Michigan Legislature elects leaders
Lansing — The 148 members of Michigan’s 98th Legislature convened for the first time Wednesday to ceremoniously take their oaths of office as legislative leaders pledged bipartisan cooperation.
The House unanimously elected Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, the speaker, while Sen. Arlan Meekhof assumed the role of majority leader in the Senate after four years as floor leader.
The House of Representatives has 43 newly elected freshmen members who made their way to their seats before the new session began at noon, as required by the state constitution.
Rep. Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said he was eager to learn of his committee assignments and get to work for his Emmet County constituents.
“I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas,” said Chatfiled, 26, who taught high school at a private Christian school in Burt Lake before winning a seat in the House last year.
Cotter succeeds former Rep. Jase Bolger of Marshall as speaker, but only has one two-year term to be in charge because of constitutional term limits.
“One thing is a certain that our time in this chamber will be short,” Cotter said.
Cotter had advice for the large freshman class that includes 26 Republicans and 17 Democrats.
“It would be a mistake to make assumptions about how politics is supposed to work or about who we’re supposed to work with,” he said.
Republicans hold a 67-43 majority in the House and a 27-11 super majority in the Senate, an improvement from the last terms.
In the Senate, the new Democratic leader said senators from opposing parties should not view the other as an enemy.
“Let’s try to hold on to these feelings of camaraderie and collegiality ... for the next four years,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint.
Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. administered the oath of office to all 110 House members and 38 senators in separate mass ceremonies.
The chief justice also shared his unsolicited advice for members of the legislative branch of state government.
“You ought to pay a lot of attention to the words you put into those statutes because we’re going to give them their plain and ordinary meaning,” Young told House members.
Speaking to senators, Young noted the physical separation between the Capitol and Michigan Hall of Justice, which houses the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.
“Words matter — at least across the mall they do,” Young said.