Political Insider: Dingells differ on fuel economy

Dingells differ on fuel economy

Constituents of the 12th Congressional District received an early indication this week about at least one way Rep. Debbie Dingell differs from her husband, the just-retired Rep. John Dingell.

The Dearborn Democrat visited the North American International Auto Show Monday and took the occasion to gush about the commitment of General Motors Co. and other domestic automakers in meeting the Obama administration’s 54.5 miles-per-gallon corporate average fuel economy standard by 2025. Rep. Debbie Dingell’s trumpeting of President Barack Obama’s “high standard” came as consumers are taking advantage of $2-a-gallon gasoline and shifting their purchases away from small fuel-efficient cars, gas-electric hybrids and electric vehicles to larger, fuel-slurping trucks and sport utility vehicles.

“The agreement on CAFE which President Obama reached is one of the most important environmental accomplishments of this generation,” Rep. Debbie Dingell said in a statement. “... Strong CAFE standards continue to be a win-win for consumers, the industry and the environment.”

Husband John Dingell certainly nudged automakers to accept higher fuel efficiency standards. But he pushed for regulators to build in safeguards to make sure practical concerns about consumer needs and price tag increases were weighed.

“Of critical importance in the standard is the mid-term review, which will allow all parties to take a step back and reevaluate, making necessary adjustments,” then-Rep. John Dingell said in a 2012 statement. “In addition, the flexibilities built into the program are of the utmost importance.”

Democrat pushes unity

State Sen. Dave Knezek has been appointed finance chairman to unite Senate Democrats and their supporters by raising money for the party, but he was hardly a unifier during the Aug. 5 primary contest for the seat he eventually won.

Back then, the first-term state representative from Dearborn Heights, who is white, was highlighting policy differences between himself and his African-American opponents from Detroit, who included then-Rep. David Nathan, then-Rep. Thomas Stallworth III and former Rep. Shanelle Jackson. The district covers the west side of Detroit as well as Garden City, Dearborn Heights, Redford Township and Inkster.

Nathan accused Knezek of targeting white voters in a district where 40 percent of voters are from Detroit. “This whole divide-and-conquer mentality is just complete BS,” Knezek told The News at the time and then cruised to victory.

Knezek said in his fundraising pitch Tuesday that he doesn’t want “deep-pocketed donors funding our campaigns like our opponents. Frankly, I don’t want them.” (Millionaires, please take note). Instead, he urged thousands of grassroots Democrats to “send a strong message today” and send $10.

Bernstein makes debut

When the Michigan Supreme Court held its first oral arguments of the year, it marked the first time Justice Richard Bernstein was on the bench.

Bernstein of Farmington Hills replaced longtime Justice Michael Cavanagh, who had to retire last year because of age limits.

Bernstein, who is blind, was guided Tuesday into the Supreme Court’s chamber to his seat on the opposite end of the justices’ entrance by Justice Bridget Mary McCormack. Bernstein and McCormack are the court’s only Democratic-nominated justices.

At the start of Tuesday’s hearing, Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. welcomed Bernstein and quipped: “He passed his first test with the instruction to his seat.

Chamber’s tax support

The Detroit Regional Chamber got out ahead of the statewide chamber Wednesday by supporting a May 5 ballot measure that would increase the 6 percent sales tax to 7 percent as part of an annual $1.2 billion road funding increase.

“There is a cost to maintaining our roads, and the longer we wait the higher that cost is going to be,” Detroit Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said in a statement.

Richard Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, told The Detroit News as the Legislature approved the deal on Dec. 18-19 his group would decide this year whether to back the ballot measure. But he noted that the businesses that make up the chamber's membership oppose a sales tax increase because they see it as an economic damper.

“We are taking some time to carefully listen to our members and to allow our board of directors to discuss the ballot proposal before the Michigan Chamber takes a position, if any,” Michigan chamber spokeswoman Betty McNerney said Wednesday.

In December, Studley criticized the Legislature for not showing leadership and passing the decision to voters.

“The chamber is disappointed in the Legislature’s inability to get this done, but we cannot let a failure in legislative leadership undermine Michigan’s economy and future,” Baruah said Wednesday.

Gov working on running

Gov. Rick Snyder continued to be noncommital this week about whether he will run for president as the ranks of interested Republican candidates swelled with 2012 nominee Mitt Romney seriously considering another candidacy.

Asked at the North American International Auto Show if he had any new thoughts about whether he would run for president, the Republican governor laughed it off.

“Right now I’m just trying to get around. I’m back to working on literal running first,” he said.

When asked about whether Romney should run again, Snyder said, “I’m not going to get behind any particular person.”

Contributors: Chad Livengood, Richard Burr and David Shepardson