Michigan’s Local Leaders Turn Against Zombie Republican Lawmakers

The Courser-Gamrat affair, while tawdry in its details, remains the act of two nutty freshmen lawmakers, and simply does not rise to the ethically criminal category found in the dereliction of duty of Republican leadership in Lansing.

Blame, Only Where Blame is Due

As predicted, the Michigan shit show known as the Courser-Gamrat Affair is now slated to suck all the oxygen out of the legislature, preventing the already inept body from getting around to roads, among other apparently impossible legislative aerobic feats. The recalcitrant Tea Party duo’s refusal to step down will certainly occupy the whimsies of the less-than-august, term-limited body of lawmakers well into their fall session.

The House committee appointed to further investigate on the topic of any tangential wrongdoing stemming from Gamrat and Courser’s original sin, will likely recommend either censure or expulsion — culminating in days, if not weeks, of moral posturing, amid promises to act quickly over concern that the continued presence of the lusty lawmakers will further erode the legislature’s already subterranean approval rating among voters.

But, it will not be the Tea Party twosome that ultimately tanks public opinion on Michigan’s 98th Legislature — lawmaker’s themselves should really earn full credit there, plus bonus points, for their inertial bankruptcy.

Local leaders are publicly saying as much.

It’s the Zombie Lawmakers, Not the Lovebirds, Destroying Lansing’s Image

zombies

Approximation: Michigan’s Republican Leadership

City, county, and township leaders across Michigan are increasingly fed-up with month after month of ideologue-based blather and inaction out of Lansing. The no-new-tax Norquist-pledge-takers have rendered a sizable number of elected officials as mere zombie lawmakers — do-nothing placeholders for their locked-in districts, priority issues be damned.

A new poll by Michigan Public Policy Survey, conducted by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy out of the University of Michigan, found rising ire and frustration among local units of government over the incompetence and incessant political incantations at the state level.

Just how poorly are Michigan’s lawmakers perceived? MPPS has been tracking it over the years. There was a significant shift with this new legislature — in the wrong direction.

Local on the legislature chart

Source: Michigan Public Policy Survey, August 2015

Here are some local leader comments on the problems with Lansing published in the August 2015 MPPS report:

“Legislators are not governing. They are beholden to special interests and short-term issues. There isn’t any political will to address the structural issues facing the state. The State cannot cut its way out of the situation.”

“Priorities of the current legislature are too focused on an extreme partisan agenda rather than what’s best for the State.”

“The State of Michigan has taken money away from local governments through reductions in revenue sharing and personal property tax revenue. They then said it is the local governments’ fault for having financial woes. They are trying to lead from a top down approach to restrict local government autonomy to make decisions. They need to focus on reducing laws and regulations that restrict growth and waste business and people’s time.”

“While we are led to believe things in urban areas of Michigan and Michigan in general are improving, there is no indication of this at all in my area. High unemployment, no job opportunities, very low wages, nothing has changed. If anything gotten worse due to suspension of unemployment benefits and still no jobs, no sign of changes are seen. As most who live in this area have said, we are always in a recession so we never know any different, we live the same all the time. I think the things that have been changed to allow politicians to profess the false claims of improvement are things that affect normal everyday people trying to make a living.”

In recent months, MPPS has also conducted a number of other surveys of local leaders to take their temperature on specific Michigan issues. Back in February, they queried on the topic of roads and infrastructure funding. The results were stark — roads are a major priority in the state. Some comments:

“Have been just patching, but it is a losing deal. We’ll have to go to gravel for a quarter of roads within two years!”

“We put more money from the general fund into roads and streets this year. I’m concerned that we’re not paying down enough for our long term pension obligations and OPEB to maintain the roads.”

“Cut costs on operating and cut departments such as our police department.”

“Our roads have deteriorated and we have gone from well-maintained, properlyDSCF1045 repaired roads to quick fixes and cheap patching. We have a 1.5 extra voted millage that helps, but support from [the] County for road maintenance has greatly diminished.”

“Turned 4 miles of local hard surface roads back to gravel. Reduced road improvement miles due to increased costs and less general fund money to use on road projects. Delayed, indefinitely, ditch cleaning and maintenance due to lack of funds and reduced man power.”

“We apply for as many grants as are available. All our local and major road work in the last few years has been done with grant dollars or it does not get done.”

“Allowed roads to deteriorate [and] undertake some borrowing to ensure cash is available to match federal funding.” 

The Courser-Gamrat affair, while tawdry in its details, remains the act of two nutty freshmen lawmakers, and simply does not rise to the ethically criminal category found in the dereliction of duty of Republican leadership in Lansing.

Not surprisingly, a March 2015 MPPS survey found that more than 4 out of 10 local officials question the ethics of Michigan’s lawmakers.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Must-See Video: Projected Disaster at the Enbridge Line 5 Pipeline

“Water is the blood of our Earth Mother.” – Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians

For all those kayaktivists and walkers who are attending the upcoming Pipe Out Paddle Protest and Walk rally at the Straits of Mackinac this Sunday and Monday, and those who can’t make it, but care deeply about protecting the Great Lakes, here’s a must-see video. Produced by the University of Michigan Water Center and the National Wildlife Federation, it projects the impact on the Straits area from a 12 hour spill over a twenty day period. (Note: the video is in various short segments: demonstrating a central break in the pipeline, and one at the north end, then the south end.)

And that’s just modeling a half day rupture. According to Oil and Water Don’t Mix, conservatively, at least one million gallons of oil are in the 62-year old double pipeline at any given time. Currently, Enbridge is pumping 540,000 barrels of oil per day, up from the previously allowed 490,000. At the time of the 2013 increase, retired DOW Chemical engineer Gary Street said that the 10 percent bump in volume will exert a 20 percent increase in pressure on the aging system. He explained to the Petoskey News:  “That’s alarming. I’m really concerned about their integrity, and now you’re going to increase pressure on those lines.”

On July 15 of this year, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Line 5’s “days are numbered.” Well that number is still counting, and Michigan is waiting.

DSCF3043

Pavlat at 2013 rally (A.Hardin)

Many have been waiting much, much longer though. At a rally held two years ago, Native American leaders expressed growing impatience. Cecil Pavlat of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians spoke passionately.

“We speak, but they don’t listen. Water is the blood of our Earth Mother.” 

Invoking the Anishnabek tradition of tribal leaders thinking seven generations ahead about the impact of their decisions, Pavlat warned of the pending crisis with this plea: “If not soon, it will be too late”.

Enbridge insists their safety record on Line 5, also known as the Lakehead Pipeline, is outstanding. Beth Wallace of the National Wildlife Federation begs to differ. She is the author of a report titled Sunken Hazard: Aging oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac an ever-present threat to the Great Lakes. Wallace lists a number of significant incidents that have already occurred on the Lakehead Pipeline system. There was a spill in 1999 in Crystal Falls, Michigan in which 226,000 gallons spilled from line 5. Enbridge disposed of the oil by lighting it on fire. Here’s a partial list of spills on the Lakehead system that were hushed:

  • July 2002: A pipeline in Itasca County, MN spilled 252,000 gallons of crude oil causing $5.6 million in damages
  • Feb. 2003: Monroe County, MI where a 5,460 gallon spill caused a quarter million in damages
  • Oct. 2003: Bay County, MI 21,000 gallons of crude spilled
  • Jan. 2005: Another Bay County spill of 4,200 gallons
  • Jan. 2007: A leak in Wisconsin spilled 50,000 gallons on farmland
  • Nov. 2007: Oil and gas from a ruptured line ignited near Clearbrook, MN, killing two workers. Enbridge was fined $2.4 million for failing to follow safety rules.
  • Jan. 2010: 126,000 gallons were leaked in Neche, North Dakota
  • July 2010: A ruptured pipeline near Marshall, MI dumped one million gallons into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.
  • Sept. 2010: a broken pipeline near Chicago spilled 250,000 gallons of oil
  • July 2012: In Grand Marsh, WI, a rupture sprayed 50,000 gallons onto a farm, including the home and livestock.

And that’s just a short list of the 80 spills the federal government has documented on the Enbridge Pipeline since 2001.

Time to shut it down!

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Fails at “Research” Goal

Michigan is rife with right-wing gaffes this summer.

As if the Courser/Gamrat affair weren’t enough to entertain the electorate, we also have the anticipated perennial dose of BS from the “research” organization, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to amuse us — with apologies though, it completely lacks a good sex scandal, and yet… remains utterly comical.

After the MCPP’s historic lawsuits of recent years, with threats of additional litigation piling-on against the Michigan Education Association over the particulars of their teacher “opt-out” policies, we now find some small humor in the ongoing story through an apparent error on the part of MCPP operatives.

Once again, “Opt-Out August” is upon us, bringing with it a barrage of propaganda directed at those few naive public school teachers urging them to drop their MEA membership. The folks at MCPP try to make this look as painless as possible, providing an online form with instructions and encouragement on how, where, and when to submit the request. Here’s their latest social media blitz:

Aug opt-out

Last week, Dan Armstrong, spokesperson for the MCPP went on the Vic McCarty WMKT Show podcast to complain about a shocking change in the MEA opt-out policy. Apparently earlier this year, the union consolidated their procedures and directed their members to use a new P.O. box specifically set-up for that purpose. Because the requests are time sensitive, the organization sensibly didn’t want them landing randomly in local mailboxes all over the state and possibly not being forwarded in a timely manner. They made the address change in the springtime, and provided the information on the “members only” page of their website:

mea dealineBut, it seems the “researchers” at MCPP didn’t get that memo, and thus failed to pass along this key piece of information. Armstrong told McCarty “we found out just last week”, and he went on to stutter “I don’t know if they just recently commandeered this, this P.O. Box.” (An interesting choice of words by Armstrong — “commandeered.” So, did the MEA acquire the P.O. box at gun point?)

Continuing to blame the MEA for the MCPP goof-up, Armstrong conceded that they have now helpfully changed their forms so those using them “will have the correct address.” 

McCarty further nudged Armstrong to reveal if the MCPP might attempt to seek “legal remedy.” Although, the MEA has done nothing wrong in asking members to follow a prescribed procedure for opting-out, Armstrong was quick to assure that “look, we’re no strangers to lawsuits.” He continued his argument by referring to the P.O. box information as being somehow “hidden” on the website, and therefore a reason for potential litigators to emerge. McCarty then prodded to know if there was a “lawsuit in the offing”, with Armstrong affirming that, yes, “there’s a likelihood of that.”

From the earliest days of the Right-to-Work initiative, the folks a MCPP have persisted in taking it to the edge.

The MEA just released an August 2015 report on the MCPP campaign against public sector workers. Not surprisingly, the Mackinac Center is heavily funded by the Dow, DeVos, and Prince families. The self-described non-profit “research” organization, seems to direct the bulk of its substantial resources to attacking the concept of collective bargaining, with a special animus directed at the MEA. In a leaked 2011 email, from the MCPP to a former Michigan Republican lawmaker, Tom McMillin, they boldly stated their goals:

MCPP:McMillan email

Source: MEA

That sure doesn’t look like any form of scholarly research we know of.

Christopher Klaver of Gongwer News Service opined today on the possible impact of the anti-union movement under Michigan’s Right-toWork law.

Though there are some organizations that would like to see it (you know who you are), it is unlikely that state employee unions will disappear. As the teacher unions have experienced, they are likely to lose some members, but, also as the teacher unions have experienced, they are likely to retain enough members to remain forces in setting wages and benefits for employees.

Although the long view remains uncertain, it’s still fun to take a little swipe at the MCPP’s bumbling attempts at their dream of a union-free public sector. Sorry Mackinac Center kids — you’re out in the hall on this one. Just because you didn’t do your “research” on the correct mailing address, doesn’t mean the MEA is at fault. Litigation would surely highlight your negligent hand in the misdirection of opt-out candidates.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Michigan GOP Lawmakers Engage in (More) Legislative Misogyny

“This campaign by anti-abortion extremists is nothing less than a fraud.” — Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice-President at Planned Parenthood

Per usual, Michigan Republican lawmakers have proposed a spate of legislation in response to the deceptively edited Planned Parenthood tapes. A package of bills was introduced this week to prevent the dismemberment of aborted babies for the purpose of selling them for profit.

Let’s go over this one more time for those Republicans still confused about the issue:

Planned Parenthood of Michigan does not transfer fetal tissue for research.

They don’t even give women the option of doing so. Period.

That didn’t stop Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-25) from demanding an inquest into Michigan Planned Parenthood, outraged at the possibility that perfectly legal medical science could be occurring in the state. Desiree Cooper, spokesperson for the organization, explained to MLive:

“State Sen. Phil Pavlov’s call for an investigation of Planned Parenthood is unwarranted as our organization does not offer patients the opportunity to donate fetal tissue.”

Numerous states have launched investigations of Planned Parenthood to determine if they have broken any laws.  GOP operatives tried, they really tried, to find wrong-doing, but to no avail. Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice-President at Planned Parenthood, described it this way:

“In every state where these investigations have concluded, officials have cleared Planned Parenthood of any wrongdoing. We’ve said all along that Planned Parenthood follows all laws and has very high medical standards, and that’s what every one of these investigations has found. This campaign by anti-abortion extremists is nothing less than a fraud.”

At the federal level, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) fast-tracked a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, apparently forgetting that he was among a group of Republican lawmakers that voted in 1993 to lift a Reagan-era ban on fetal tissue transfer. Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan similarly voted in favor of allowing the research.

And, currently the subject of an official Michigan House probe over their saturnalian conduct, Tea Party lawmakers Cindy Gamrat (R-80) and Rep. Todd Courser (R-82) weren’t invited to the above mentioned GOP Anti-Choice party. Yet still morally outraged over imaginary baby parts, they launched a social media campaign vowing to introduce legislation to restrict abortion.

Courser’s Trap and Snap Scheme

Courser, given his keen interest in all things vaginal, wants to turn the probe on Michigan’s women with a return to a legislative thrust for transvaginal ultrasounds required for all abortions. His fury over women exercising reproductive autonomy is cataloged on Facebook with a long list of demands. In addition to the forced up-vagina snapshot, Courser wants an inspector to be present during the full procedure to photographically document the entire process including pictures of the fetal remains in the same frame as all those present, medical personnel included. These kinds of draconian measures are appropriately termed “TRAP laws” — Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers, and they’re all the rage among those bent on restricting women’s reproductive rights, although they rarely stand-up to a court challenge.

Gamrat and the X-Factor of Willful Ignorance 

Unfamiliar with the basics of healthcare law, federal funding through Title X, or what occurs and does not occur in Michigan, and steadfastly remaining unfazed by her ignorance, Gamrat announced via Facebook last week that she was poised to strip Michigan Planned Parenthood of federal funding:

Gamrat Facebook post

Gamrat’s proposed legislation not only lacks the underpinning of fact, but if enacted, would be in violation of federal law. Last week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, acting under the Department of Health and Human Services, notified authorities in both Louisiana and Alabama that their effort to terminate Medicaid agreements with Planned Parenthood was a violation of federal law. Reuters reports:

Federal law requires state Medicaid programs to cover family-planning services and supplies for anyone of child-bearing age. Ending the agreements with Planned Parenthood would limit beneficiaries’ access to care and services from qualified providers of their choice, according to HHS.

Title X in Michigan

So, if Michigan Planned Parenthood is not trafficking in baby bits, just what form of evil are they doing in these clinics?

They operate largely through Title X funding, with none of the federal dollars going to abortion services. The Guttmacher Institute compiled the most recent comprehensive data for each state and county in the United States. Here’s Michigan’s stats:

Title X Michigan infographic

(Click HERE for the state-by-state searchable infographic database. Click HERE to find information by county.)

Title X Under Federal Fire

The Guttmacher Institute explains the importance of Title X for women’s healthcare:

Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated entirely to family planning and related preventive health care, serving 4.6 million clients in 2013 and helping women to avert one million unintended pregnancies.

The Title X national family planning program was created 45 years ago with broad bipartisan support. Today, Congress has Title X—still the only federal grant program dedicated entirely to family planning and related preventive health care—in its sights for severe funding cuts or even elimination.

Between these restrictive proposals and the possible cut in federal funding — this is nothing short of legislative misogyny, which will most certainly lead to more, not fewer, abortions. Title X funding for family planning averted an estimated 345,000 abortions in 2013.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Michigan House Dems Put the Smack Down on the Donald

Michigan’s House Dems returned from their month long summer break resolved to put the smack down on racist rhetoric and hate speech. First thing this morning they introduced a resolution condemning discrimination in any form by presidential candidates — that means you, Trump.

Donald

DonaldHere’s the full body of HR 120 of 2015:

HR 120

Okay then. Now, let’s get to work on that roads bill.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Is Expulsion in the Cards for the Scandal-Plagued Michigan Lawmakers?

“Disreputable” best describes Rep. Courser. It’s not just about his extra-marital affair, the untouchable legislator has been busy sealing his fate in the weeks after he purportedly ceased sharing his special legislative package with fellow Representative Gamrat.

Both Courser and Gamrat Vow to Stay in Office — To What End?

gamrat 2

Gamrat speaking at Aug, 14, 2015 press conference

In a teary-eyed press conference late last week, held in the controlled environment of her attorney’s office, husband at her side, Gamrat was clearly distressed yet resolute about not proffering her resignation. Only the most jaded political hack would question the sincerity of the waterworks — they were genuine. The message though, was carefully crafted to keep her options open as the scandal continues to unfold with a steady stream of comically salacious new developments, each one more ludicrous than the last.

Both lawmakers have vowed to stay put, in spite of a growing public condemnation. MLive is conducting a non-scientific poll that, as of this writing, indicates that over 86 percent of the thousands of respondents want Courser to resign, and 78 percent wish Gamrat ousted.

Democracy Tree absolutely believes that both should resign for the good of the state — not because it’s fun to watch Tea Party lawmakers take the walk of shame. No, it’s owing to the possibility that the House will become preoccupied with the lurid and licentious details of the investigation, along with the looming temptation to initiate the expulsion process, thereby sapping the legislature of its ability to engage in any serious lawmaking at a time when Michigan is desperate for a roads package.

Gamrat’s Rather Nebulous Future:

While Todd Courser clearly and deservedly faces the possibility of expulsion, Gamrat is less likely to get the official boot. As much as Democrats, and in this case Republicans too, would love to see her sent packing for purely political reasons, lawmakers are loath to expel, out of sheer animus, one of their own.

Simply having an affair may not rise to the level of invoking expulsion under Article IV, § 16 of the Michigan Constitution. While the letter of the law is not specific as to what should trigger the measure, history proves that the bar is set very high. Unless it is conclusively shown that Gamrat willfully used and abused government resources, she is probably free to maintain her office (recall possibilities aside) — as ineffectual as she will be rendered after this level of scandal.

Yet, without resignation she would no longer be a serviceable voice for her constituents, assuming she ever was such. As previously reported, due to her extreme Tea Party views, Gamrat — elected from a conservative district to a conservative body — couldn’t pass gas, let alone a law in the Michigan House.

Courser’s Not-so-Nebulous Future:

“Disreputable” best describes Rep. Courser. It’s not just about his extra-marital affair, the untouchable legislator has been busy sealing his fate in the weeks after he purportedly ceased sharing his special legislative package with fellow Representative Gamrat. He likely faces either expulsion or recall, perhaps both contemporaneously, just to be safe.

The disgraced lawmaker has been lashing-out at the Republican “establishment”, unabashedly blaming them for his behavior, playing the victim — a classic trait of sociopathy. It wasn’t until yesterday that Courser offered an apology of sorts. Delivered via Facebook, his penitence was liberally laced with scriptural passages and, as is his habit, was of biblical proportions. Courser’s attempt at atonement may never have occurred had Gamrat not so publicly apologized herself.

A Brief History of Legislative Expulsion in Michigan:

(Updated 9-3-15. Gongwer News reports today that a researcher at the Michigan Library found an additional legislative expulsion back in 1887, previously unknown to modern political reporters. The story of this expulsion can be found here.)

There have only been two legislative expulsions in Michigan’s history. One marked by sadness and civility in 1978, and the other, riddled with rancor and scandal, in 2001. The current Courser situation perhaps evokes a certain unfortunate déjà vu for those veterans of the Lansing press corp who witnessed the latter ouster.

The 1978 expulsion of Rep. Monte Geralds is remembered as a painful episode for the legislature. Expelling the popular and well-respected Representative didn’t come easily, however, in the end his colleagues felt that his felony conviction for embezzlement from a former client was just too much to allow him to stay. John Lindstrom, Publisher at Gongwer News recalls the angst:

“There was real anguish in the House over expelling Mr. Geralds, and in the end 20 House members voted against doing so. At the last, just before the vote, then-Rep. Morris Hood Jr. (father of the current senator) told his colleagues if they had any hint of doubt they could not vote to expel.”

However, the 2001 ouster of the much reviled Sen. David Jaye did not elicit anywhere near that level of anxiety. The truculent Senator was known for abusing staffers, multiple drunk driving convictions, jail time, topless photos found on his state-owned computer, and also an arrest over a physical altercation with his fiancée.

Jaye, known for his bombastic and often abusive behavior, was the champion of Michigan’s deeply flawed concealed carry law, with its infamous loophole allowing permit carriers to open carry in schools, libraries, campuses, among other public places. He was also consumed with a personal obsession over what he called “perverts.”

A couple of years ago, a video montage surfaced with some of his most colorful comments uploaded to YouTube. When asked about crime, he responded with this pugnacious nugget of public policy wisdom:

“Lock ‘em up for good, or at least till they’re 70-years old, unless they’re perverts — lock them up for good, or until we get the death penalty — which ever comes first. Fry ‘em or keep ‘em forever.”

Jaye

David Jaye. Photo: Macomb County Sheriff’s Office

Along with his repeated reference to “perverts” (30 in under 8 1/2 minutes according to a Crains Detroit blogger who counted), Jaye also used the expression “the blacks” much in the way Donald Trump employs the qualifier before the words: women, blacks, Mexicans, and any other group to which he does not belong. Jaye singled-out Michigan’s Native American population for extra insult.

Lindstrom made these recent observations about Jaye’s legislative tenure:

“Throughout his years in the Legislature, Mr. Jaye was notorious for being quick to anger, caring not a whit for anyone’s feelings, being willing to insult anyone in the Legislature or in the state, and just acting like an arrogant, boastful, boorish … twit. He seemed to have no sense of propriety. He was actually astonished that people would be upset when he dropped a gun on the floor of the House Republican caucus room just off the House floor.”

Courser Channeling Jaye?

Based on his pattern of behavior, we shouldn’t be surprised if Rep. Courser displays a similar lack of basic decorum, marked by acts of reality-defying obstinance. The path he’s chosen it seems, is one of a political and personal death spiral.

So, how’d it all work-out for Jaye then?

Learning curves do not come easily to those puffed-up with the hubris of bigotry and intolerance. Just last September, Jaye made the news again when he pled no contest to a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident at a Michigan campground where he was reported as “sloppy” drunk and making wild threats against a jogger who called the authorities.

A bright future indeed!

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

UPDATE: Ex-staffer of Courser and Gamrat holds press conference to share what he witnessed. View HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Courser/Gamrat Affair Could Stall a Michigan Roads Deal

Can Michigan Expect Legislative Fall-Out Over Courser/Gamrat Affair?

Probably, and the increased potential for the lack of a deal on roads is where it will hit Michigan the hardest. If Courser and Gamrat truly care about fiscal responsibility, they will resign now, and spare taxpayers the time and money wasted on an investigation into the obvious, diverting attention from truly critical issues.

pothole pic

When the Michigan House reconvenes in a few days time, there’s little doubt that Representative Todd Courser (R-82), and his partner in crime, Cindy Gamrat (R-80) will be treated as personae non grata by their fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. While they may still technically hold office, it’s reasonable to assume you can stick a fork in their political careers. But the show ain’t over, not yet.

Zachery Gorchow, editor at Gongwer News Service, warns that the scandal and its investigation will consume the House to the extent that lawmaking may come to a full stop, which, from the Progressive perspective, may not seem such a bad thing — except for roads. Gorchow blogged this week about the difficulties House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-99) can expect to face as he tries to keep his house in order:

“Mr. Cotter gamely insisted today that he still is working on a solution for road funding, but the Courser/Gamrat situation is not just a distraction, it is going to completely consume the House’s time and attention until resolved, whether resolution means they resign, are expelled, survive an expulsion proceeding or nothing happens at all.”

“It is too soon to say whether the House will open an expulsion proceeding on the two legislators. But if one does take place, it will be a spectacle, presumably involving committee hearings making the case for removal.”

Beyond Roads — What Other Legislation Will be Impacted?

It’s not just roads, all pending legislation, including that sponsored by Courser and Gamrat, is doomed to sit it out, stuck in committee for the duration of 2015. (Huzzah!!) Yet, the scandalous Tea Party twosome may find some other lawmaker to step-up and carry their battle flag — Rep. Gary Glenn (R-98) comes to mind.

The following is a list of proposals Courser and Gamrat introduced, frequently as a couple — 28 in all. Democracy Tree readers will be happy to see most of this legislation shelved, however, there are actually some meaningful Progressive proposals that could stand a second look. Courser had rotten luck selling most of his handiwork to anyone other than his illicit squeeze, but that was not the case for Gamrat — her legislation garnered more support, albeit mostly of the Tea Party variety. Currently, every last piece of legislation proposed by the scandal-plagued lawmakers during their short time in office remains locked in committee — where they’ll stay as long as their blacklisted names have top billing.

Courser’s proposals:

HJR  Z — (7-14-15) Co-sponsored by Gamrat. A joint resolution to amend the state constitution to prohibit the state from establishing a healthcare benefit exchange.

HB 4174 — (2-10-15) Co-sponsored by Gamrat. A bill to allow direct sales from breweries and winemakers to customers.

HB 4194 — (2-12-15) Co-sponsored by Gamrat. A bill to defund the Michigan Economic Development Authority to end certain types of “corporate welfare.”

HB 4252 — (2-26-15) No co-sponsors. A bill to repeal a law making it a crime to open a gas station in a densely populated residential area without gaining proper authority.

HB 4317 and 4318 — (3-10-15) Co-sponsored by Gamrat. Bills to restructure gas and diesel taxes from a flat tax to a phased-in percentage.

HB 4339 and HB 4340 — (3-12-15) Co-sponsored with Gamrat. Bills to eliminate the pistol entry database.

HB 4380 — (3-24-15) Co-sponsored with Gamrat and five others. A bill to eliminate the straight party ticket option on Michigan ballots.

HB 4731, 4732 and 4733 — (6-17-15) Co-sponsored with Gamrat. A package of bills to repeal Michigan’s marriage license requirement, to empower only clergy to “solemnize” marriage, and make a provision for “common law” marriages.

Gamrat’s proposals:

HJR  J — (3-5-15) Co-sponsored by Courser and 12 others. A resolution to impose a 5-year sunset rule on regulations imposed by the state. A two-thirds legislative majority would be needed to keep the rule in effect.

HJR  T — (6-17-15) Co-sponsored by Courser. A resolution to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to prohibit the state from assessing income taxes on individuals and businesses.

HB 4279 — (3-4-15) Co-sponsored by Courser and four others.  A so-called “personhood” bill to define fetuses as “individuals.”

HB 4309 — (3-5-15) Co-sponsored by Courser and five others. A so-called “religious freedom” bill for healthcare payers, facilities, and providers allowing them to deny service on religious grounds. (Not to be confused with the failed attempt at a broader Religious Freedom Restoration Act in December of 2014, nor the recently enacted law that allows adoption agencies to discriminate based on religious convictions. Expect to see more of this brand of legislation designed to discriminate.)

HB 4310 — (3-6-15) Co-sponsored by Courser and two others. A bill to revise the presidential electoral process to eliminate the current “winner take all” system, allowing delegates to vote along district lines. If enacted, Michigan would lose considerable stature in presidential elections.

HB 4619 — (5-19-15) Co-sponsored by Courser and two others. A bill to ban the state from doing business with any company that participates in collecting “metadata” without informed consent.

HB 4728 and 4729 — (6-17-15) Co-sponsored with Courser. Bills to repeal the Certificate of Need program, which regulates to promote equal access to quality healthcare in the state.

HB 4730 — (6-17-15) Co-sponsored by Courser. A bill to repeal the remaining sections of the Michigan Business Tax that were left on the books for the purpose of providing approximately $9 billion in corporate tax subsidies.

HB 4772 through 4778 — (7-14-15) No co-sponsors. A package of bills intended to repeal the registration and permitting of firearms, and to allow all open and concealed carry.

As the sex scandal was breaking last week, Courser and Gamrat attempted to deflect the media fallout by announcing Anti-Choice legislation in the wake of the Planned Parenthood tapes. Probably safe to say — that ain’t gonna happen now.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

REVEALED: Courser’s Crash and Burn May Have Started Before His Election

“He has a long pattern of this type of behavior.” – House Speaker Kevin Cotter speaking about Rep. Todd Courser

Was last week the first time Michigan Rep. Todd Courser (R-82) attempted to garner sympathetic support through nefarious self-generated bullshit? The revelation about the lawmaker’s fabricated gay prostitute sex scandal — intended to “inoculate the herd”, thereby blunting the impact of knowledge of his illicit extra-curricular carnal activities with legislative colleague, Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R-80), seems to be part of a larger pattern.

The latest development, his response today to the Detroit News article about the accusations, takes the salacious saga to a whole new level of soap opera implausibility. We expect him to next reveal an evil twin or perhaps develop amnesia.

Courser is now claiming that he made-up the gay sex scandal because he was being blackmailed over his extra-marital dalliance, while vaguely pointing a finger at “establishment” Republicans, who may have also been spying on him. A development prompting one of those so-called establishment politicians, Republican Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter (R-99), to tell the Detroit Free Press:

“If this weren’t so offensive, it might be funny. He sends out these ridiculously long e-mail rants, about the so-called establishment, and uses words like mafia and cartel. But no one else did wrong here.

These two representatives voluntarily engaged in the affair and they need to own up to that. There are 107 other members of the House currently serving. It’s so unfair to this institution as a whole and it’s so unfair that we have this type of distraction.”

Cotter also said of Courser, “He has a long pattern of this type of behavior.” Quite the understatement, that may prove to be.

Flashback to the primary race of 2014, when Courser was locked in a tight contest with an establishment GOP candidate, Jan Peabody.

Here’s Courser’s Facebook post of less than a week before primary election day. The picture is of a flyer he claims was being distributed smearing him as being a possible pedophile.

Courser timeline

Six days before the primary — Todd Courser’s Facebook timeline, July 30, 2014

Read the last two paragraphs, enlarged:

Courser 2

Compare the above, albeit upside-down, graphic to the fake email Courser admitted to sending out this past May. Both are center-justified — which is an unusual format choice, plus they contain a similar vibe.

Courser email 2

The primary race was a squeaker.  The County Press reported the results:

Courser earned 3,477 votes for 37 percent of the vote. The next closest challenger, Jan Peabody, received 3,126 votes (a difference of 351 votes) or 33 percent, while Jacob Hunsanger took 1,593 at 17 percent and Sharna Smith earned 1,239 (13 percent).

That was then, and we may never learn if he had a hand in the damning flyer, but his current behavior certainly throws significant shade on the credibility of his previous conduct. Yet, we stand to find out plenty about his activities since he took office. Cotter ordered State House officials to seize the computers and records of both Courser and Gamrat in the course of an investigation into possible wrongdoing — specifically, did they use any public resources in the course of their affair and its subsequent cover-up.

Courser described his recent foiled plan to deflect judgment as a “controlled burn”, again, quite the understatement — he’s in full crash and burn mode. There’s no pulling up now.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Rep. Courser: Plan-A Fail – Pretend to be Gay; Plan-B – Make False Accusations

Plan B — A red herring littered with imaginary baby parts.

Rep. Cindy Gamrat speaking on what she claims is occurring at Michigan Planned Parenthood: “…harvesting their body parts…cutting off the limbs and crushing the skulls of little baby girls who are in the womb…”

When Michigan House Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat were caught having a little extra-curricular tête-à-tête, it’s clear neither had fully thought through the consequences of their affair being discovered. Courser’s first line of defense was to play the victim through a half-baked, self-generated email smear campaign claiming he’s a closeted “bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant!” who was having some hot man-on-man action behind a Lansing nightclub. (Has he not heard the old maxim: It’s not the crime, it’s the coverup?)

Here’s the email he sent out last May in hopes it would “inoculate” Republicans from believing he and Gamrat were doin‘ the dirty:

Courser email 2As the story of his bizarre email scheme was about to break widely this week, Courser and Gamrat went into full-on-Plan-B-red-herring-mode pitching a Facebook conniption fit over the ethics of Michigan Planned Parenthood, with some fabricated baby parts thrown in for good measure. Nearly simultaneously they took to the war path on social media over the state’s baby-hacking “butchers.”

Additionally, both schemed-up legislative solutions to a problem that simply doesn’t exist. As widely reported, Michigan’s Planned Parenthood does not participate in supplying fetal tissue for research, but that didn’t stop the Courser-Gamrat dirty duo from attempting to deflect their own naughtiness with a little manufactured outrage for public consumption.

After all, if the story were true, dismembered babies would certainly be worse than having an illicit affair. And, it would also trump Courser’s cockamamie sex addict ploy.

So, in an effort to distract the public from his retched dissemblance, Courser became quite suddenly hell-bent on proposing another TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) law in Michigan. He wants to see each and every abortion fully documented down to the last detail, including a revisit to the vaginal probe requirement. But, believe it or not, that’s the least invasive of his long list of demands. Courser wants an inspector to be present during the full procedure, close-up and personal, to document the entire process, including extensive photographic record of every step — with photos of the fetal remains in the same frame as all those present, medical personnel included.

Courser slaughter house remark

August 6, 2015 Facebook post

Gamrat’s tirade was equally whacky.

Gamrat Facebook post

August 6, 2015 Facebook post

She finished-up her windy rant with this gruesome flight of fancy:

… [I]t is clear to me that dismembering babies and harvesting their body parts is not women’s health care. In addition, cutting off the limbs and crushing the skulls of little baby girls who are in the womb, is certainly not health care for them.

If Planned Parenthood really wanted to provide women’s health care services, they can continue to provide heath care services to women, however, if they want to receive tax payer dollars, then they need to get out of the business of dismembering babies and harvesting and selling their organs for financial gain.

These two are beyond delusional if they think constituents and media will be so easily distracted from their personal wrongdoing. Time for the Courser-Gamrat twosome to throw in the towel, they don’t belong in Lansing.

Democracy Tree will leave its readers with this little ditty to the dirty duo found in a comment on MLive:

MLive poem

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Michigan Reproductive Rights Lawmakers Join the Fight Against Anti-Choice Forces

“Birth control is important across the political spectrum, to Democratic women, to Republican women, and to Independent women…birth control is the cornerstone of women’s health, their ability to get an education, and their economic security.”  Michigan Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-76) 

A Purely Political Ploy by the GOP

The GOP publicity stunt designed to shame Planned Parenthood is just that, and nothing more — a time-released ploy for the 2016 election cycle. Republicans are casting about for a defining issue as they realize Benghazi and emailgate just won’t carry the day. So, when all else fails, they fall back on reproductive rights — it may be all that remains of their teetering platform of retrograde policies.

Conservatives have been soundly spanked recently over other long-standing causes: dismantling the Affordable Care Act — not gonna happen; marriage equality — done; Cuba — dial 1-800-Travelocity; and thanks to Donald Trump, the GOP line-up has to sit-down-and-shut-up on immigration too, along with any other issue he opts to bloviate about to a panting media. Republican leadership should take Trump’s popularity as an object lesson on just how dumbed-down their base has become, courtesy of Roger Ailes.

So, the right will continue to put-on its dog and pony show of huffing and puffing their feigned indignation over the revelations of the heavily edited Planned Parenthood tapes, which divulged that, yes, the organization does provide fetal remains to research organizations, and yes, they are fairly and properly reimbursed for costs they incur in so doing, but yet no, the secretive tapes somehow neglected to mention that federal tax dollars are not used for either abortions, or the transfer of fetal research tissue.

Pro-Choice Strikes Back – Finally

The first return volley in the recent abortion fight occurred in a California Federal Court last Friday when San Francisco Judge William Orrick blocked the right-wing Center for Medical Progress from releasing additional secretly recorded tapes from meetings of the National Abortion Federation. The suit, filed by the federation, alleges that the Center for Medical Progress is a front organization created to infiltrate and illegally record Pro-Choice meetings. California has strict laws prohibiting unauthorized recording of confidential conversations.

Twelve states have launched investigations of Planned Parenthood to determine if they have broken any laws in providing fetal tissue to research organizations. Michigan is not yet among them — not because there hasn’t been a call for such. Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-25) demanded an inquest, outraged at the possibility that perfectly legal medical science could be occurring in the state. However, his histrionics were unfounded, as Michigan Planned Parenthood does not participate in this kind of research. Desiree Cooper, spokesperson for the organization, explained to MLive:

“State Sen. Phil Pavlov’s call for an investigation of Planned Parenthood is unwarranted as our organization does not offer patients the opportunity to donate fetal tissue.”

But, Pavlov’s distemper was duly noted.

Indiana was among those dozen states looking into the matter at the behest of an equally aghast Republican Gov. Mike Pence. One wonders if he was pleased or peeved to learn that the Indiana Department of Health reported no wrong-doing by Planned Parenthood.

Pro-Choice advocates are understandably disappointed with the somewhat anemic rebuttal from Planned Parenthood, but the organization is neither accustomed to, nor equipped for, this level of malicious covert political attack — one that was two years in the scheming, and timed with a certain precision that suggests possible high-level GOP coordination — something which the discovery phase of the litigation may in time reveal.

Adding to the injury, the top Democratic candidate briefly fell for the GOP gambit. Progressives found it equally upsetting when Hillary Clinton initially referred to the tapes as “disturbing”, but she has since wisely declared her support for Planned Parenthood via Twitter:

Hillary tweet

What Goes Around Comes Around

Progressives should take heart though, there are a couple of Pro-Choice legislative initiatives in the works, both nationally and stateside in Michigan, which may serve to at least alleviate some of the angst created by the Planned Parenthood tapes.

Several weeks ago, Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced the EACH Woman Act with the support of over 70 co-sponsors and the backing of 36 women’s organizations. The acronym stands for Equal Access to Abortion in Health Coverage — a name inspired by the disproportionate number of women living in poverty who lack the means to avail themselves of the legal procedure. The reproductive rights organization, All Above All, describes the importance of the legislation:

The EACH Woman Act makes a meaningful change for women and their families, creating two important standards for reproductive health.

  • First, the bill respects that every woman should be able to make her own decisions about pregnancy. If a woman gets her care or insurance through the federal government, she will be covered for all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.
  • Second, the EACH Woman Act prohibits political interference with decisions of private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care. Federal, state and local legislators will not be able to interfere with the private insurance market to prevent insurance companies from providing abortion coverage.

In Michigan, where women’s reproductive rights have been under constant legislative siege since 2011, Democratic lawmakers are striking back with their own proposal meant to roll-back the draconian GOP law, officially termed the “Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act”, more commonly known as the “Rape Insurance Law”, which requires women to purchase a special insurance rider to have abortion coverage. As with the EACH Woman Act, HB 4764 enjoys broad support — but on just one side of the aisle.

The bill was referred to the heavily Republican House Committee on Insurance, led by Rep. Tom Leonard (R-93). Leonard took a strong anti-choice stand in his 2014 campaign, declaring:

“I am honored to be the only 93rd District State House Candidate endorsed by the Right to Life of Michigan – PAC. I have maintained a 100% pro-life voting record in the state legislature.”

Not to be intimidated, the Progressive Women’s Caucus of Michigan Lawmakers additionally announced last week an upcoming legislative package with the intent to:

  • Require employers to inform workers and job applicants of reproductive health coverage.
  • Prohibit employers from discriminating against women based on contraceptive use.
  • Require healthcare facilities to make emergency contraception readily available to sexual assault victims.
Dems on contraception

Rep. Winnie Brinks of the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus speaking on July 23, 2015

Yet, Attacks on Reproductive Rights are Sharply on the Rise

Legislative assaults on women’s reproductive rights are certainly not unique to Michigan. The Guttmacher Institute reports that during the first half of 2015, states have enacted 51 new abortion restrictions, bringing the count to 282 since 2010.

Abortion restrictions chart

Source: Guttmacher Institute, July 2015

Among the list of restrictions are: onerous waiting periods, targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP laws), limiting abortion to the first trimester, banning medication abortion, and preventing the use of telemedicine for woman living in underserved rural areas.

This is why 2016 is so very critical for reproductive rights advocates.

DSCN0444Amy Kerr Hardin

Fact sheet on EACH Woman Act HERE.

Video of the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus news conference HERE.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment