Tonight, beginning at 7 p.m., 126 Republican delegates in mid-Michigan will decide who will be their candidate for the 33rd district state Senate race. Two of the three candidates are former state representatives. As a result, their entire legislative vote history is available, with plain-English descriptions, at the MichiganVotes.org website. What follows is a quick examination and analysis of some of what any voter can learn about the voting records of these candidates on economic issues.
Prior to being selected as the lieutenant governor nominee of the Michigan GOP, state Rep. Brian Calley, R-Portland, was the Republican nominee for the 33rd district state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt. As a result of GOP governor nominee Rick Snyder choosing Calley as his running mate, the Republicans must select a new nominee for the Senate seat.
One option, Michael Trebesh of DeWitt, was recently defeated by Calley in the primary election that took place on August 3. Rep. Calley received 56.7 percent in the two-way GOP race. Unlike the other two candidates, Trebesh has not served as a lawmaker in the Michigan Legislature. However, he is a former elected township official and a "liaison officer" for state Sen. Roger Kahn of the neighboring 32nd district. Trebesh also has other political affiliations and experience. A biography and statement of his positions can be found at the candidate's website: www.trebeshforsenate.com
Former state Rep. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, and former state Rep. Scott Hummel, R-DeWitt, are the other options for the delegates to choose from. Each served three terms in the Michigan House, overlapping each other for two of those terms — or a period of four years. A cursory review of the nearly 6000 votes cast by each of them reveals two legislators who generally voted with the majority of their fellow Republicans on economic issues.
However, there were numerous exceptions to this general rule, and also instances where the voting pattern of the two lawmakers departed from both the majority of their party and from each other. The following are representative examples, but should not be considered a comprehensive analysis of the nearly 12,000 total votes cast by both lawmakers.
A 75 cent per pack cigarette tax hike and an accelerated payment schedule for property taxes were two of the more controversial issues that came before the two lawmakers during the two terms that they served together. Both votes were widely considered to be tax increases to balance the state budget, and both measures passed the House with the barest possible majority needed — 55 votes.
In both cases, Emmons voted for the tax hikes and Hummel voted against them.
However, Emmons' record on tax issues is not quite as clear cut as these very high-profile votes would imply.
During 2007, a proposal before the House would have created a "high-risk pool" for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Michigan that would guarantee health insurance coverage to any individual who could pay the premiums. Furthermore, it would have capped those premiums at an artificially low rate so as to make it possible for more "high-risk" customers to afford them.
A fee that would have been assessed on other health insurance providers — Blue Cross' competitors in the health insurance market — would have been used to subsidize the artificially low premiums being created for Blue Cross' high-risk insurance product.
A version of the bill implementing this policy passed the House on a vote of 90-16. Emmons was one of the "no" votes, opposing the fee on insurance providers. (Hummel was no longer a legislator at this time, due to term limits.)
The "high-risk" pool was stripped out in a later version of this bill.
Another tax example regarding Emmons was 2008 Senate Bill 1135. MichiganVotes notes that this bill would "authorize the establishment of county zoo authorities that would have the power to levy a 0.1 mill property tax, subject to voter approval." It now does just that, as it passed both chambers of the Legislature and was signed by the governor.
In the House, this expanded taxing power for local governments passed on a vote of 92-17, with just 16 Republicans and one Democrat opposing it. In the Senate, it was approved 34-2, with the current holder of the 33rd Senate seat — Republican Alan Cropsey — voting for it.
Emmons was one of the votes against the expanded taxing power for zoos. (Here as well, Hummel was no longer in the Legislature at this time.)
Votes to increase fees on Michigan businesses and taxpayers are a clear area where there are differences between the two former lawmakers. Numerous fee hikes were proposed by the governor and voted on during the 2003-2006 period when Emmons and Hummel were in the House. Examples include comprehensive fee hikes for motorists, license fee hikes for pet shops, increases in license fees for home builders, and fee increases for many other businesses and professions.
In each of the cases noted above and others, Hummel voted against the fee increases and Emmons voted for them.
On spending issues, both lawmakers voted against 2006 House Bill 6694, a bill that would allow local governments to borrow money so as to shore up currently unfunded retirement health care promises made to government employees. But 39 of the 58 Republicans in the House supported this bill, and it passed on a vote of 76-24.
Some critics have derisively labeled such schemes as attempts to "borrow our way to prosperity."
Conversely, both lawmakers voted together to protect a $7.1 million taxpayer subsidy for Amtrak trains. There were 27 votes — all Republicans — to kill this annual subsidy.
Another subsidy was at issue when lawmakers considered 2004 Senate Bill 1240. MichiganVotes says this proposal would have allowed "Downtown Development Authorities (DDA's) to use tax receipts or borrowed money to subsidize wireless technology infrastructure, and to pay for marketing campaigns."
The Michigan House voted 93-9 in favor of this taxpayer subsidy. The Senate approved it on a vote of 35-0, including a favorable vote from Sen. Cropsey. Gov. Jennifer Granholm later signed the bill into law.
Hummel voted against the wireless infrastructure subsidy bill, while Emmons voted for it.
Public Act 42 of 2006 helped balance the state budget by raiding $2 million from the "agriculture equine industry development fund" and giving it to the state's general fund — the large pot of discretionary money that lawmakers can spend on anything.
MichiganVotes notes of the equine industry development fund: "This fund contains fees and taxes from horse racing licenses and fines, uncashed winning tickets and a portion of the tax levied on Detroit casinos. It is supposed to pay for "agriculture and equine industry development programs."
Sen. Cropsey voted against this fund raid when it was before the Senate, but it nonetheless gained enough votes to pass. In the House, Emmons also voted against the bill, while Hummel voted for the fund raid. It passed the House with 59 votes — four more than necessary — with a majority of Republicans voting "no."
MichiganVotes notes that a budget amendment offered during May of 2006 would have imposed a "lifetime cap on cash welfare benefits" of 36 months. It was amending a bill — sponsored by Hummel — that already had a 48-month lifetime welfare cap written into it.
The 36-month cap was defeated, even though a majority of Republicans — including Hummel — voted for it. Emmons was amongst the 15 Republicans who voted against the more restrictive limit.
The main cover story in the very first-ever print edition of Michigan Capitol Confidential — literally the first article ever written for this news source — told the story of an amendment sponsored by Emmons. Her amendment would have required school districts to investigate whether or not they could save money by competitively bidding out non-instructional services such as transportation, custodial services and food preparation. The article noted significant savings that have been realized by districts that outsource these services.
The amendment was defeated, but Emmons and 45 other Republicans voted for it. (The vote on this amendment also took place after Hummel had left the House.)
Votes on regulation and licensing also paint an interesting picture of each lawmaker.
The MichiganVotes description says that House Bill 5233 of 2003 would require "licensure and regulation of massage therapists, and impose $75 annual license fees." It further states, "The bill would create a Michigan Board of Massage Therapy to establish licensure and competence assessment requirements for the practice of massage therapy, and would require 500 hours of training."
A majority of the House, on a vote of 60-43, and a majority of the Republican caucus voted in favor of imposing government fees and mandates on this profession. But both Hummel and Emmons voted against it.
The story changed with 2005 House Bill 4312, a bill to impose a licensing requirement and fees on interior decorators. The legislation had the overwhelming support of the House, on a vote of 95-11, and the support of the vast majority of the Republican caucus.
Emmons also voted for it, while Hummel was one of the eight Republicans to vote "no."
The Republican-controlled Michigan Senate did not take a vote on either the bill to license massage therapists or the one for interior decorator licensing.
Rep. Hummel's entire MichiganVotes.org legislative history is available here.
Rep. Emmons' entire MichiganVotes.org legislative history is available here.
Searches on individual categories, key words and topics - and the vote histories of all other lawmakers who been in office served since 2001 - may be accessed here.
See also: www.MichCapCon.com/12541