Politicians and partisan groups explain their goals for 2018

Tuesday, January 30, 2018 - 10:09pm

As the year begins to kick into gear, activist groups and politicians are starting to implement goals for 2018. It will no doubt prove to be another tumultuous year in U.S. politics, as the federal government will likely tackle immigration and entitlement reform — two long-standing and particularly contentious issues that tend to arouse high passions on either side of the political spectrum. Midterm elections in November will certainly be equally hard-fought, as Democrats attempt to retake control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The Michigan political world may prove just as exciting as the federal in 2018. Members of the legislature will be working to pass a budget during the first several months, with likely Republican victories in store. Michigan Democrats will use their comparatively smaller, but vocal, caucus to bring new issues into the statewide debate. Voters will choose a new governor on Nov. 6, bringing an end to current Governor Rick Snyder’s two terms in office.

The Michigan Daily contacted a number of local politicians and activist groups to assess their goals for the coming year. Below are some previews of what may be in store for 2018.

College Democrats

On campus, the University of Michigan’s chapter of College Democrats is focusing on increasing student and community engagement. Public Policy junior Lauren Schandevel, communications director for the College Democrats, said the group hopes to channel the political energy left over from President Donald Trump’s election into tangible action.

“A lot of people are frustrated, angry or concerned about the current administration — and rightfully so,” Schandevel said. “We want to recruit these people to knock doors, make calls and get involved in ways that can not only alleviate some of the stress they are experiencing, but also make a difference in shaping the future of our country.”

The College Democrats are aiming to emulate the goals and strategies of the national Democratic Party, which entails mobilizing community members.

“Like the national party, we are also shifting our focus from a top-down to a more bottom-up approach by training our members to organize and engage with members of the community,” Schandevel said.

She said the College Democrats’ mobilization efforts will be dedicated to ensuring Democratic candidates get elected into all levels of office in 2018 elections. Part of the group’s role this year will be to bring candidates to campus to discuss their campaigns and key issues so students can engage in different races across Michigan.

Another main goal for the College Democrats is to increase voter turnout by collaborating with like-minded student organizations. Schandevel said this will involve College Democrats expanding their reach and participating in campus-wide campaigns like the Stop Spencer coalition.

“In 2018, we hope to connect with more groups and maintain a coalition of progressive organizations that can come together and mobilize students around common goals,” Schandevel said.

 

College Republicans

The University’s chapter of College Republicans is also looking to get involved with the 2018 elections. Engineering sophomore Lincoln Merrill, the group’s communications chair, told The Daily in an email interview that his organization is excited to continue the progress made in 2017.

“We will continue to be involved in the 2018 midterm elections and hope to be active throughout the year trying to help the conservative candidates,” Merrill wrote. “Overall, we believe 2018 will be a very successful year as we continue to build on our positive momentum from the past year.”

The College Republicans chapter hopes to continue to grow their presence on campus by increasing membership and hosting events throughout the year. They are bringing Charlie Kirk, founder of conservative education group Turning Point USA, to campus in February. A conservative women’s panel, which will potentially include RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel, is being planned for later in the spring.

“We want to continue to foster good debate on campus and give conservative students an outlet to express themselves,” Merrill wrote. 

 

Congresswoman Debbie Dingell

U.S. Rep Debbie Dingell, D-Ann Arbor, wants 2018 to be a year of national conversation about critical issues that are concerning to the Democratic Party. 

“We need to talk about the economy and jobs, pensions and secure retirement, education and student loans, the environment and the Great Lakes,” Dingell said. “There’s a lot of issues that we’ve got to talk about. This November’s election will impact what happens to those issues.”

Among her personal goals, Dingell mentions improved infrastructure in Michigan, net neutrality, addressing student loans and finding a solution to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

Dingell emphasized her passion for increasing access to affordable quality healthcare and addressing rising insurance premiums and deductibles. In Michigan, she wants to make sure the automobile industry is innovating and thriving.

“I’m committed to working with everybody to make sure that we stay at the forefront of innovation and technology,” Dingell said. “It’s an important issue for Michigan. Our state’s always been synonymous with the development of the automobile.”

She mentioned the SELF DRIVE Act as critical for the evolving automobile industry. Dingell is on the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which unanimously passed the bipartisan legislation that improves the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s ability to apply new safety standards to self-driving cars, and clarifies federal and state roles regarding the new technology.

Dingell also stressed how critical student activism is to furthering the Democratic Party’s goals and achieving political change. She referenced how she was a college student when she started getting involved in politics.

“I got involved when I was in college,” Dingell said. “I went door to door. I worked phones. I cared about issues.”

With the 2018 midterms on the horizon, she said student groups have the power to increase voter turnout and impact election results.

“College Dems, or just young people who care about an issue, can make a difference when they pull together to make their voices heard,” Dingell said. “(They can) work together to make sure that people are turning out, and know that they make a difference and that their voices matter.”

 

State Rep. Lee Chatfield, R–Cheboygan, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Michigan House 

State Rep. Lee Chatfield, R–Cheboygan, is one of the leaders of the Michigan House Republicans, and with a sizeable majority in the House and the Michigan Senate, he is confident they can move their agenda forward in 2018.

“I think Governor (Rick) Snyder did an excellent job detailing the growth and comeback our state has had over the past seven years,” Chatfield said following Snyder’s State of the State address on Jan. 23. “When you look at workforce participation being up, jobs coming back to our state, population being increased and unemployment being down, he’s really charted a nice path for us. And moving forward, our focus needs to be improving skilled trades and making sure that we have a skilled workforce ready to take jobs that are available in our state.”

Chatfield said implementing growth-oriented economic policy is a primary goal for the legislature moving forward. Chatfield, like most Michigan Republicans, is a strong proponent of tax cuts. Just a few days before Snyder’s address, scores of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle — including Chatfield — voted to override Snyder’s veto on a tax cut which Snyder said would place an unnecessary burden on the state budget.

Chatfield anticipates a potential legislative battle over the state budget in coming months, as lawmakers must vote to continue funding for a number of state programs as well as debate changes in allocating state funds, particularly in education.

“Much of the focus that’s going to be coming in the next six months is regarding the budget — what’s the emphasis going to be on education?” Chatfield said. “We continue to fund education at all-time record highs in our state … Funding for infrastructure is also at an all-time high. And that’s going to be the focus in the coming months: What are we going to fund and at what levels? We need to ensure we’re funding what we’re constitutionally required to and ensure that whatever we’re funding is moving Michigan forward.”

The debate will likely be highly partisan, and Republicans have significant legislative power over the budget. However, Chatfield recognized that success will require bipartisan support and expressed his hope that the parties will reach a deal.

“Coming to agreements with both parties around what needs to be funded and putting partisan politics aside and ensuring that our budget is properly funded — that’s going to be the biggest challenge,” Chatfield said. “It always is, but I’m optimistic we can do it.”

 

State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor

State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, has expressed his pride in the work of the Michigan House Democrats during 2017, believing the caucus organized particularly well on several critical issues. In the coming year, he hopes to bring several new issues into the spotlight.

“I actually think we had a number of pretty big successes (in 2017),” Rabhi said.

Michigan House Republicans were supporting a bill that would have eliminated the state income tax, which would have cost the state $10 billion. Rabhi expressed pride in the Democratic caucus for working to defeat this bill.

“That was a huge victory for our state,” Rabhi said. “We would have had to be cutting programs left and right, cutting funding to our universities and schools and so forth.”

Another bill, which would have overhauled Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system, was also defeated by the Democratic caucus in November.

The caucus also defeated a proposal by Republicans to reduce pension funding for firefighters and police officers. Rabhi believes the eventual proposal created a far better system.

“Democrats have been pushing for years to get greater transparency in the state legislature,” Rabhi said. “Right now the governor as well as the state legislature — Senate and House — are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. And the Dems have been pushing for years to change that so that we would be covered under FOIA, and our activities would be subject to public scrutiny, which is the case for all local government elected officials but is not the case for state government elected officials.”

The bill is currently being stalled in the state Senate, but Rabhi is proud of the caucus’s work on the issue.

Rabhi identified several major issues he plans on tackling in 2018.

The first of these is prevailing wage, a law that sets a minimum wage for construction and trade workers equal to the wage of the area they are working in. Rabhi said that a priority for Michigan Democrats is ensuring that these workers are being paid a living wage. Ideally, this would also lead to better training programs and apprenticeships across the state, according to Rabhi.

Rabhi identified public funding for infrastructure and education as two other priorities for the caucus. He specifically cited reducing class sizes in state schools as a goal.

Rabhi himself is prioritizing health care legislation in 2018. He and other Michigan Democrats will soon introduce a single-payer universal health care bill in the House for the first time in decades. He said he hopes the bill will stimulate conversation about health care funding in the state in the coming year; he sees this as an issue that has not received commensurate attention in the past.

“I believe that health care is a human right,” Rabhi said. “And it is in many ways criminal that people in this state do not have access to adequate health care or getting health care causes them or their families to go bankrupt ... We need to do better in our state. We need to be compassionate. We need to make sure that everybody in Michigan has access to health care.”

Rabhi’s second priority for the year is in environmental legislation. He hopes the state will be operating on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and he plans to support legislation that will put the state on track to meet that goal.

“Right now, our renewable energy portfolio standard is 15 percent, which I think is pitiful,” Rabhi said. “We should, in my opinion, set a standard of 100 percent. And we need to do that in an aggressive timeline. It’s achievable; we have the science to do it. It’s just a matter of making sure that we push legislatively to make that happen.”

Rabhi is also pushing for a universal free kindergarten-through-college education system.

“We deserve, in our state, to be educated,” Rabhi said. “Having a quality education should be a right.”

Rabhi said he understands most of these initiatives will face harsh political realities during the year, and they probably will not be put into law. He is, however, optimistic that the bills will stimulate discourse on what he believes to be the biggest problems facing the state today.

“The conversation needs to start on these issues in Michigan,” Rabhi said. “It is a process, and it is a process that I’m in for the long haul. This, to me, is setting the goal posts so we have a strong, bold vision of where we need to go. And we need to start moving the ball down the court in that direction.”

 

Congressman Dan Kildee 

In years past, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, has had to focus much of his time in office on righting the wrongs of the Flint water crisis. After months of looking for solutions, Kildee says 2018 will be more focused on rebuilding, not just in Flint, but in other “shrinking cities” that have been hurt by deindustrialization, like Detroit.

To rebuild, Kildee is starting an initiative called The Future of America's Cities and Towns, which will begin as a series of conversation across the country about shrinking cities, and which will ultimately lead to a push for federal investment in cities through legislation.

“The federal government has not had any kind of urban policy in a very long time, so step one is to point out all the problems,” Kildee said. “It’s what we refer to essentially as a Marshall plan for cities. So that new schools, roads and bridges are built –– the kind of building you would see when a community is just starting.”

Though Trump and Snyder have placed an emphasis on infrastructure in 2017, Kildee said in 2018, Washington, D.C. needs to make sure infrastructure is equitable.

“If we’re going to build new infrastructure, we need to have a special emphasis on the unique needs of these places and focus additional resources on them. Otherwise, all this new development could potentially leave these places farther behind,” Kildee said. 

Aside from rebuilding, Kildee said it is looking like his biggest challenge will be regaining the focus of on policy, not pettiness in Washington, D.C.

“The biggest issue for me now, the biggest challenge, is cutting through all the nonsense that’s going on right now and actually having a real policy debate.”

Correction appended: This headline has been updated to better reflect the aricle.