Snyder closes Michigan citizen input hotline early

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
As outgoing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s considers the fate of hundreds of bills sent to his desk during a busy lame duck session, his office is no longer accepting citizen input by phone or online email form.

Lansing — As outgoing Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder considers the fate of hundreds of bills sent to his desk during a busy lame duck session, his office is no longer accepting citizen input by phone or online email form.

The administration has officially shuttered its constituent services division as Snyder prepares to leave office at noon on Jan. 1, when Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer is sworn in as his successor.

Citizens who want to “share their opinion” with the governor on the state’s website are confronted with the equivalent of an out-of-office reply explaining the closure.

A voicemail on the executive office hotline tells callers that “unfortunately, due to the process of transitioning out of office as Governor Snyder’s term ends, we are no longer able to record comments or directly facilitate constituent requests.”

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said executive office staff is still monitoring the governor’s Twitter account and Facebook page, but because of the transition, “staffing is at an all-time low and equipment is being shut down and removed.”

Citizens "aren't likely" to receive a reply to social media comments, "but those of us left are continuing to share incoming sentiments with the governor," Adler said.

Snyder is expected to remain busy through the end of the year as he considers whether to sign or veto the more than 400 bills sent to his desk during the final weeks of the legislative term.

The Republican governor on Friday signed several five measures approved by the GOP-led Legislature but vetoed four others, including a measure that would have given the auditor general unrestricted access to confidential information in the executive branch.

Snyder is facing numerous calls to veto other measures, including a package that would make it more difficult to conduct petition drives. The legislation has angered liberal activists who spearheaded successful ballot campaigns this fall and several Republican officials who have run petition drives in the past.

Former Snyder aide Bill Rustem is among those who have urged the governor to veto the measure.

Another controversial bill would give the GOP-led Legislature more power to intervene in legal battles starting next year when Democratic Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel takes office. Former attorneys general Mike Cox, a Republican, and Frank Kelley, a Democrat, have both criticized the measure.

Various groups and officials are also calling on Snyder to veto a series of bills they claim could pose risks to the environment. In an unusual move, more than 80 state employees in the Department of Environmental Quality are urging Snyder to reject a plan that would change the state’s cleanup criteria for contaminated sites.

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, both Democrats, are among those asking Snyder to veto legislation that would allow a Van Buren Township landfill to accept radioactive fracking waste at up to 10 times the level currently allowed.

 Snyder has not given any indication whether he’ll sign any or all of the controversial proposals.

An accountant and self-described nerd, Snyder recently told The Detroit News he uses an Excel spreadsheet to “sort of do triage based on analysis” on lame-duck bills, dividing them by bills he is likely to support, wants to analyze further or thinks “could be problems.”

"The Governor will carefully review the final version of the legislation and then decide whether to sign it,” Adler said last week in a blanket statement about multiple bills.

In a voicemail message attributed to Snyder, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and the entire executive office, a narrator notes that over the last eight years, the governor’s office has received more than 553,000 comments and concerns through is website, email, phone calls and in-person visits.

The message directs callers to contact individual state departments and notes “the next administration” will take office at noon on Jan. 1 “to assist you further.”

The message from Snyder and his office ends on a positive note, thanking residents for the “honor and privilege” of serving them the past eight years.

“Let’s keep the momentum going.”