Editorial: House GOP smart to keep focus bipartisan

The Detroit News

Michigan House Republicans, led by Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, unveiled their Action Plan for the 100th Legislature Tuesday. It correctly prioritizes bipartisan issues such as civil asset forfeiture reform, fixing the roads and lowering car insurance for Michigan drivers.

These are important goals for lawmakers -- and the state -- and they are also a reasonable set of priorities given the current divided government. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has also said she supports several of these key initiatives.

The GOP Action Plan is an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to come together on issues that affect the daily lives of Michigan residents.

The plan, authored by the Policy Action Plan Committee chaired by Rep. Aaron Miller, R-Sturgis, focuses on five broad points: building Michigan’s future; defending the American way; standing up for the most vulnerable; protecting people and communities; and continuing Michigan’s comeback.

Where bipartisan agreement is most likely to be found, lawmakers should prioritize these policies.

Underlying the entire plan is a greater call for transparency for government by expanding Freedom of Information Act requests in Michigan to include the Legislature, the governor and the lieutenant governor.

These changes are long overdue, and the Republicans should be lauded for their efforts. Whitmer similarly issued an executive directive at the beginning of the month to ensure prompt responses for public record requests.

On the first day of the new legislative session, the Michigan House Republicans introduced a bill to remove the exemptions on the governor and lieutenant governor, and create a new Legislative Open Records Act to make nearly everything lawmakers do subject to public scrutiny.

Michigan is one of only two states that still has those exemptions, and getting rid of them would be an early bipartisan win for the Legislature.

The most potentially divisive issue in the Action Plan is a commitment by the House GOP to protect the proposed tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac which would house the Line 5 oil pipeline.

Whitmer has already asked Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel for an opinion on whether she can block the construction of the tunnel setting up a likely future political fight.

Regardless of what happens on the pipeline, lawmakers and the governor should be able to find plenty of room for common ground in the House agenda.

They'll almost certainly disagree about the best way to solve some of the state's longstanding problems, such as the condition of its roads, but both sides will need to compromise to find solutions that benefit all Michiganians.