Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the September 23, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday! The annual Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference for Michigan’s lawmakers and the business community has made for a somewhat light week in Lansing, however, a flurry of non-legislative activity continues. I’m proud to say that the Michigan LCV team has kept an eye on it all.
This week’s Three Things features an inside look at what’s happening at the Policy Conference; a summary of what took place at the Board of Canvassers meeting today; and an update on Line 5. Never a dull moment, that’s for sure.
Before we dive in, though, I need to tell you that I wrote this week’s Three Things by candlelight because DTE Energy has once again failed the people in my neighborhood and over 100,000 people throughout SE Michigan.
Following a 5-day power outage in August, Normal Park is out again, with people scrambling to find ways to save the food in their fridge and kindly delivering coffee to neighbors (thank you, Lani, you were a true angel this morning!). Thank goodness for Attorney General Nessel who is taking these outages very, very seriously. Check out this article entitled, “Absolutely Awful”: Nessel holds Novi town hall on power outages.
1. A report from the Mackinac Policy Conference
Michigan LCV’s Government Affairs team has spent most of the week on Mackinac Island meeting with decision-makers, business leaders, and a wide range of interest groups and stakeholders.
Most are thrilled that the Detroit Regional Chamber’s signature event is back this year (following the 2020 cancellation due to COVID), but it has definitely been scaled back to adhere to health protocols and, even more so, because of the controversy surrounding them. In August, Senate Majority Leader Shirkey announced he would be skipping the conference because of their vaccine policies.
Among the myriad of pre-arranged lawmaker meetings, our awesome teammates, Nick Occhipinti and Hallie Fox, have also been attending numerous events, including those hosted for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Governor Gretchen Whitmer. While with the Governor, they were able to personally thank her for her work on Line 5 and tackling the climate crisis. In fact, the Governor had just come from giving a speech announcing Michigan LCV-supported initiatives on electric vehicles and a just transition to a clean economy. “I am laser focused on growing our economy, creating good-paying jobs and building the future of mobility and electrification right here in Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer in her keynote speech at the Conference.
While the island is certainly a beautiful place (Nick and Hallie slipped out for some much-deserved exercise and a nice sunset—good for them!), the week has been packed with activity. The Policy Conference is the main attraction of the week, but it is the opportunity surrounding the formal schedule for sidebar conversations and relationship-building that makes the conference so important.
In a single evening, our Government Affairs team had conversations that ranged from the Bottle Bill (with Republican leadership) and utility accountability to redistricting and electoral analysis (with operatives from both sides of the aisle), with a host of other topics laced in between. Dropping most of the formalities of the State Capitol, our team was able to build relationships and trust in ways simply not possible in the hustle-and-bustle of agenda-driven Lansing.
2. Today’s #WeVoteMI statement on anti-voter ballot initiative
Today the Michigan Board of Canvassers met in Lansing to decide whether to approve the 100-word summary of the so-called Secure MI Vote ballot initiative, the latest attempt by Michigan Republicans to suppress the vote in Michigan following a historic, safe, and secure 2020 election. The debate over whether to approve the 100-word summary — which is littered with inaccurate claims about election fraud and mischaracterizes the true intent of the proposed ballot initiative — is the first step in the process to get the ballot initiative in motion.
The #WeVoteMI coalition of pro-democracy partner groups issued a robust statement ahead of the Board of Canvassers meeting in Lansing. The press release was issued to shine a bright spotlight on the significance of this dangerous, anti-voter initiative, which was announced last month. After a summer filled with hearings and votes in Lansing on the 39-bill voter suppression package introduced in March, the ballot initiative is the Republicans last-ditch effort to circumvent Gov. Whitmer’s veto (which the governor promised to apply to these awful bills) and find other ways to restrict access to the ballot for Michiganders. If they succeed, this will disproportionately impact Black and Brown communities, the elderly, and those with disabilities. It’s outrageous.
I am proud to say that our Democracy For All team continues to be instrumental in organizing the #WeVoteMI coalition’s strategy to fight back against the ongoing attempts at voter suppression in Michigan.
I am also proud to say that Governor Whitmer, when addressing the crowd yesterday at the Detroit Regional Policy Conference, took this issue head on, asking business leaders all across our state “to take a stand against efforts to undermine our elections and voting rights…”.
The unfortunate news is that the 100-word ballot initiative was approved by the Board of Canvassers. While this does not mean that the ballot initiative is approved quite yet (the Board of Canvassers will reconvene to discuss the ballot initiative once rampant errors and inaccuracies are corrected by GOP-backed interest groups), there is a lot of work to be done.
Over the coming months, our team and our #WeVoteMI partners will be working to orchestrate a “decline to sign” campaign in opposition to the Republicans’ dangerous ballot initiative, if and when it is approved by the Board of Canvassers. It’s imperative that we make sure Michiganders everywhere know that these proposed changes will endanger — not expand nor secure!–our freedom to vote.
3. An update on Line 5
As you know, Enbridge Energy ignored Gov. Whitmer’s shutdown order in May, which pushed this issue rapidly into the courts. In the months since then, the Line 5 case has been stuck in the U.S. District Court in Western Michigan and, for the last several months, Judge Janet Neff has been presiding over mediations, which she put in motion between the state of Michigan and Enbridge.
Our expectation that mediated conversation would go nowhere has proven correct. The two parties met four times and had hoped to conclude talks by the end of September. In a Detroit News article dated September 17th, the state of Michigan indicated a desire to end mediation over the future of Line 5 and have the case sent back to state court where it belongs.
I’m happy to report that this week, Judge Neff made the decision to dismiss the mediation process as we had hoped. The next step, again, will ideally be Judge Neff’s decision to return the case to Judge James Jamo’s court in Ingham County, where the case was initially placed before Enbridge purposefully forced it into the U.S. District Court (one of the many ways the Canadian company continues their delay tactics to keep Line 5 pumping millions of gallons of tar sands oil each and every day). I hope the hundreds of Policy Conference attendees gave some thought to the dangerous, damaged pipeline as they crossed the beautiful Straits to reach Mackinac Island.
Please note that Enbridge Energy is dealing with an expanse of legal and insurance issues in Minnesota over its Line 3 pipeline project, and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources penalized Enbridge $3.3 million for a 24-million-gallon groundwater leak and endangering wetlands during the construction of the Line 3 replacement pipeline. And, if that were not enough, Enbridge has hired a guy, who ‘cut his teeth’ at Exxon and Amazon, to ‘take counterinsurgency’ from one corporation to another. Awesome.
Over the coming weeks and months, the Michigan LCV team will closely monitor the Line 5 legal battle. The health of our Great Lakes, the quality of our drinking water, and Michigan’s economy and Michiganders way of life literally hang in the balance.
As I say every week: thank you! Please be safe and try to savor each and every day on this complex, beautiful planet we call ‘home’.