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Lansing — Democratic leaders criticized Gov. Rick Snyder’s “river of opportunity” initiative to help the poor, but pledged to work with the Republican leader on numerous issues.

House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills and Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich of Flint also agreed that Snyder did not go far enough in calling for a change in the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders; Snyder only asked to “keep up the dialogue.”

It is “something we very much welcome, of course; we as Democrats in the House have been unanimous in calling for amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to make sure that discrimination in employment and housing is prohibited based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Greimel said.

“I would have liked a little bit more boldness from the governor. I wish that he had gone before simply calling for a continuation of the discussion and had specifically asked for specific language in the ELCRA.

“We need bold leadership from the governor if we are going to persuade House Republicans and Senate Republicans to do the right thing,” he added.

On Snyder’s planned executive order to combine the Community Health and Human Services departments, the Democrats were skeptical.

“On the surface, conceptually, there’s a lot of good points to it but we need to … work together as this goes forward so that the people we’re supposed to be serving are helped the most,” Ananich said.

“We strongly agree with the governor’s stated goal of making sure that we’re delivering services in an effective way to those who need it the most,” Greimel said. “What we didn’t hear from the governor is any real specifics about how he’s going to accomplish that and what exactly he’s going to propose.”

“In the short term, there … will be a lot of costs to consolidating departments and he has not spoken yet on what that will cost the state budget and who’s going to pay for it,” Greimel said.

He also mocked Snyder’s “river of opportunity” phrase, calling it “a little bit of a forced and awkward metaphor perhaps.”

In the official Democratic response to Snyder’s speech, Sen. David Knezek of Dearborn Heights said the opposition party wants to work with the majority Republicans “in pursuit of common-sense legislation that promotes opportunity and fairness for everyone.”

Besides developing more jobs and improving educational opportunities, Knezek said Democrats want to expand civil rights protections and create a new government mandate.

“We should adopt common-sense policies like paid sick days and equal pay for women, and we must ensure equal rights for all citizens,” he said.

ddraplin@detroitnews.com

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