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Gov. Rick Snyder has sidelined himself in the race for president, choosing not to make an endorsement of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The Republican governor also did not endorse in the March 8 primary, saying he was consumed with addressing Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

“I’ve stayed out of the whole thing, and I’m going to continue to,” Snyder said Wednesday in an interview with The Detroit News Editorial Board at the Mackinac Policy Conference. “I’ve got important things I want to work on in Michigan.”

The Republican governor’s neutrality in the presidential race is in contrast to his lieutenant governor, Brian Calley, who recently urged fellow Republicans to unite behind Trump’s candidacy to keep Democrat Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

Snyder said he’s more focused on helping Republicans this fall retain the majority in the Michigan House of Representatives.

“When I look at the upcoming election in November, my biggest issue is hopefully re-electing the House, because I think that’s important,” Snyder told The News. “We’ve had a great partnership there, and I think it’d be great to continue that.”

Snyder has been dealing with crises such as Flint's lead-contaminated water as well as the mounting debt of the Detroit Public Schools that threatens to turn into a bankruptcy unless action is taken before mid-June.

Snyder used his opening remarks Wednesday at the Mackinac Policy Conference to try to beat back a growing argument that his administration has been paralyzed by the Flint crisis.

“The reports of my demise are well-overblown,” Snyder said to laughter and applause from business and civic leaders packed inside a Grand Hotel ballroom.

Open line between Lansing, Mackinac event

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and House Speaker Kevin Cotter will be hundreds of miles apart this week as the Republicans try to hammer out a deal on a Detroit schools bailout, but Meekhof took an extra step to stay in touch when he headed up to the Mackinac Policy Conference.

“I’m bringing extra batteries for my phone,” Meekhof, the West Olive Republican, said Tuesday. “Whatever they need – to get a hold if me if they’re working on something – I want to be in contact.”

The House plans to remain in session this week in Lansing despite the annual island confab, which many members typically attend. The Senate adjourned early Wednesday so members could begin driving north.

Meekhof said he thinks the conference can be a productive venue for continued talks on Detroit Public Schools debt relief even if House members aren’t there.

“There’s plenty of folks who want to talk to our policy makers, to weigh in and give their estimation,” he said. “I think it’s good, it’s a good interaction.”

Panel pushes amendment on state workers forward

A Republican-led House committee on Wednesday advanced House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s proposed constitutional amendment that would change civil service rules and make it easier to fire state workers, including environmental department employees blamed for the Flint water crisis.

Democrats have accused Republicans led by Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, of trying to capitalize on anger over the Flint crisis to weaken longstanding employment protections for state workers, but Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ronna Romney McDaniel on Wednesday accused one Democrat who voted against the proposal of siding with “deep pocketed, Big-Labor contributors.”

Rep. Winnie Brinks, D-Grand Rapids, “needs to put the interests of the residents she represents first,” McDaniel said. “... However, it appears she’s unwilling to do that. Residents in her district deserve a representative who works for their needs first, not a rubber stamp for Big Labor.”

Brinks is one of five committee Democrats who voted against the proposal, but she was the only legislator named in a GOP release sent minutes after the committee vote. She also happens to represent a competitive district that Republicans hope to recapture this fall, regardless of whether Cotter’s proposal makes the ballot.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting and Chad Livengood

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