Calley plans second Mackinac announcement

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is expected to make two significant announcements this week on Mackinac Island as anticipation mounts for his potential entrance into the 2018 gubernatorial race.

The Portland Republican has been teasing a May 30 reveal for more than a month through a series of online ads touting his leadership style and accomplishments alongside Gov. Rick Snyder, who is term-limited and cannot run for re-election next year.

Calley is scheduled to speak at a 3:15 p.m. event Tuesday on the island, where political and business leaders are gathering for an annual policy conference organized by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

The Detroit News has learned Calley is expected to make a second announcement Thursday, a date also teased on a new website inviting visitors to “Please come back on June 1st.”

Veteran state Capitol correspondent Tim Skubick reported this weekend that Calley may use the Tuesday event to throw his weight behind a push to make Michigan’s full-time Legislature a part-time institution.


Political strategist John Yob, who is working with Calley, would not confirm or deny the report.

“It is interesting to see all the different ideas that people have about the big announcement on Tuesday, but all I can say is stay tuned,” Yob said in an email.

Backing a petition drive and ballot proposal for a part-time Legislature could help Calley appeal to conservative primary voters wary of big government but frustrated by actions of the Snyder administration, including fuel tax increases and expansion of Medicaid eligibility under former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Calley has advocated for a part-time Legislature since at least 2009, when he served in the state House and co-sponsored a joint resolution introduced with now-U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, former Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema and State Board of Education member Tom McMillin.

Calley reiterated his position in 2014 as he sought to fend off a convention-nomination challenge from a tea party organizer, telling grassroots conservatives that part-time legislatures in other states produce fewer laws.

“That’s a win for the people in my book,” he wrote in an email to Republican activists.

Attorney General Bill Schuette, who also is contemplating a run for governor and could face Calley in the 2018 GOP primary, expressed his support for a part-time Legislature this week in a Detroit News op-ed. Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard, a potential candidate for attorney general, has backed the concept as well.

Michigan is one of 10 states with some form of a full-time legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Lawmakers here earn a base salary of $71,685.

Twenty-six other states have “hybrid” legislatures where members work the equivalent of roughly two-thirds of a full-time job and earn an average of $43,429 a year.

A group called the Clean MI Committee recently submitted, but withdrew because of an apparent technical issue, a draft petition to the Board of State Canvassers for a potential ballot proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution by limiting the Legislature to 90 concurrent session days each year.

The draft proposal also could halve legislator salaries by tying their pay and benefits to the average compensation for a Michigan teacher, pro-rated based on the limited number of session days each year.

Critics of a similar petition drive in 2014 said it would limit the amount of time legislators have to work with constituents and give more power to the executive branch. They also argued a part-time Legislature would limit the appeal of legislator jobs to retired or independently wealthy candidates and enhance the influence of lobbyists.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, has said he could only support a part-time Legislature proposal if it was paired with a plan to reform Michigan’s strict term-limits law.

“It would really limit the power of the people to speak to their legislators,” Meekhof said earlier this month. “If the citizens of Michigan want to vote that way, they have to understand the (governor) — Democrat or Republican — would have much, much more power.”