State Rep. Driskell’s missed road aid votes set off highway funding fight
The campaigns of U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, and state Rep. Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, traded barbs last week over how the other candidate doesn’t take highway funding seriously enough.
Driskell, who is challenging Walberg in 2016, was the only member to miss the vote in the Michigan House of Representatives last week on a $1.2 billion road funding package. The legislation passed the Republican-controlled chamber largely along party lines, though the Senate has rejected the plan.
Driskell was absent in Lansing because she was in Washington for a pre-scheduled trip that involved congressional candidate training and meeting with members of Congress and party leadership.
“Driskell should explain why she would attack Tim Walberg on his vote to ensure that the Highway Trust Fund continues to be funded, since she was too busy campaigning for her next office to bother to do her current job in Lansing,” National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Chris Pack said.
He was referring to Driskell’s criticism of Walberg for Congress’ failure to pass a long-term funding bill for transportation infrastructure. Driskell has said Walberg opted to “kick the can down the literally crumbling road” by voting for a short-term funding patch.
In explaining her missed votes on road funding bills, Driskell said in a statement that she would have voted “no” because leadership “chose the worst path forward — a hastily conceived, last-minute, middle-of-the-night, partisan plan that sticks the entire bill on the backs of working families.”
“The package is fiscally irresponsible, which is why several pro-business organizations, like the Detroit Chamber of Commerce and Business Leaders of Michigan, have been outspoken in opposition,” she said.
Driskell has missed 19 of 388 votes so far this year, but 18 of those were last Wednesday and Thursday. That is the eighth-most missed votes among House members including Detroit state Rep. Stephanie Chang, a Democrat who was on maternity leave this summer. In the previous two years, Driskell missed 27 votes.
Walberg has missed seven of 576 roll-call votes this year. Last Congress, he missed 20 of 1,204 votes.
“Rep. Walberg did not miss any votes to attend out-of-town campaign fund-raising events for a different political office,” Walberg spokesman Dan Kotman said. “They were for personal reasons like illness and the birth of his granddaughter.”
Dems: Fire DPS EM
Democrats have called for Gov. Rick Snyder to fire Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Darnell Earley for his role as Flint’s emergency manager when Flint switched from Detroit’s water in April 2014.
Flint’s decision to switch to Flint River water proved to be disastrous because the corrosive river water leached lead from Flint’s aging pipes, leading to elevated levels of the harmful metal in children.
Earley said Tuesday the 2013 decision to leave the Detroit water system was made by his predecessor, Ed Kurtz, who moved to upgrade Flint’s water treatment plant.
“That plan was already in place when I got there,” Earley said before a hearing at the Capitol on the finances of DPS.
Earley called the spike in lead levels “an unintended consequence” of the switch.
“It fell to me to implement the plan that had been approved by the (Flint city) council,” Earley told reporters. “And part of the plan including using the Flint River as a water source.”
Asked whether he thought the Flint River water could be dangerous, Earley replied: “It didn’t fall to me to second guess that issue.”
Snyder has suggested he is withholding judgment of officials involved in Flint’s water woes until he get a report on the decision-making process at the local and state level.
Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, says the lack of firings by Snyder following the Flint water crisis is “pathetic.”
“If this would have happened in a community that’s represented by Republicans or an affluent community, I think his reaction would have been much different,” Dillon told The Detroit News.
“...If this would have happened in the corporate world, somebody would have been fired immediately,” Dillon added in a shot at Snyder’s career in corporate America.
Political football, for real
Republican U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga and Mike Bishop were scheduled to be in Wednesday’s lineup for 2015 Congressional Football Game for Charity, following several weeks of running drills at early-morning practices on the National Mall in Washington.
The game pits members of Congress — the Mean Machine — against the U.S. Capitol Police — The Guards — at Watkins Recreation Field on Capitol Hill. The $10 tickets benefit three charities: Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Our Military Kids, and A Advantage for Kids.
Huizenga of Zeeland and Bishop of Rochester, who have practiced three mornings a week since Labor Day, Huizenga said.
Bishop played football for for Rochester Adams High School. Huizenga played as a boy through eighth grade but gave it up in secondary school because Holland Christian High School didn’t have a team at the time.
Wednesday’s showdown was scheduled to go on rain or shine with Bishop playing the positions of running back and insider linebacker and Huizenga playing safety and the offensive line.
“The first year, I ruptured my calf muscle breaking on a pass in practice,” Huizenga said. “I was in a wheelchair. Staff has made clear to me (this year) that I am totally on my own if I injure myself again.”
The members’ roster gets a boost from more than a dozen participating NFL alumni including Honorary Captain and Hall of Fame running back John Riggins, who played for the Redskins and Jets, and former Detroit Lions running back Kenny Jenkins.
“The problem is we don’t work out for a living like the Capitol Police officers do,” Huizenga said. “They have a very serious team that plays in a league — that’s why we get the advantage of the NFL players.”
Contributors: Melissa Nann Burke and Chad Livengood