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Billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert would have no problem financing a ballot initiative to reform Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be money well spent.

Michigan voters rejected reform proposals in 1992 and 1994, with each winning support from fewer than 40 percent of Michigan voters, Citizens Research Council President Eric Lupher reminded a Senate panel last Wednesday as lawmakers begin to debate the law.

“The moral of the story, if you look at the history, is anything this complicated can’t be done through initiative,” Lupher said. “It’s just too complicated, and people vote against what they don’t understand.”

The 1992 proposal would have Michigan’s unique guarantee of lifetime medical benefits for injured motorists, capping coverage at $250,000 while forcing insurers to reduce rates 20 percent. The 1994 proposal would have created a $1 million cap on medical benefits and forced a 16 percent rate reduction.

State Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, said he would prefer a legislative solution but thinks voters would approve an initiative — if it comes to that.

“I suspect that if a true no-fault reform were to go to the ballot, it would get overwhelming support,” he said. “The difference in sentiment today versus 1994 – the last time this was on the ballot – is indisputable.”

Michigan had the sixth highest auto insurance rates 25 years ago, and they are now the highest, he noted.

“I don’t think this ought to go to the ballot, because I think we can solve it legislatively,” Barrett said. “But short of that solution, I don’t think that a ballot initiative would fail.”

Levin: D.C. isn't Hockeytown

Freshman Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, hit the ice at Capitol One Arena in Washington last Wednesday night, playing in the nonprofit Congressional Hockey Challenge.

The annual game pits a team of House members and staffers against a team of lobbyists to raise money for charity. The Congress team beat the lobbyists 4-3.

Levin was assigned jersey No. 9 — presumably because he represents Michigan's 9th District in Oakland and Macomb counties.

"But it’s a little intimidating for a Detroit boy to get No. 9.I was a huge Gordie Howe fan growing up, and I would never have given myself No. 9 just out of humility. That's like the greatest to me," Levin said before the game. "I’m just tickled to get to play."

The annual event benefits two hockey-related charities, the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program and the Fort DuPont Ice Hockey Club, which aims to get inner-city youth involved in organized hockey.

Levin grew up playing hockey and usually plays three times a week as part of two recreational "beer" leagues and one pick-up game back home in Michigan.

He even had an ice-hockey commercial during his U.S. House campaign featuring his 13-year-old daughter Molly, who also plays.

Levin has found Washington isn't quite the Hockeytown that Detroit is, despite the Capitals winning the Stanley Cup last year. 

"I knew it was going to be pretty weak from a Hockeytown guy's point of view," Levin said. "It's just totally different." 

Defund Homeland Security? 

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, is among a group of freshman Democrats urging congressional negotiators to allocate "not another dollar" to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security or to the immigration enforcement or border patrol agencies. 

Tlaib, along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, more than a week ago wrote to House colleagues urging them to cut spending on detention facilities for immigrants, stop the administration from abusing transfer authority and institute accountability against abuses. 

"We have seen rampant spending on detention facilities for young children," they wrote. "The upcoming FY2020 budget process will be critical opportunity to take up conversations about reforms to the agency. In the meantime, not another dollar."  

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the deal under negotiation to avoid another shut down won't include funding for President Donald Trump's promised border wall; however, additional border security measures are reportedly under discussion. 

The freshman group's letter urges "support to stop the madness of increasing funding into a broken system that has hurt our families," Tlaib said on Twitter.

"We need to roll up our sleeves & actually pass comprehensive immigration reform.#not1dollar"

mburke@detroitnews.com

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