A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Ed. Note: This is part of a series of articles profiling a limited number of political races where the archives of Michigan Capitol Confidential store significant information that may be of interest to free-market inclined voters. In each of these profiles, the article will cover only the candidates who have compiled a vote history or other record that has been covered by this news service since it began as a print publication in fall 2007.

This is not to slight the candidates whose public record has not yet appeared in MichCapCon. In some cases, voters may determine that these are the best possible candidates in a given race. All voters are strongly encouraged to give every candidate a serious look.

The purpose of this series is to tell the interesting stories that are known about those issues that have been examined by this page over the last several years. MichCapCon has always targeted free-market issues, not individual political personalities. As such, these profiles should be viewed as only a small part of the overall policy picture.

This is not a comprehensive voter guide, not a comprehensive picture of any candidate and certainly not an endorsement of any candidate.

For a larger list of votes written up by MichCapCon, please see: www.MichCapCon.com/12541, and use the search feature on the home page. Additionally, every roll call vote for every bill considered by the Michigan Legislature since 2001 is available at www.MichiganVotes.org.

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Michigan's 11th state senate district comprises all of north and most of central Macomb County. Inside Michigan Politics ranks it as a "likely GOP" seat. It is currently held by Sen. Alan Sanborn, R-Richmond, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits.

Two candidates running in the GOP primary have compiled public policy records that have appeared in MichCapCon. They are: current state Rep. Kim Meltzer of Macomb Township and former state Rep. Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township.

Former Republican state Rep. Leon Drolet of Macomb Township is also a candidate for this seat. He left the Michigan House due to term limits after 2006. However, while few of his votes have appeared in these pages, he has remained an active participant in the public policy arena and has been a subject in a few MichCapCon stories, one of which is noted below.

Colleen Saputo of Macomb Township is the fourth Republican in the race. Information available online for her is very sparse and she does not appear to have a campaign website. The same is true for Democrat Jim Ayres of Chesterfield Township. The Democrat primary field also includes one other candidate who does have an online presence: 23-year-old Oakland University graduate Jonathan Garstka of Macomb Township.

The voting patterns in MichCapCon stories for Meltzer and Brandenburg generally reveal lawmakers who vote with the Republicans, but there are interesting exceptions.

Like the large majority of Republicans, both Brandenburg and Meltzer opposed the $1.4 billion in state tax hikes that were approved at the end of 2007 (see: www.MichCapCon.com/9134). When it came time to spend these tax hikes, Meltzer approved spending increases of more than $174 million above the previous year allocation, and Brandenburg approved more than $349 million above the previous year (see: www.MichCapCon.com/9270). For comparison: A half-dozen GOP lawmakers kept their spending increases well under $100 million for that year, despite the projected large influx of new revenue following the tax increase.

Following his departure from the Legislature, Drolet formed the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance and immediately set about to try and stop the Legislature from passing the aforementioned $1.4 billion tax hike. This effort was largely successful in pressuring lawmakers to delay the vote throughout the summer of 2007. After the vote took place, MTA launched a recall of Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, due to Dillon's role in bringing about the tax hike. Drolet and his team succeeded in putting the recall on the ballot, but Dillon survived the recall vote, which due to legal battles had been moved from the 2008 August primary to the same date as the 2008 November general election (see: www.MichCapCon.com/12694).

More state government spending on even more programs continued into 2008 with a plan to borrow $60 million and spend it on tourism promotion (see. www.MichCapCon.com/9686). Meltzer and the vast majority of lawmakers in both parties supported deficit spending for tourism promotion. But Brandenburg was one of 11 House Republicans to vote "no."

Yet, in an earlier vote, which would have paid for tourism promotion with the creation of a new taxing authority, the two lawmakers switched sides. Brandenburg was one of 17 House GOP to endorse the creation of a new local tourism tax, while Meltzer and 33 other Republicans in the House voted against it (see: www.MichCapCon.com/9336).

They were again on opposite sides during a 2008 amendment endorsing making Michigan into a right-to-work state (see: www.MichCapCon.com/10312). Brandenburg and the majority of Republicans voted "yes," while Meltzer and 13 other Republicans sided with the Democrats against the right-to-work amendment.

Another spending vote in 2007 authorized using $400 million in borrowed money to pay for current-year government spending (see: www.MichCapCon.com/11219). Meltzer and most House GOP members voted for the borrowing and spending plan. Brandenburg voted against.

A vote on an amendment in 2007 would have required school districts to investigate saving money by competitively bidding out noninstructional services like busing and custodial work (see: www.MichCapCon.com/9024). While Meltzer and the majority of the Republicans voted for the cost-cutting option, Brandenburg was one of six Republicans to vote with the Democrats against it.

An effort to save money by expanding competitive bidding options for public school health insurance was the subject of another bill in 2007 (see: www.MichCapCon.com/9136). Meltzer, the majority of the House Republicans and even nine House Democrats voted in favor of it. Brandenburg, most Democrats, and three other House Republicans voted against it.

In early 2008, the state House approved a bill that would get the government into the business of deciding whether or not men and women were being paid equally and properly for doing different jobs. The National Organization for Women supported the bill, saying it was needed to combat sex stereotyping and wage discrimination against occupations dominated by female workers (see: www.MichCapCon.com/9687). Brandenburg was the only Republican to vote for the bill. Meltzer and all other GOP voted "no."

Distribution of beer and wine in Michigan is subject to a government-mandated wholesaler monopoly that gives special market power and advantages to a small number of private businesses and according to many studies, harms consumers and drives up prices (see: www.MichCapCon.com/10494). The trade association that advocates for the wholesalers disburses a significant amount of donations to politicians and can usually count on the vast majority of lawmakers voting to protect the artificial market power of the wholesalers. A vote in 2008 prevented consumers from having more choices outside the government monopoly. Meltzer was one of just six lawmakers in the entire Legislature to vote against the bill and for more consumer choice. Brandenburg voted for the bill and thus against expanded consumer choice.

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Disclosures: The author was a legislative aid for Leon Drolet for five and a half years. The author's wife, Marla Braun, was a legislative aid for Jack Brandenburg for two years. 

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For a complete list of profiles, please see the July 2010 heading for the Michigan Capitol Confidential Vote History page: www.MichCapCon.com/12541.

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