Spat lands Detroit rep in Appropriations vice chair

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — New Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter has chosen Detroit Rep. Harvey Santana as minority vice chairman of the Appropriations Committee after 11 Democratic committee members refused the position.

Signaling an acrimonious start to the new legislative session, the Mount Pleasant Republican speaker said he chose Santana, a Democrat, to end a “manufactured drama.”

House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills had requested that Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, serve as Appropriations Committee minority vice chairman. Dillon has been among the more outspoken minority-party critics of Republican policies.

Cotter initially chose Rep. Pam Faris, D-Clio, irking Democrats who said House speakers customarily honor minority leader committee requests.

Faris refused the assignment. She and 10 other Democrats he had appointed to the powerful committee, whose biggest task is the state budget, wrote to Cotter saying none of them would serve as its minority vice chair until he showed respect for Grimel’s wishes.

On Monday, Cotter said he picked Santana, who formed a cordial working relationship with previous Republican Speaker Jase Bolger of Marshall during the 2013-2014 legislative session. Cotter, in a letter to Greimel, said Santana “has always been focused on serving the people, and I am counting on him to help us all move on and move forward.”

“With a $50-billion budget to balance and 10 million Michiganders counting on us, we simply don’t have time to put up with ridiculous stunts,” Cotter added.

He said Santana will replace Faris on Appropriations and on the House Fiscal Agency Governing Committee. Faris will replace Santana on the House Committee on Financial and Liability Reform and the House Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Cotter said.