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Wednesday, December 28,2011

11 groups run over by GOP agenda in ‘11

by Kyle Melinn

Name an interest group traditionally aligned with the Democratic Party and progressive thinking and they took it without the benefit of lube in 2011. 

A Republican governor, legislature, attorney general and Supreme Court equaled the toughest conservative crackdown in Michigan since John Engler's end of general assistance in 1991 gave rise to tent cities on the Capitol lawn.

The GOP succeeded in nuking the progressive landscape with its "cost-cutting" policies, but who got it the worst in 2011? Number one isn't hard to figure out.

1. Organized labor — Gov. Rick Snyder's "reinvention" of Michigan equaled a "shared sacrifice" for just about everybody except business — who saw lower taxes, fewer regulations and long-sought policy changes that improve their bottom line at the expense of the injured and the unemployed.

True, Snyder didn't seek "Right to Work" or an end to collective bargaining for public employees like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker tried, but it's because Michigan's governor saw "value" in nickel and diming organized labor on so many fronts. 

The result: Public employees can still bargain in Michigan, but the added restrictions have left few negotiable items on the table.

2. Medical marijuana users — Attorney General Bill Schuette is basically recriminalizing marijuana use now that he's gotten the courts to shutdown the dispensaries. Unless a cancer patient can "grow their own" or happens to know somebody who does, the underground drug trade is the only place to go. He's succeeded in making poor sick Grandpa and Aunt Susy choose between becoming a criminal or using a real addicting, harmful narcotic like Oxycontin. Perfect.

3. The poor — You've been laid off. The state is cutting off your unemployment checks after 20 weeks instead of 26. The state just cut your ability to collect welfare to 48 months. You'd get a job, but the job you found pays less than what you make on unemployment after childcare costs are factored in. The bank is calling for your mortgage. Merry Christmas.

4. Teachers — As if the $269-to $99-per-pupil cut in state funding to schools wasn't bad enough, the state capped the amount of health benefits a teacher can receive. Teacher tenure is gone. A couple of bad classes of kids and you could be gone, too. At least your retirement wasn't touched . . . that's 2012.

5. LGBT — The year started off well. The Civil Service Commission agreed to a domestic partner benefit for state employees. And then House Speaker Jase Bolger and Rep. Dave Agema went bananas. Snyder held them off during the budget process but when confronted with a bill, he couldn't say no, a case of hypocritical pandering since he supports civil unions. 

More legalized discrimination. When homophobic acts are grounds for criminal prosecution in 20 years (hopefully less), will these people hold their heads in shame for this atrocity?

6. Elderly — Grandma and Grandpa are going have a heart attack when they see how much they're paying the state in '12. Snyder coaxed the Legislature into balance the state's budget by killing the state exemption on retirement income. We'll see how shopping goes for older folks, too, when they can't find the price tags.

7. Urban cities — Hello, Mr. Un-Elected, Unaccountable Emergency Manager. Since the state cratered our revenue sharing, please take over our cities — Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse, Detroit, Please gut our city services and the butcher the pay/benefit package of any employee left standing.

8. Feminists — A legislative session just isn't complete unless Right to Life can find a new and creative way to pass a bill outlawing what they call "partial birth abortion." It's a federally banned medical procedure. There is no proof that one has been performed in years. And yet, the '11 offering was practically the first thing out of the Senate this year. What a waste of time.

9. Working families — As long as you don't lose your job, get injured on the job or make enough where you didn't count on the Earned Income Tax Credit, everything was OK. If you have kids, you can't exempt them from your state returns next year. Shared sacrifice, baby.

10. The Democratic Party — Of the 300 bills signed into law in 2011, Democrats sponsored 12. Democrats in Oakland County got to redraw county commission districts for the first time in a gazillion years. The Republican legislature simply changed a law, killed the maps and gave the drawing pen to a GOP-controlled commission. Power has its privileges, I guess.

11. Environmentalists — Schuette is fighting a one-year delay in new federal clear air in court instead of working with the decimated staffing levels at the Department of Environmental Quality to hold more polluters accountable.


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