use to satisfy their special interest masters while appearing to stand strong to their constituents. It usually works on the hapless public, but Leonard didn’t even bother trying to conceal his betrayal. And to do so at a time when you need these people to make you Attorney General, what chutzpah!
Perhaps this was a vote where Leonard’s paymasters gave him no choice but to bow down and kiss the ring. As can be seen by his campaign finance records, Leonard is receiving money from the usual suspects behind deceit and deception in Lansing. His top donors include the Michigan Chamber of Commerce PAC, Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association PAC, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan PAC. His full list of donors is a veritable who’s who of corporate villains behind everything that is wrong in Lansing. They grease over both side of the political aisle to achieve their desired result, which is why you always see massive bipartisan majority support for all of the worst bills in Lansing.
Leonard is a man who has always billed himself out as a conservative champion. He is running on that record, and yet has the audacity to back decidedly anti-conservative, anti-free market legislation in broad daylight. Perhaps it’s because he has so many “conservative leaders” in his back pocket that he feels he can act in this manner and nobody will hold him accountable. Considering the nature of the Michigan Republican Party, he probably calculated correctly. There isn’t a whole lot of fight left in the conservative movement of Michigan as the tea party fades from memory and Bill Schuette’s coronation nears completion.
Nevertheless, the minority of us who actually care about the issues ought to make an issue of Leonard’s betrayal. Perhaps Rep. Leonard’s opponent in the Attorney General race – Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker – can use this legislation as a wedge issue to show that she actually has the courage to lead. Her record is far from spotless to be sure, but in the heat of this contentious race, she can prove that she has better leadership bona fides than Leonard by fiercely opposing HB5325. Or perhaps if Leonard feels enough of a backlash, he will do the right thing in regards to other terrible legislation that is currently active in the House – such as even worse crony giveaway in SB97.
Sadly though, it’s likely going to take a hard fall in November before the Michigan Republican Party has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever reforming its ways. Until that happens, you can expect many more terrible bills to be muscled through with only token opposition from your favorite Republicans.