GOP bid to strip power from Democratic secretary of state likely dead
Lansing — A Senate Republican power play proposal to shift campaign oversight from Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson to a new political commission is poised to die in the Michigan House.
The House Elections Committee will not take up the controversial legislation when it meets Wednesday morning for the last time of the year, said Rep. Aaron Miller, who chairs the panel.
With two days left in the lame-duck session, the proposal is “dead” in committee, Miller, R-Sturgis, said late Tuesday. “No games are going to be played tomorrow. Full disclosure, those bills are not coming up tomorrow.”
While it’s technically possible the GOP-led House still could discharge the legislation from committee for floor action, a caucus source told The Detroit News that is not expected to happen.
Instead, the House is unlikely to act on the proposal, which prompted national media coverage as part of a Republican push to strip powers from incoming Democrats who swept the top of the ticket on Nov. 6.
“I don’t want to speak for individual members, but from what I heard, support was lacking,” said Miller.
A separate measure approved by the House and awaiting action in the full Senate would guarantee the GOP-led Legislature could intervene in state legal cases when laws are challenged, a power that would otherwise be reserved for Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel.
Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer, also a Democrat, has urged term-limited Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to veto the power play measures if they reached his desk and this week fundraised off the bills, which she called a “last-ditch effort to undermine the results of this election.”
The campaign finance proposal from Sen. Dave Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, would have created a bipartisan committee, comprised of members recommended by each major political party, to oversee compliance with state disclosure laws.
Supporters said the proposal was modeled after the Federal Elections Commission and would have required bipartisan cooperation. But critics, including Benson, argued the 3-3 panel would routinely deadlock along party lines.
The "hyper-partisan legislation" would have "effectively ended the enforcement of Michigan's campaign finance law," Benson said in a statement late Tuesday. "I am pleased the House Republicans appear to agree and I look forward to collaborating with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on ways we can take Michigan from worst to first in ethics and transparency."
The House Elections Committee on Wednesday is expected to take up a separate Senate-approved bill that would create a five-year statute of limitations for prosecution on violations of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act. The measure is also sponsored by Robertson, whose former campaign treasurer is a suspect in an ongoing state police embezzlement probe.
Another bill set for action at the Wednesday morning hearing would change rules for closing an old candidate committee. But according to the House GOP source, the measure will be amended to prevent lawmakers from using senate campaign accounts to pay off old debts from their House campaigns, stripping a provision that could have benefited two term-limited Senators.
“We will see amendments on that tomorrow,” Miller confirmed. “I don’t want to specify what those are yet, but that bill is going to see changes.”
Detroit News Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.