Calley hands off part-time Legislature petition drive

Jonathan Oosting

Lansing — Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is stepping aside from the part-time Legislature petition drive he helped launch five months ago as he continues to prepare for a likely run for governor.

Calley said Friday that State Board of Education member Tom McMillin, a former state representative from Rochester Hills, will take over leadership of the petition drive that seeks to halve legislator pay and make their jobs part-time.

McMillin’s “experience and success in organizing and leading grassroots activists in Michigan is exactly what Clean Michigan Government needs,” Calley said in a statement. “This initiative started with the grassroots, and it is the grassroots that will push it over the top.”

A press release announcing the leadership change did not explain the “transition,” and Calley did not immediately respond to a voicemail from The Detroit News.

But the Portland Republican told The Associated Press he intends to shift his focus to a “broader agenda to continue Michigan’s comeback in 2018 and beyond.” He said he’ll continue to advocate for the part-time Legislature proposal and indicated the committee is halfway to collecting the 315,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot.

Calley launched the petition drive May 30 on Mackinac Island after running a series of online ads that talked about himself, his family and his political accomplishments, fueling speculation he was set to announce a gubernatorial campaign at that time.

The petition drive has hit snags, including questions over anonymous donors and early use of a signature gathering firm headed by a man previously convicted of election fraud in Virginia.

Calley reset the petition drive in July, scrapping thousands of signatures that had been already collected to revise the language, a move he said would strengthen it to protect against potential legal challenges.

The proposed constitutional amendment would generally require the Michigan Legislature to complete its regular session each year by April 15, as opposed to the original version that sought to limit the Legislature to 90 consecutive session days.

It would cut legislator pay by tying their salaries and benefits to average teacher compensation, pro-rated to reflect a shorter work year.

Campaign finance reports indicate the committee had raised $887,174 for the petition drive through Oct. 20. The “Fund for Michigan Jobs,” a non-profit that does not disclose donors, had contributed $666,000. Other top donors included businessman William Parfet, who kicked in $100,000.

Calley has not announced a campaign but is expected to seek the 2018 GOP nomination to replace term-limited Gov. Rick Snyder. Announced candidates include Attorney General Bill Schuette of Midland, state Sen. Pat Colbeck of Canton and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines.

GOP strategist Stu Sandler, who is backing Schuette and recently launched a super political action committee to support his gubernatorial run, on Friday bashed what he called the continuing “Brian Calley clown car.”

The petition drive that “was supposed to raise (Calley’s) poll numbers was as effective as setting the money on fire,” Sandler wrote on Twitter.

McMillin and Calley worked together in the state Legislature and co-sponsored a 2009 resolution seeking to create a part-time Legislature.

“I’m calling for conservatives across the state to come together and help us get Clean MI Government on the ballot in 2018,” McMillin said in a statement.