News Feed

Democrats Blast GOP Senate Roads Plan
Jul. 1st 2015
Statement from MDP Chair Lon Johnson on US Supreme Court Redistricting Verdict
Jun. 29th 2015
Statement from MDP on Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling
Jun. 26th 2015
MDP Chair Lon Johnson Resigns Post, State Central Delegates to Elect New Chair
Jun. 25th 2015
Statement from MDP Chair Lon Johnson on EITC/GOP Roads Plan
Jun. 10th 2015
Walberg More Focused on Invading Women’s Privacy than Fixing Michigan Roads
May. 15th 2015
Congressman Benishek Once Again Turns His Back on Michigan Troops
May. 15th 2015
Democrats Condemn Senate GOP Hypocrisy on Prevailing Wage
May. 13th 2015
Statement from MDP Chair Lon Johnson on Proposal One
May. 5th 2015
Michigan, Wisconsin Democrats Respond to Scott Walker's Visit to Michigan
May. 4th 2015
Michigan Veterans Reject Congressman Benishek’s ‘False Promise’ to Help Vets
Apr. 16th 2015
Michigan Democrats Announce 2015 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner to Honor Congressman Dingell, Senator Levin; Will Feature Special Guest Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Apr. 2nd 2015
Keep Christie Economics Out of Michigan
Mar. 27th 2015
Statement from Michigan Democrats on Snyder Handing Pardon to Connected Attorney for Drunk Driving Conviction
Mar. 27th 2015
Michigan Democratic Party Makes 2016 Delegate Selection Plan available for Review
Mar. 26th 2015
Statement from Michigan Democrats on Congressman Dan Benishek
Mar. 24th 2015
Snyder Marks Sunshine Week by Appointing Lobbyist as New State Treasurer
Mar. 17th 2015
Michigan Democrats Slam Massive Bonus Handed to Former Detroit Schools EM
Mar. 9th 2015
Michigan And Ohio Democratic Parties Submit Brief in Support of Marriage Equality
Mar. 5th 2015
Michigan Democrats Slam Latest Friends and Family Contract from Snyder Administration
Mar. 2nd 2015

Democrats Blast GOP Senate Roads Plan
Jul. 1st 2015

LANSING - Today the Michigan Democratic Party blasted the Senate Republican Roads Plan for hitting ordinary Michigan families hard while letting corporations off the hook. The package relies on higher gas taxes, up to $700 million in cuts to vital programs and a tax hike on low income working families.

 

“This roads plan comes at the expense of Michigan families, hit yet again with a tax increase, while corporations enjoy another pass at paying their fair share." said Lon Johnson, Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party. “Working families can not stay and succeed in a state where Republicans continue to finance Michigan's future with one-sided sacrifices." 

 

Over the last five years, Republicans have orchestrated one of the largest tax shifts in Michigan history requiring workers to provide for schools, roads and other critical programs while corporations have enjoyed over $2 billion in tax cuts.

 

Statement from MDP Chair Lon Johnson on US Supreme Court Redistricting Verdict
Jun. 29th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democrats released the following statement in response to the US Supreme Court redistricting verdict:

"This verdict sends a clear message that gerrymandering to suppress voting is no longer a viable political strategy," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "Republican economic and social policies are alienating voters. With every election, more people are voting Democratic. Republicans see the numbers. They know the only way to maintain a majority in Michigan is by drawing unapologetic lines that blatantly stack the deck in their favor. This verdict paves the way for Michigan to explore the option of a fairer system that better reflects voter sentiment in our state."

###

Statement from MDP on Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling
Jun. 26th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democrats released the following statement in response to the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality:

"Today's ruling in favor of marriage equality is a big step forward for the LGBT community nationwide but especially here in Michigan where our attorney general has consistently fought against the right of same-sex couples to marry," said Mark LaChey, Michigan Democratic Party LGBT and Allies Caucus Chair. "We recognize, however, that this is only the beginning of our fight. Even with today's ruling, "married on Sunday, fired on Monday" remains the legal reality for LGBT Michiganders. Moving forward, we will not only fight against the current effort by Republicans in Lansing to blunt the effect of today's decision but also to push for full social and economic equality for all of us who call this great state our home."

###

MDP Chair Lon Johnson Resigns Post, State Central Delegates to Elect New Chair
Jun. 25th 2015
LANSING - Lon Johnson announced his resignation as Chair of the Michigan Democratic Party effective July 11. Johnson is departing the post to compete in the race for Michigan's 1st Congressional District.  
 
"We have worked hard over the past few years to strengthen our infrastructure and grow the party," said Johnson. "As a result, the MDP is well-positioned to achieve the ambitious goals we have set. I welcome a successor who will build on those efforts and lead Michigan Democrats to victory in 2016 and beyond."    
 
State Central Delegates, already slated to meet prior to Mr. Johnson's announcement, will convene as scheduled on July 11 in Port Huron. Candidates will be nominated and a successor elected during that meeting. Under the Party's Rules, Delegates to the State Central Committee, Officers of the State Central Committee, and all Democratic National Committee Members for the State of Michigan are eligible to vote to elect a new Chair. 
 
###

 

Statement from MDP Chair Lon Johnson on EITC/GOP Roads Plan
Jun. 10th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democrats released the following statement on the House Republican proposal to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit to fund roads:

"Instead of listening to voters last month, Republicans in Lansing are forging ahead with a proposed tax increase on working families to help fund their roads plan," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "They define corporate tax credit cuts as a tax increase but claim eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit isn't. Let's be clear. Cutting the EITC is a tax increase and raising taxes on working families while corporations see their taxes cut is no way to build a Michigan where we can stay and succeed. It's shocking that this legislature did not recognize the voters' rejection of one-sided sacrifices from our working families."

###

Walberg More Focused on Invading Women’s Privacy than Fixing Michigan Roads
May. 15th 2015

As the Highway Trust Fund expires, Republicans in Congress champion controversial abortion bill

LANSING – Republican Congressman Tim Walberg further exposed his reckless ideology yesterday by voting to invade the privacy of victims of rape and sexual assault, mere days after he told a town hall that “government was too involved in people’s lives.”

Unfortunately for hardworking Michiganders, Walberg’s misguided priorities ignore the need to create jobs and make Michigan commuters safer, as Republicans in Congress allow the Highway Trust Fund to expire.

"It’s mind-boggling that Congressman Walberg is focused on invading women’s privacy, but can’t find the time to put Michiganders back to work by focusing on rebuilding Michigan’s roads," said Joshua Pugh, Michigan Democratic Party Communications Director. "Walberg complains publicly about the state of the roads in front of his house, yet he’s too busy in Washington interfering in women’s health care choices to do anything about it."

###

FOCUSING ON DIVISIVE ISSUES

Walberg Voted For Controversial Law Invading A Woman’s Privacy Even In Cases Of Rape And Sexual Assault.“The legislation, which also requires a 48-hour waiting period, informed consent forms and mandatory counseling for victims of rape and sexual assault before abortions, passed 242-184…” [The Hill, 5/13/15]

HEADLINE: The Hill: Late-term abortion ban keeps controversial incest rule. “Newly unveiled language in the House’s late-term abortion bill shows that GOP leaders did not meet all of the demands from members of their party who had opposed an earlier version, keeping in limits on incest-related abortion.” [The Hill, 5/11/15]

Walberg Voted In Favor Of Resolution Disapproving DC Law Protecting Employees From Discrimination Based On Their Reproductive Health Decisions. [HJ Res 43, Vote# 194, 4/30/15]

HEADLINE: CNN: New abortion controversy hits Congress. “The new House resolution, sponsored by Tennessee Rep. Diane Black, says the D.C. law, the "Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act," accomplishes the opposite of what its name implies.” [CNN, 4/22/15]

IGNORING MICHIGAN ROADS

700,000 Jobs Could Be Lost If The Highway Trust Fund Expires. “The Obama administration on Monday warned 700,000 jobs could be lost if Congress misses a deadline to replenish a highway spending fund and said Senate legislation could fall short of a long-term solution to maintain U.S. infrastructure.”  [Reuters, 5/12/14]

Walberg Blasted Size Of Government After Complaining Michigan Roads Resemble Beirut Infrastructure. During a town-hall meeting in May 2015, Walberg said, “We still have potholes. We still have bridges crumbling … Fix our roads. The road in front of my house is going back to gravel. [My driver] Dustin picked me up there regularly and has to go across what looks like Beirut. I’ve been in Beirut. I know what Beirut roads look like. My road looks like Beirut. Imagine, a member of Congress having a road looking like that. That’s terrible. They got to treat me better than that. I’m a member of Congress … But the point I am making is folks, the government has become too much of our lives.” [Daily Telegram, 5/08/15]

Republican Bill Would Cut Critical TIGER Grants. “Over the past three years, Michigan received $32.9 million for these projects … The House mark would slash TIGER grant funding to nearly 80 percent below its lowest level ever, despite the fact that the program is vastly oversubscribed.” [White House, 5/13/15]

Congressman Benishek Once Again Turns His Back on Michigan Troops
May. 15th 2015

LANSING - In continuing his dishonorable tradition of abandoning our nation’s military when they need it most, Congressman Benishek joined fellow reckless Republicans in allowing members of the military to go without pay in the event of a government shutdown.

This comes just days after Benishek criticized the VA’s ability to care for veterans, not disclosing to a reporter that he had actually voted against funding for the VA to carry out additional PTSD treatment, suicide prevention, and disability claims processing.

"Congressman Benishek has proven yet again that despite what he may tell his constituents, he doesn't care about the men and women who wear the cloth of our country," said Sen. David Knezek (D - Dearborn Heights), the first Iraq War veteran to serve in the Michigan Legislature. "I can't imagine why a sitting Congressman would turn his back on the United States Armed Forces. Ensuring that our military members get paid even in the event of a government shutdown is an absolute no-brainer. Congressman Benishek's continued failure to stand up for the men and women who defend our country is one of the highest forms of disrespect I've ever seen. It's un-American."

###

BACKGROUND: 

Benishek Voted To Block An Amendment To Ensure A Pay Raise & Ensure Servicemembers Are Paid In Event Of Government Shutdown. In May 2015, Benishek voted against a motion to recommit that would ensure a  2.3% pay increase for fiscal year 2016 for servicemembers and would ensure that servicemembers are paid in the event of a government shutdown. [HR 1735, Vote #238, 5/15/15] 

Benishek Voted To Underfund The Department Of Veterans Affairs By An Estimated $19 Billion Over Ten Years. The House Republican Budget Benishek voted for called for funding of the Department of Veterans Affairs below the president’s request by $1.4 billion in 2016 and $19 billion over ten years. “The Independent Budget veterans service organizations (IBVSOs) are pleased to see that the Administration has committed to investing significant new resources to the VA, particularly for health care. . . . The revised budget request for FY 2016 is especially welcome because the IBVSOs had been concerned that the funding levels previously provided through advance appropriations for FY 2016 were not sufficient to meet clearly increasing demand.” [H.CON.RES 27, Vote #142, 3/25/15; Budget Committee Democrats, FY16 Republican Budget; IBVSO Press Release,2/2/15; Military Times, 5/1/15

Benishek Voted Against An Additional $15 Million For Veterans Medical Services. On April 30, 2015, Benishek voted against an amendment to H.R. 2029, making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs would strengthen support services for America’s veterans in the Mil Con-VA Appropriations by providing an additional $15 million for Veterans Medical Services, which includes funding for long-term veterans care, support for Caregivers, Homeless Veterans assistance, and drug treatment. [HR 2029,Vote #192, 4/30/15; Democraticleader.gov, 4/30/15

Benishek Voted Against Quicker Disability Claims Processing To Alleviate Backlog For Veterans. In 2013, Benishek voted against an amendment that would help reduce the backlog of disability claims for veterans. The amendment would add $9.2 million in funding (double the funds in the underlying appropriations bill) to hire an additional 94 claims processors to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The amendment failed 198-227. [HR 2216, Vote #192, 6/04/13] 

Benishek Voted Against Millions In Additional Funding For Suicide Prevention And PTSD For Veterans. In 2011, Benishek voted against an amendment which would have provided an additional $20 million for veterans’ medical service to help with post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention. “Rep. Bill Owens offered an amendment to a military appropriations bill in the House of Representatives that would increase spending on veterans’ mental health services by $20 million.” The motion failed 184-234. [HR 2055, Vote #417, 6/14/11; Watertown Daily Times, 6/14/11

Benishek Voted Against Additional $28.3 Million For Medical And Prosthetic Research And Development For Veterans’ Care. In May 2012, Benishek voted against increased funding for medical and prosthetic research and development by $28.3 million. The amendment would have reduced the amount provided for the Defense Base Closure Account by $56.7 million and used $28.3 million to invest in veteran’s health and prosthetic research and development. The motion failed, 188-230. [CQ; HR 5854, Vote #304, 5/31/12; Congressional Record, H3358, 5/31/12] 

Benishek Told A Reporter He’s Frustrated By VA Officials Who “Talk The Talk But Don’t Walk The Walk.” In an interview discussing the recent deaths of veterans at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, Benishek complained about VA officials and the slow progress of reforms at the VA health centers. Benishek said, “So they talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk, and frankly it’s very disturbing.” [Fox 31, 5/10/15]

Democrats Condemn Senate GOP Hypocrisy on Prevailing Wage
May. 13th 2015

LANSING - Today the Michigan Democratic Party condemned the Senate GOP for yet another attack on the ability of Michigan families to earn good wages and stay and succeed in our state.

Johnson pointed out that Senate Republican Leader Arlan Meekhof claimed that under Michigan's prevailing wage law, 'taxpayers have to pay more for their buildings.'

"If the goal is save money, Senate Republicans should drop their plan to waste $134 million on fancy new offices for politicians, rather than attack workers' wages," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "Democrats won't rest until this boondoggle is stopped, because there's no justification for spending $134 million on a fancy new office building for politicians."

Johnson also highlighted that Meekhof's claim about Michigan's prevailing wage law is flatly false.

"Michigan's prevailing wage law supports better training and local jobs for local workers," continued Johnson. "Repealing this valuable, decades-old protection is no way to create a Michigan where we can stay and succeed. This is driven by Republican politicians and corporate special interests, and would depress wages, hurt our state's economy and drive skilled workers out of our state."

###

Statement from MDP Chair Lon Johnson on Proposal One
May. 5th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democrats released the following statement in response to the failure of Proposal One:

"This ballot proposal failed because working Michigan families said enough," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "Raising taxes on working families while corporations see their taxes cut is no way to build a Michigan where we can stay and succeed. Moving forward, this legislature and governor should recognize and reflect the voters' rejection tonight of one-sided sacrifices from our working families. It's time for corporations to pay their fair share."

###

Michigan, Wisconsin Democrats Respond to Scott Walker's Visit to Michigan
May. 4th 2015

LANSING - Today the Michigan Democratic Party and Wisconsin Democratic Party released the following joint statement in response to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's visit to Michigan:

“Under Gov. Snyder, middle class families have seen their tax bill increase year after year, yet our state is still running deficits, population is lagging the rest of the country, and our economy continues to struggle," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "That’s because Republicans handed corporations one of the largest tax breaks in Michigan history, and paid for it by making it harder on Michigan families. Michigan is struggling enough under Snyder, we don't need Walker's help."

"Middle class families can’t afford someone like Walker, who makes drastic cuts to education, transportation and infrastructure, just to pay for tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires," added Mike Tate, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair. "Right now, Wisconsin ranks 40th in the nation and dead last in the Midwest in terms of private-sector job growth, and has a staggering $2 billion budget deficit. Wisconsin families need relief, not an out of touch road show touting polices that have hurt Wisconsin."

Michigan Veterans Reject Congressman Benishek’s ‘False Promise’ to Help Vets
Apr. 16th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson and state Sen. David Knezek (D - Dearborn Heights) hosted a conference call with media in response to Republican Congressman Dan Benishek's recent claims that he is breaking his retirement pledge in order to better serve veterans.

A group of Michigan veterans also released the following statement today, in response to Congressman Dan Benishek’s (R) op-ed claiming he’s breaking his retirement pledge to better serve veterans. The following statement can be attributed to Gordie Bourland, Army veteran from Petoskey, Marc Carr, Army veteran from Sault Ste. Marie, and Kel Smythe, Army veteran from Escanaba:
 
"As Michigan veterans, we’re appalled at the nerve of Congressman Benishek to claim he’s breaking his retirement pledge to help veterans – because just the other day he voted with his Republican pals in Congress to underfund the VA by $19 billion. The VA cuts Benishek supported would mean longer wait times, more expensive trips to the clinic, and less benefits to go around. We reject Congressman Benishek’s false promise of help; he’d only break it anyway."

"The veterans who live and vote in Michigan need someone looking out for them in Washington," added state Sen. David Knezek, Marine Corps and Iraq War veteran from Dearborn Heights. "These are the men and women who wore the uniform and sacrificed their safety for the security of those of us back home – and they deserve better than Congressman Benishek. Congressman Benishek may claim to be staying in Congress to help vets, but Benishek’s friends in DC have clearly persuaded him otherwise.

"I think we all know it’s because he’d rather keep his Washington job than honor his promise to voters."

###
 
BACKGROUND:
 
Benishek Voted to Underfund the Department of Veterans Affairs by $19 Billion over Ten Years. The House Republican Budget inadequately funds the Department of Veterans Affairs below what the President and veterans’ groups requested by $1.9 billion in 2016 and $19 billion over ten years, making it more difficult for the Veterans Administration to provide timely access to quality health care and other benefits and services. [H.CON.RES 27, Vote #142, 3/25/15]
 
AMVETS, DAV, Paralyzed Veterans of America And VFW Touted Administration Budget Recommendations For VA Funding. “Today, four of the nation’s leading veterans service organizations—AMVETS (American Veterans), DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars)—released The Independent Budget Report for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for FY 2016 and FY 2017. The report outlines projected funding requirements for the programs administered by the VA. The Independent Budget veterans service organizations (IBVSOs) are pleased to see that the Administration has committed to investing significant new resources to the VA, particularly for health care. . . . The revised budget request for FY 2016 is especially welcome because the IBVSOs had been concerned that the funding levels previously provided through advance appropriations for FY 2016 were not sufficient to meet clearly increasing demand.” [DAV press release, 2/2/15]
 
Benishek Voted Against Quicker Disability Claims Processing To Alleviate Backlog For Veterans. In 2013, Benishek voted against an amendment that would help reduce the backlog of disability claims for veterans. The amendment would add $9.2 million in funding (double the funds in the underlying appropriations bill) to hire an additional 94 claims processors to help reduce the veterans disability claims backlog. The amendment failed 198-227. [HR 2216, Vote #192, 6/04/13]
 
Benishek Voted Against Millions In Additional Funding For Suicide Prevention And PTSD For Veterans. In 2011, Benishek voted against a motion which would have provided an additional $20 million for veterans’ medical service to help with post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide prevention. “Rep. Bill Owens offered an amendment to a military appropriations bill in the House of Representatives that would increase spending on veterans' mental health services by $20 million.” The motion failed 184-234. [HR 2055, Vote #417, 6/14/11; Watertown Daily Times, 6/14/11]
 
Benishek Voted Against Additional $28.3 Million For Medical And Prosthetic Research And Development For Veterans’ Care. In May 2012, Benishek voted against increased funding for medical and prosthetic research and development by $28.3 million. The bill would have reduced the amount provided for the Defense Base Closure Account by $56.7 million and used $28.3 million to invest in veteran’s health and prosthetic research and development. The motion failed, 188-230. [CQ; HR 5854, Vote #304, 5/31/12; Congressional Record, H3358, 5/31/12]

Michigan Democrats Announce 2015 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner to Honor Congressman Dingell, Senator Levin; Will Feature Special Guest Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Apr. 2nd 2015

LANSING - Today, Michigan Democratic Party officials announced the 2015 Jefferson-Jackson Dinner will honor Congressman John Dingell and Senator Carl Levin for their decades of service. The dinner will feature special guest Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“I’m thrilled to welcome Debbie Wasserman Schultz to Michigan to help us honor two giants in the Michigan Democratic Party,” said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. “Congressman Dingell and Senator Levin were Michigan’s lions in Washington for decades, and we couldn’t be happier to dedicate this year’s dinner to their unrivaled service on behalf of Michigan families.”

The dinner will be hosted at Cobo Hall’s Grand Riverview Ballroom, and will be at 6:15 PM on Saturday, May 9, 2015. 

“It’s a real honor to be invited to help Michigan Democrats pay tribute to the incredible legacies of Congressman Dingell and Senator Levin,” said Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “Democrats know that the way we build our economy is from the middle out, and the inspiring careers of these two great leaders is a testament to that.” 

### 

Debbie Wasserman Schultz is appearing at this event only as a special guest. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is not asking for funds or donations.

Keep Christie Economics Out of Michigan
Mar. 27th 2015

From: Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair
To: Interested Parties
RE: Keep Christie Economics Out of Michigan
Date: Friday, March 27, 2015

Today Michigan Democrats took the opportunity of Chris Christie's visit to Macomb County to highlight Christie's failed record in New Jersey, and question why Macomb County Republicans would invited him to the state.

One only needs to look to New Jersey's economy to know what Governor Chris Christie’s top-down economic policies would mean for this country - benefiting the wealthy and burdening the middle class. 

The result of his economic policies in New Jersey is a perfect example of how the Republican top-down economic plan puts a greater strain on the middle class and holds back the state’s ability to grow. In Michigan, we understand the importance of a strong economy, and Democrats value a hardworking middle class that drives our economy. 

For that reason, I’m not sure why the Macomb County GOP decided to invite Christie to speak at their Lincoln Day Dinner, but I hope he’s not giving financial advice. 

Under Chris Christie, New Jersey has ranked near last in the nation in job creation. In fact, not only has New Jersey lagged behind the country in job growth, but it has only regained half the jobs it lost in the recession while the country has gained. New Jersey has also seen a record eight state credit downgrades under Chris Christie, and rating agencies are still threatening to downgrade New Jersey further. 

New Jersey’s household income rate dropped more than 12 percent during Chris Christie’s first term. Additionally, six of the seven largest cities in New Jersey with statistically significant changes in income between 2009 and 2013 saw drops in income of up to 25 percent. 

Homeowners in New Jersey also saw their home values plummet throughout Christie’s tenure as Governor. Home values were actually lower in 85 percent of municipalities in 2013 than they had been in 2009, when Christie assumed office.  

The bottom line: Christie was bad for New Jersey, and if he is given the opportunity would be damaging for Michigan and for America. 

Statement from Michigan Democrats on Snyder Handing Pardon to Connected Attorney for Drunk Driving Conviction
Mar. 27th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson released the following statement in response to an Associated Press investigation revealing Gov. Rick Snyder handed a pardon to a connected attorney for a drunk driving conviction.

"By pardoning a politically-connected attorney convicted of drunk driving, this governor has reached a new low," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "I don't know who is more shameless - the drunk driver asking for a pardon, or the governor who granted it."

###

BACKGROUND:

Center for Public Integrity: "The political kingmaker nobody knows," March 26, 2015.

Associated Press: "Exclusive: Snyder uses pardon for connected lawyer," March 27, 2015.

Michigan Democratic Party Makes 2016 Delegate Selection Plan available for Review
Mar. 26th 2015

From: Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair
To: Interested Parties
RE: Michigan Democratic Party Makes 2016 Delegate Selection Plan available for Review
Date: Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Michigan Democratic Party has completed its proposed Delegate Selection Plan for the 2016 Democratic National Convention. The plan will be available for review for a thirty day public comment period on the MDP website at michigandems.com/delegateselection beginning today, March 26, 2015. After the comment period expires, the Plan will be submitted to the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee for final approval and further action with the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee.

The Plan provides that Michigan will have a total of 152 delegates and 11 alternates, to be selected proportionately, based on the results of a government-run primary. This "first determining step" in the Michigan delegate selection process will occur on Tuesday, March 8th, 2016, to be held in conjunction with the Michigan GOP Presidential Primary. Further information can be found in the Plan itself.

If there are any questions, comments or criticisms about the Plan, you may contact the Michigan Democratic Party.

Statement from Michigan Democrats on Congressman Dan Benishek
Mar. 24th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson released the following statement in response to a report on Interlochen Public Radio that Congressman Dan Benishek will be breaking his three-term pledge and running for reelection in 2016. 

"Congressman Benishek is out of touch with the needs of Northern Michigan, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he's breaking his three-term pledge by running for a fourth term in Congress," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "Congressman Benishek has repeatedly embraced the wrong priorities for Northern Michigan families, instead of working to build a state where we can stay and succeed. 

"Just last week, Washington Republicans released a budget that would end Medicare as we know it, transforming it into a voucher program, and would return our economy to the same top-down economics that has failed us in the past," continued Johnson. "Northern Michigan deserves a Congressman that goes to Washington and works for them, not another politician who breaks his word.” 

###

Snyder Marks Sunshine Week by Appointing Lobbyist as New State Treasurer
Mar. 17th 2015

LANSING - Today Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson responded to Snyder's appointment of Nick Khouri, an active registered lobbyist, as the new state treasurer. 

"Putting a registered lobbyist in charge of all taxpayer dollars at the Department of Treasury is no way to create public trust in government, and certainly underscores the urgency of acting on Democrats' government accountability legislation," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "But this is nothing new when it comes to Snyder's Treasury Department, which has been riddled with controversy and scandal.

"Snyder first state treasurer was Andy Dillon, who used his position to audition for his next job for a government contractor, then was paid not to work while on a Caribbean cruise," continued Johnson. "Next, he brought on Kevin Clinton, who signed off on Snyder's housing agency using more than $200,000 in public funds on limousines, premium flights, gourmet meals and fancy hotel rooms. This Sunshine Week, it's long past time we get a full accounting from the Snyder administration and strong measures in place to bring transparency, openness and accountability to state government."

Michigan Democrats Slam Massive Bonus Handed to Former Detroit Schools EM
Mar. 9th 2015

LANSING - Today the Michigan Democratic Party released the following statement on reports that the Snyder Administration handed a $50,000 bonus to the former Emergency Manager for Detroit Public Schools.

"Handing out a massive $50,000 bonus to a failing political appointee at Detroit Public Schools isn't the first time the Snyder Administration has gotten caught handing out taxpayer-funded bonuses, raises, and questionable payroll practices," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "We remember the lavish reimbursements for 1st class travel, luxury hotels, limos and 80% pay raises for investment managers, as well as keeping former Treasurer Andy Dillon on payroll long after his resignation. These practices have no place in state government, let alone at a time of budget cuts, struggling schools and detriorating roads. It's long past time that there be an independent investigation into these practices in the Snyder Administration."

In December 2014, Snyder said to the Detroit News that emergency management of Detroit Public Schools has been a "failure."

###

BACKGROUND:

Detroit Free Press: Former DPS emergency manager got $50,000 in bonus pay
WWJ (AP): ‘No Particular Benchmarks’ For Bonus Pay: DPS Emergency Manager Leaves With Another $50K
"While there were no particular benchmarks (for the bonus pay), Martin worked to stabilize enrollment, restored numerous programs at the elementary and middle school levels, redesigned career tech programs and sold or leased numerous unused or vacant properties which generated millions of dollars for the district," Terry Stanton, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Treasury, wrote in an e-mail. He said the decision was made after consulting with Gov. Rick Snyder's office. Martin had a $225,000-a-year contract. His total compensation over the 18 months was $340,962, not including the bonus pay, according to Stanton. Critics point out that the district's ongoing deficit shot up to nearly $170 million under Martin — something the former emergency manager has attributed to several factors, including declining enrollment, a reduction in federal funding and a failed countywide school millage. The district had built expected revenue from the millage into its budget. School board member LaMar Lemmons, a longtime critic of emergency management over DPS, said the extra pay wasn't appropriate given the district's financial woes. "That's enough to pay a teacher's salary and reduce class size somewhere," he said.  
 
Detroit Free Press: Former DPS head gave three 'assignment' bonuses
On Jan. 7, Martin authorized "additional assignment" bonuses for general counsel Jean-Vierre Adams ($12,000), Diane Jones, chief information and strategic officer ($15,000), and Lamont Satchel, chief innovation officer ($18,000), records show. . . . Records show he also gave monthly car allowances of $600 to Satchel and $500 to Jones.
 
Detroit News: Nolan Finley: The emergency manager model is failing DPS
And yet here we are, starting over for the fourth time in six years with a new man with a new plan. This has moved beyond the borders of absurd. It's a travesty. The school district and the schools are no closer to functionality than they were when state oversight began. . . . And a committee of community leaders is cobbling together suggested reforms intended to inform Snyder's proposal. Could this be more confusing?

 
Michigan And Ohio Democratic Parties Submit Brief in Support of Marriage Equality
Mar. 5th 2015

State Democratic Parties joined by 156 elected officials from four states

WASHINGTON - Today, the Ohio Democratic Party and the Michigan Democratic Party, joined by more than 150 elected officials from the four states of the Sixth Circuit, together filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court in support of marriage equality.

The Brief urges the Court to reverse the judgment of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and reject the argument made by the Sixth Circuit and the Ohio and Michigan Attorneys General that the basic constitutional rights of Ohio couples and their children should be subject to popular vote. To view the Brief, click here.

“Elected officials from across the Sixth Circuit are speaking up for the thousands of couples in our four states whose rights are being violated by the bans on same sex marriage,” said David Pepper, Ohio Democratic Party Chair. “And our point is simple—basic rights such as equal protection should not be subject to popular elections, but are protected by the United States Constitution.”

“Here in Michigan, far too many families have been denied liberty and justice for too long, because of the out of touch actions of Republicans Bill Schuette and Rick Snyder,” said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. 

“Thousands of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on frivolous, fringe arguments, which have only served to embarrass our state. This effort to deny equal rights to parents and children, based on nothing more than a desire to score cheap partisan points with the far right wing of the Republican party, is just wrong,” added Johnson.

Mark Totten, one of the attorneys who wrote the brief, said "for two years now the State of Michigan has argued that the children at issue in the Michigan case would be better off as orphans then have two gay parents.  That's wrong. The rights of these kids - so many of whom are special needs – to have two loving parents should not be decided at the ballot box."

State Representative Nickie Antonio said “all loving, committed relationships in Ohio should matter equally. However, while I have the responsibility to pass laws that affect over 11 million Ohioans as a State Representative, I am denied the dignity and protections to marry Jean Kosmac, my partner of 20 years. It's time to value all families in Ohio."

###

Michigan Democrats Slam Latest Friends and Family Contract from Snyder Administration
Mar. 2nd 2015

LANSING - Today the Michigan Democratic Party released the following statement on the latest revelation of special treatment for friends and family in the Snyder Administration.

"We've seen again and again that a stunning level of corruption and cronyism is running rampant in Snyder's Administration," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "This latest report of a pricey law firm winning millions in no-bid contract extensions from the partner's wife in the Snyder Administration would be unbelievable - if it wasn't so familiar. Democrats won't rest until the Administration puts a stop to these ridiculous special favors for friends and family."

###

BACKGROUND: 

February 28, 2015

A partner in a law firm that holds a $4.2-million MDOC legal contract is married to a woman who was the department's registered lobbyist when the contract was extended without bids in 2012 and 2013. 

LANSING – A partner in a Grand Rapids law firm that holds a $4.2-million Michigan Department of Corrections legal contract is married to a former Corrections Department official who was the department's registered lobbyist when the contract was extended in 2012 and 2013, records show.

The contract was to be extended by another nine months by the State Administrative Board on Tuesday, but the length of the extension was shortened to one month at the request of Gov. Rick Snyder's office after the Free Press raised questions about the contract in a Tuesday article.

Kevin Peterson is a partner in Peterson Paletta, which in 2009 was awarded the three-year contract to train and oversee inmate "legal writers" who help less-literate inmates draft court filings, including appeals of their convictions and lawsuits related to the conditions of their confinement.

Peterson Paletta was one of four bidders on the original contract and its proposal received the highest score in an analysis that considered prior experience, staffing and other factors.

Peterson's wife, Jessica, was the legislative liaison in the chief deputy director's office of the Corrections Department and the department's registered lobbyist from 2011 until January 2014, according to state records. She then moved to a communications role until she resigned in October 2014, department spokesman Chris Gautz said Friday.

Jessica Peterson did not work for the department when the contract was awarded, disclosed the fact her husband's firm had a contract with the department when she was hired, as required, and was "too far removed" from the procurement process to have a role in extending the contract, Gautz said.

But an attorney with an Okemos firm said lawyers there have been waiting for years for the contract to come up for bid and even met with Corrections Department Director Dan Heyns in March 2012 to let him know they were interested.

"If you're going to privatize government services, it should be done on a fair and equitable basis," said Alexander Rusek of White Law PLLC in Okemos. "They've had years to prepare, (yet) it was extended beyond the contract terms on a no-bid basis."

Kevin Peterson did not respond Friday to telephone and e-mail messages. Jessica Peterson could not be reached.

The contract with Peterson Paletta, initially worth $2.3 million over three years, was extended by one year at an added cost of $752,000 in July 2012 and by an additional one year, again for $752,000, in May 2013. The contract, at some point, was extended a third time, for a six-month period from September 2014 through Saturday, at a cost of $376,000, though that third extension was not provided for in the contract and had not received State Administrative Board approval, according to state records.

On Tuesday, the contract was extended a fourth time, despite the fact the contract provides for a maximum of two one-year extensions.

But instead of the nine-month, $564,000 increase requested by the department, which officials said was needed to give the department time to rebid the contract, the State Administrative Board extended the contract only one month, at a cost of $60,000. That was at the request of the governor's representative on the board, legal counsel James Robert Redford, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said. She said the governor's office felt a one-month extension would be more prudent but wouldn't elaborate on reasons for the late change.

The board made that change Tuesday, the same day the Free Press published a report highlighting the little-known contract and reporting on criticism of the contract from both a fiscal conservative and an advocate for prisoners' civil rights.

Jessica Peterson didn't work for the department in 2009, when the contract was first awarded, though she did work at the Capitol then. In 2009, Peterson worked for two powerful chairmen in the Republican-controlled Senate. She was legislative director for Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, from 2007 until April 2009, and legislative director for Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, from April 2009 until December 2010, according to her work history on the social networking site LinkedIn.

Snyder, a Republican, took office in 2011, after the contract was awarded but before its initial three-year term expired.

Gautz said the two optional extensions were granted because the law firm was doing a good job. It's not clear why the department didn't move more quickly to get the contract rebid at the end of those extensions, as required, though lack of manpower and delays in getting administrative approval are likely reasons, Gautz said.

"We have multiple kinds of these contracts at various stages, through the department," Gautz said Friday. "Our policy is to know (when the contract is approaching its end date) and try to get that on the schedule."

"That didn't happen in this case, or at least as quickly as we would like," he said.

Caleb Buhs, a spokesman for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said department officials have the authority to extend contracts without board approval if necessary to assure uninterrupted service.

Rusek said his firm believes it can provide better service at a lower price.

Gautz confirmed Rusek met with Heyns in 2012.

Rusek said he wasn't aware of Peterson Paletta's connection with a department official, but "any time you have the public and private sectors mixing in that way it causes some concern."

-----

Detroit Free Press: State pays law firm to help prisoners sue

February 23, 2015

A state administrative panel is expected to approve an extension to a $4.1-million contract with a Grand Rapids law firm that helps Michigan prisoners overturn their convictions and sue the state.

LANSING — A state administrative panel today is expected to approve a nine-month extension to a $4.1-million contract with a Grand Rapids law firm that helps state prisoners overturn their convictions and sue the state over the conditions of their confinement.

The contract with the law firm Peterson Paletta draws criticism from both ends of the political spectrum.

Some who are hard on criminals or want to cut the prison budget say it's ridiculous for the Corrections Department to use taxpayer money to pay private attorneys to help prisoners sue the state.

Advocates for prisoners' rights say the "legal writer" program — under which the law firm trains and oversees inmates who help less literate prisoners draft legal pleadings and complaints — is useful, but too few inmates receive too little help from it.

Prison officials say the program, which costs about $752,000 a year, was created pursuant to a 1996 federal court order arising from a 1992 prisoner lawsuit.

Peterson Paletta, which is not the first law firm hired to train the inmate legal writers and monitor their work, was hired in 2009 for a three-year contract that has already been extended twice. Today, the State Administrative Board is considering a third contract extension, which is nine months long and worth $564,000, bringing the total contract value to $4.7 million.

Kevin Peterson, a partner in Peterson Paletta, mostly declined comment on the contract, referring questions to the Michigan Department of Corrections.

State officials said in their submission to the State Administrative Board that the latest extension is needed to give time to rebid the contract and provide for a transition period if the contract is won by a different firm. The contract itself is needed "to comply with the prisoners' constitutional right of access to the courts."

Only a minority of the state's 43,000 prisoners are eligible for the program. The others are expected to do their own legal work by making use of the prison law libraries, which the department is in the process of converting from libraries with books to libraries that will be electronic only.

About 29,000 prisoners who have a high school diploma or GED are generally not eligible, leaving fewer than 15,000 who are eligible on that basis. Inmates can also qualify for the program if they can't speak or write English or have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from using the law library, or are in segregation.

Neither Chris Gautz, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, nor Peterson of Peterson Paletta could say Monday how many inmates use the service in a given year. Inmate legal writers receive about 80 hours of training from the law firm over about six weeks. The firm also provides computers to communicate with the inmate legal writers.

Leon Drolet, chairman of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, said when the state charges citizens with criminal offenses it has an obligation to provide legal defense to those who can't afford one.

But if an inmate has a legitimate complaint about prison conditions, "I would imagine they would be able to find attorneys who would be happy to take their cases (on a contingency basis), because they would be eligible to collect for it," Drolet said. "They should find representation the same way everybody else has to."

But Peter Martel, a program associate for the American Friends Service Committee's criminal justice program in Ann Arbor, said changes to state law, including caps on allowable attorney fees and the ability of the state to waive attorney fees as part of a case settlement, make it highly unlikely attorneys will take prisoner cases on a contingency basis.

Martel, who worked as a prison legal writer in the 2000s when he was incarcerated for armed robbery and now is studying to be an attorney, said the program provides positive training for inmates who do good work for their fellow prisoners.

A weakness of the program, Martel said, is that inmates must complete the administrative complaint process before they are eligible to sue and they aren't allowed to get the help of legal writers to help with the complex administrative hearing process. As a result, he said, many potentially legitimate legal claims get barred because of mistakes.

It would be useful if inmates with some legal training could get involved earlier, even to tell prisoners what not to waste their time on, he said. "There are all kinds of things to complain about in prison; that doesn't necessarily make them good legal complaints," he said.

As for attempts to overturn convictions, court-appointed attorneys help with one appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, Martel said. After that, inmates are on their own, and the legal writers are needed to help make sure pleadings get to the Michigan Supreme Court or federal courts on a timely basis, Martel said.

The State Administrative Board — which includes representatives of the governor, the attorney general and other top state officials — is normally a rubber stamp for contracts sent by the administration for approval.

Statement from MDP Chair Lon Johnson on Republicans' Failure to Address Dave Agema

LANSING - MDP Chair Lon Johnson issued the following statement on the continuing failure of Republican leaders to condemn Dave Agema's bigotry:

"It speaks volumes that Republican leaders Rick Snyder and Terri Land still haven't broken their silence on Dave Agema's comments, even in the face of an election year threat from one of their top donors," said Lon Johnson, Michigan Democratic Party Chair. "It's time for Republicans to remove Agema from his post, and to finally embrace common sense equality and non-discrimination protections for everyone in Michigan. Our state needs leaders like Mark Schauer and Gary Peters, who will work to build a stronger, more welcoming Michigan for everyone."

###

Paid for with regulated funds by the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee, 606 Townsend, Lansing, MI 48933, (517) 371-5410, MichiganDems.com. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.