Pence hires another Snyder staffer

The Detroit News

For the second time in as many months, a staffer for Gov. Rick Snyder is leaving Michigan to work for Vice President Mike Pence in Washington, D.C.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Paciorek is leaving the governor’s office to serve in the same role under Pence, a Snyder spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday after an inquiry from The Detroit News.

Former Chief of Staff Jarrod Agen left the Snyder administration earlier this year to serve as director of communications for Pence, who served as governor of Indiana before winning election as the running mate of President Donald Trump. Snyder has a solid relationship with Pence, although Trump has taken shots at the governor for remaining uncommitted during the campaign.

Amash misses first vote in Congress

Republican Rep. Justin Amash, who represents Michigan’s 3rd District, missed his first vote in Congress last week, ending a remarkable six-year, 4,293-vote streak dating to when he joined the chamber in 2011.

“#MI03, I’m sorry,” Amash tweeted after missing the roll call vote Friday.

The Grand Rapids-area lawmaker broke his streak while talking to reporters off the House floor about his criticisms of the House Republicans’ health care bill, which he calls “repackaged” Obamacare.

According to Politico, when Amash realized the vote had closed, he asked floor staff and House leadership to re-open the vote or call it again, but they did not. “Amash hung his head low and was overcome with emotion on the House floor when he realized he’d missed the vote,” those on the floor told Politico.

Amash, 36, also never missed a vote when he served in the state Legislature from 2008 to 2010, where his streak stretched to 1,321 straight votes.

In response to his opposition to the GOP health care plan, Amash was among a group of conservative Republicans targeted in ads last week by the American Action Network, which is aligned with GOP House leaders.

“Tell Congressman Amash to vote with President Trump,” to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the narrator says in the ad, providing an (800) number.

Amash responded on Twitter: “GOP Establishment is now running ads targeting House conservatives who oppose Obamacare 2.0. I always enjoy watching the establishment burn money.”

Lawmaker critic sticks with smart meter

During the record-breaking windstorm that left more than 800,000 people without power last week, a lawmaker who’s pushing a bill to allow Michigan residents to opt for analog utility meters at their homes had his own “smart meter” knocked out of commission by the storm.

The digital “smart meter” at Midland Republican Rep. Gary Glenn’s home was disabled when the storm killed the power at his home, according to a report from the Michigan Information & Research Service. Glenn’s meter was replaced with an analog meter when a worker came to evaluate storm damage at his property, but it was later swapped with a newer digital version after Glenn called Consumers Energy lobbyist Cathy Wilson about the issue, MIRS reported.

Glenn chairs the House Energy Policy Committee, which has been the site of heated debate over a bill he’s sponsoring to allow residents to opt for older, non-digital meters for a $4 annual fee. Industry experts say the bill would cost residents and businesses an estimated $9 million more a year.

Glenn is sponsoring the legislation amid concern from some DTE and Consumers Energy customers that their smart meters might hurt their health and invade their privacy because the electronic meters can transport utility usage information directly to companies. Utility representatives have said that the radio-frequency radiation that the meters emit – similar to what microwaves, cell phones and WiFi devices give off – is minimal compared with other sources.

Glenn has said he is intentionally avoiding making a judgment about the validity of some utility customers’ fears. He instead argues that residents should have the right to opt out if they so choose, whatever the reason.

State ed board opposes its proposed death

The State Board of Education opposes a recommendation to abolish the State Board of Education, according an official statement adopted Tuesday by the State Board of Education.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s 21st Century Education Commission last week called for a governance overhaul -- which would require voter approval via ballot proposal -- to either abolish the State Board, allow the governor to appoint members or expand the board to include both elected members and gubernatorial appointees.

Some education advocates say disconnects between state board members, the governor and legislators have complicated efforts to advance comprehensive reforms. But members say the elected board provides “the strongest possible conduit” between state policies and local control.

“We believe that the Constitution’s provision for a publicly elected body supervising public schools is a critical component for transparency and continuous oversight of education policy,” the board said in a joint statement.

“It is essential that the voice of Michigan’s citizens – including its families, students and educators – be respected and heard as part of the state’s framework for improving our education outcomes.”

The State Board of Education is split along party lines, with four Republican members and four Democrats. Members are nominated at political party conventions and then elected by voters in statewide elections.

“No top-performing states who have a state board of education choose their state board members through a party convention,” according to the 25-member 21st Century Education Commission appointed by Snyder.

While the board structure outlined in the Michigan Constitution is intended to shield education decisions from “day-to-day politics,” the commission said “accelerating political forces do not allow the SBE to play its independent education policy leadership role.”

Peters gets influential post

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township will serve as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, which oversees agencies that are important to the Great Lakes, including the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA’s Office of Marine Sanctuaries manages the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which includes more than 100 shipwrecks, while maintaining responsible recreational and commercial uses in the area. NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor monitors and predicts harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie, conducts research projects and forecasts ice cover, water levels and currents on the Great Lakes.

The Coast Guard has more than a dozen stations across the state, actively patrolling the northern border, responding to potential oil spills, managing boat traffic on the Great Lakes, and conducting ice-breaking operations to facilitate the vessel movement.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Melissa Nann Burke and Michael Gerstein