Insider: Capitol lawn's menorah lights up holiday debate
Lansing — Michigan's Capitol lawn needs a menorah that stays put throughout the holiday season, according a resolution that stalled this week in the state Senate.
Currently, the lawn outside the Capitol features only a 61-foot blue spruce described by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget as the official state Christmas tree.
Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, who is Jewish, proposed a resolution Tuesday to allow a menorah, a symbol of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, to also have a spot on the Capitol lawn throughout the holidays. Senate GOP leadership sent the resolution to a committee instead of holding a vote to support it.
"One person is saying no to the budget. One person is saying no to the menorah. And it's the same person," Moss remarked later, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, who Democrats allege has held up budget negotiations in the Capitol.
The Michigan Capitol Commission has allowed a menorah and other religious symbols to have space on the Capitol lawn, but they must be no larger than 4 feet by 4 feet. They must also be removed each night and re-installed each morning.
Moss argues it's unfair that a Christmas tree stays outside the Capitol from November through Christmas, but a menorah has to be removed by volunteers each evening.
The Michigan Capitol Commission has had conversations with the Jewish Federation previously about the matter, said John Truscott, the commission's vice chairman. The difference is a Christmas tree is a secondary religious symbol, and a menorah is a primary religious symbol, Truscott said of the commission's position.
Shirkey argued that no one is restricted from putting up a menorah on the Capitol lawn. The person just has to put it up and take it down each day under the commission's policies, he noted.
Supporters of the Capitol lawn menorah are considering other options. Moss said Lansing Mayor Andy Schor, who is Jewish, would like to light the menorah along with the Christmas tree during Lansing's Silver Bells in the City holiday event on Nov. 22.
Senate OKs deer baiting bill
Just before leaving Lansing Wednesday for what's often called the "hunting break," the Michigan Senate approved a bill that would repeal state rules banning deer baiting.
The bill, which has been backed by musician Ted Nugent but opposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration, passed the Senate by a vote of 21-14. It aims to undo a ban by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission in 2018 to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer gathered around bait piles.
The Senate added a two-year sunset to the bill, meaning lawmakers would have to revisit the issue in two years.
Kelly Straka, a wildlife veterinarian for the Department of Natural Resources, told a Senate committee Tuesday the bill was shortsighted and would do "irreparable harm."
Nugent has criticized state officials for putting the baiting ban in place.
"If they think they can stop deer from swapping spit, they're idiots," Nugent told a House committee earlier this year.
The House would have to approve the bill before sending it to Whitmer, who is expected to veto it. The Senate isn't expected to have another session day until Dec. 3.
Digital ads target Slotkin, Stevens
A national nonprofit focused on promoting “center-right” ideas is spending about $100,000 in digital ads against U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Holly and Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills for their backing of an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
The American Action Network ads launched Wednesday, the same day the public impeachment hearings into Trump began.
The ads against Democrats Slotkin and Stevens are part of a $2 million issue advocacy campaign reaching out to constituents in the districts of 37 congressional members whom the network hopes to convince to vote against impeachment.
Slotkin and Stevens, who both flipped Republican seats in 2018, supported the impeachment inquiry into Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to determine whether it tied the delay of U.S. aid to a desired probe into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.
The American Action Network ads feature a photo of the Congress members and urge voters to tell their representative to “stop this partisan charade” and “work on issues we care about.” The ad also features a link to generate an email to the representative.
Congress’ focus should be on fair trade agreements, job creation and border security, “not getting bogged down in what is clearly a partisan impeachment charade,” American Action Network President Dan Conston said in a statement.