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For The Week Of January 13, 2017 Through January 19, 2017

A Tense Anticipation To The Inaugural

By John Lindstrom
Posted: January, 19 2017 4:02 PM

This is being published fewer than 24 hours before President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as President Trump. The reaction in Lansing to the upcoming next president is nervous.

Inaugurals always draw a mixed reaction, based on party preferences. Republicans are excited. At a minimum they are excited a Republican is being inaugurated president even if individually some are not all that excited about the specific Republican. Democrats, of course, range from bemused annoyance to outrage to being in one of several stages of mourning.

However, what is interesting is how nervous people are about soon-to-be President Trump. It is a nervousness shared mostly by folks who work in and around government. The people that understand the mechanics of making government work and how dramatic, sudden change can both toss a variety of wrenches into the works and dramatically affect people who rely on the services those works produce.

Mr. Trump holds two distinctions as he raises his right hand to take the oath on Friday. He is, first, the oldest president to be sworn in (it is a measure of the improvements in medicine, one can suppose, that his age has not been much of an issue).

He is also the only president who has not served the public in some fashion. He has no military background. Certainly no previous electoral experience. Never served on a city or county board. Unless at some time Mr. Trump was a notary public, he does not have a background of public service.

Not having previously served does not disqualify him, but it does mean Mr. Trump has not had the personal experience of negotiating the system and trying to make it work as seamlessly as possible.

Government is complicated for a variety of reasons. Two major ones are that government is trying to provide some good to the public while at the same time trying to make sure members of the same public aren’t trying to take advantage of that good. Following the path to reach both goals is often a slow journey, certainly slower than one wants, and usually involves crossing and merging with other paths for other services.

Once the paths reach their goals, however, the effects can be enormous. In some cases enormously good; in others, enormously bad; and sometimes the effects are both good and bad.

Which is what makes people nervous about Mr. Trump. He has called for massive change. Actually, that’s not unusual. People running for president typically do call for massive change. What makes people nervous is no one knows if Mr. Trump knows how to engineer change and the potential effect the change will have.

And in Mr. Trump’s case, no one knows if he even would care what the effects are.

This nervousness has been seen most in the health care community because of Mr. Trump and the Republican Congress’ intent to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Replacing it with what no one yet knows, but early indications are not promising to those who have benefitted under Obamacare. The more than 600,000 recipients of health insurance under Healthy Michigan are especially nervous.

But it is not just health care wonks who are nervous. Mr. Trump’s attacks on trade policy could have an effect on Michigan’s economy since the state is cheek-to-cheek with one the largest trading partners with the United States. The state is, in fact, looking to build a new bridge to enhance that trade. Could Mr. Trump have an impact on the forthcoming Gordie Howe Bridge?

Governor Rick Snyder has visited a lot of countries to encourage businesses there to do business here. Would trade changes affect those efforts?

Mr. Snyder also called for the state to actively add population. Mr. Trump has called for big changes in immigration. Since Mr. Snyder is clearly hoping for some immigration to get to 10 million people, could Michiganders be expected to produce those needed thousands the biological way if immigration is limited?

And Mr. Trump has called for big tax changes but also big spending increases, especially for infrastructure, so what effect might that have on the state budget?

Finally, there is the question of being a governmental neophyte, how much can Mr. Trump actually get accomplished. There is an old story that former President Dwight Eisenhower was asked what was the biggest difference between being a general and being president.

Ike supposedly answered: “When you’re a general and you tell people to do things, they do them.”

One can see now why this inaugural inspires such nervousness.

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Snyder’s State Of The State Speech: Deja Moo

By Zachary Gorchow
Posted: January, 18 2017 4:27 PM

The most memorable line of Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address was a bad pun about how he wants Michigan’s productive cows, No. 2 in the nation for milk production, to pass the top state, Colorado.

“We want Colorado to moo-ove on over," Mr. Snyder said before a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday night.

My Dad, who delighted in torturing my sister and me with bad puns when we were young, would say a pun has to be bad to be good (I cannot take credit/blame for the pun in the headline, having found it on the interwebs). And it’s good to hear Michigan’s important milk producing industry is thriving. Gongwer News Service’s resident dairy farming expert, retired Vice President Larry Lee, no doubt was amused.

But when Holsteinian humor is the most memorable moment of the biggest opportunity Mr. Snyder will have this year to address the state – massive social media coverage, livestreams everywhere online, wall-to-wall coverage on the state’s major newspapers and their websites, a live broadcast on public television and a gaggle of television news reporters making for most a rare trip to the capital city – Mr. Snyder’s speech left more than a few wondering what happened.

Mr. Snyder offered no new proposals, no roadmap for the year ahead other than essentially to stay the course. He barely mentioned the Flint water crisis, speaking for 97 seconds on it halfway through the speech (including breaks for applause). He did not address the other major fiasco that is hanging over his administration and state government, the tens of thousands of people falsely judged by a state-run computer his administration implemented to have committed fraud in seeking unemployment benefits.

It reminded one of Mr. Snyder’s widely panned 2012 State of the State address, where he offered one significant new proposal, to codify the Educational Achievement Authority for some Detroit schools.

Mr. Snyder’s job approval and favorability numbers have yet to recover from the hit they took as his administration’s handling of the decisions prior to Flint’s water becoming a full-blown crisis was revealed. A 54-minute speech chock-full of positive numbers about the state’s economy and other good developments in state government could be targeted at those voters who once liked Mr. Snyder but have since soured on him.

There will be significant issues this year – auto insurance, municipal employee retirement benefits, infrastructure, taxes, criminal justice and more. At least for now, Mr. Snyder either was not ready to offer a proposal or chose not to do so.

In 2012, Mr. Snyder said the style of his speech was in keeping with an older school model that was more of a literal State of the State, offering a report card of sorts and talking about where the state stood on a variety of fronts. Subsequent Snyder State of the State messages were meatier. In 2013, he emphasized his road funding plan. 2014 centered on his plan to bring Detroit out of bankruptcy. 2015 focused on his merger of the departments of Community Health and Human Services into the Department of Health and Human Services. And 2016 was heavily focused on Flint.

However, it should be noted that 2012 turned out to be one of the most consequential and prolific years for legislation in Michigan’s modern history, topped by Michigan becoming a right-to-work state. It’s also worth noting the Legislature drove that issue to become law over Mr. Snyder’s public disinterest. The same is true of the repeal of Michigan’s mandatory motorcycle helmet law and major changes to the law on recalling elected officials that were enacted that year.

Perhaps Mr. Snyder will do what he has done in past years and drive the legislative agenda with a series of subsequent proposals, offered via special messages or other means. When he has done so, it has left the Legislature with less time to pursue other issues.

When Mr. Snyder has stepped back, however, the Republicans in the Legislature have shown they will fill the void.

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The Story Behind Secretary of State Johnson And Her Kangaroo

By Danielle Emerson
Staff Writer
Posted: January, 13 2017 3:59 PM

Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has a new, non-native sidekick that wants to save you time by going online to for your typical Secretary of State needs.

“Kangaruth” debuted on YouTube two days ago and is getting some attention on social media with almost 2,000 views so far. The video features various clips of Secretary of State Ruth Johnson “rapping” about saving time and hopping online, complete with a kangaroo that is edited into the video throughout.

And yes, the kangaroo is real, so when Ms. Johnson appears to be leaning on it toward the end of the full video and it gives her a nibble, it actually happened.

“The secretary has a friend that had access to a kangaroo, and one thing led to another, and someone got the idea to encourage customers to ‘hop online,’” Department of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams told Gongwer News Service.

The video was produced in-house.

“I know that will surprise you,” Mr. Woodhams joked. “It’s something we’ve been working on. It’s light-hearted. People are definitely talking about it and will remember it.”

The full-version video is roughly a minute and a half, but there are shortened versions that will indeed be used to advertise Mr. Woodhams said the department doesn’t usually do advertising but it made a small cable television ad buy – costing less than $10,000 – for this one. It will run for a few days and was intended to coincide with the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“We’re making do with fewer staff and need to encourage people to go online to do their secretary of state business,” Mr. Woodhams said. “The more people that can go online, they will not only help themselves but other customers who might be required to come in for a photo, for example.”

As someone who will have to renew her tabs at the end of the month, I only wish there might also be a follow-up video with Ms. Johnson and her kangaroo thanking me for using the online service. Just a suggestion, though.

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