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 12th state senate district is situated in the northwest quarter of Oakland County. It has traditionally had a very strong GOP base vote. Currently represented by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, it will be an open seat because Bishop must leave 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. Jim Marleau of Lake Orion and former state Rep. John Garfield of Rochester.

Also in the race on the GOP side are manufacturing business owner Kim Russell of Rochester; Bishop senate staff aid Copper Rizzo of Rochester; food distribution businessman Gene Taliercio of Rochester Hills; and Lois Golden, who is a small-business owner and a former member of the Rochester Hills city council.

The Democrat primary ballot will have two candidates: Casandra Ulbrich and dermatologist Ted Golden, both of Rochester Hills. Ulbrich is a current member of the Michigan Board of Education and is also the director of corporate and foundation relations for Wayne State University.

While MichCapCon articles covering the votes and actions of Garfield and Marleau as members of the Michigan House generally reveal lawmakers who frequently voted with the GOP caucus, there have been some noteworthy instances where this was not the case. Also, a MichCapCon article earlier this year profiled the legal troubles of several lawmakers, and one of these two was noted in that article.

Both men voted against the $1.4 billion in state tax hikes that were approved at the end of 2007 (www.MichCapCon.com/9134). When it came time to spend these tax hikes, Marleau approved spending increases of more than $274 million above the previous year allocation, and Garfield approved more than $126 million above the previous year (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.

In 2008, a bill before the House proposed to borrow $60 million and spend it on tourism promotion (www.MichCapCon.com/9686). Marleau and the vast majority of lawmakers in both parties supported deficit spending for tourism promotion. But Garfield was one of 11 House Republicans to vote "no."

Also that year, the Democrat majority in the Michigan House proposed a budget for K-12 public schools that deliberately appropriated $32.2 million more than was available to be spent (www.MichCapCon.com/9913).  

"This overage says to me that we have made the commitment to find the money to fund schools in our coffers throughout the year," noted one Democrat lawmaker, conceding that those voting for the measure knew that they didn't yet have any idea how they were going to pay for it.

"Are we nuts?" asked Birmingham Republican Chuck Moss, who voted against the deliberate deficit. "How in heavens do we propose to pay for all this stuff?"

Five Republicans voted with the Democrats to support this K-12 budget that was $32.2 million out of balance. Marleau was one of the five. Garfield voted with the majority of Republicans who opposed the measure.

A budget passed in 2008 proposed to create and fund a worker retraining program that has since produced dubious results (www.MichCapCon.com/10139). The funding for it was accomplished by way of a $27.5 million spending increase in the budget for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth. Dubbed "No Worker Left Behind" by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, it was later profiled in The New York Times as part of a story about a U.S. Department of Labor study that showed these programs to be ineffective at their primary goal of getting unemployed workers into new careers (www.MichCapCon.com/10864).

A majority of Republicans in the Michigan House voted against creating NWLB. Among them was then-state Rep. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, who noted at the time that "this program should be left behind."

Garfield joined Brandenburg among the 34 House Republicans who voted against funding NWLB. Marleau was one of just 16 House GOP legislators to vote for it.

An opportunity to support making Michigan a right-to-work state came up by way of a vote on an amendment during 2008 (www.MichCapCon.com/10312). Garfield was one of the 35 Republicans to vote in support of right-to-work. The Democrat caucus voted unanimously against the measure, and were joined by 14 Republicans, including Marleau.

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 by driving up prices (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. Garfield was one of just six lawmakers in the entire Legislature to vote against the bill and for more consumer choice. Marleau voted for the bill and thus against expanded consumer choice.

Alcohol was the unfortunate subject of a Feb. 20, 2010, MichCapCon article about the drinking and driving incidents of state lawmakers (www.MichCapCon.com/12159). To that date, at least 8 of the 110 legislators working in the Michigan House at the beginning of 2005 had been stopped by the police for drinking and driving — a rate that is double the state average for the citizens that they represented. Garfield was responsible for two of the eight incidents, one in 2005 and another in 2007.

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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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