No Early Partisan Fireworks In Advice And Consent Process
Having a specific committee for advice and consent of the governor's appointments to departments appeared prior to session to be a setting where both parties, facing divided state government for the first time in eight years, might see some partisan fireworks.
So far, no fireworks have been launched during the first week of hearings held by the Republican-controlled Senate of appointments made by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
In fact, the hearings, each having lasted between 45-90 minutes, have been largely cordial, with members only occasional pressing for more specifics.
When the Senate Advice and Consent Committee was announced it appeared that Ms. Whitmer's appointees may face a harsher spotlight than those under Republican former Governor Rick Snyder. That is, when hearings, mostly pro-forma, were held.
Department of Transportation Director Paul Ajegba's hearing was largely a conversation about how terrible Michigan's roads are and what funding levels, if anything beyond the Legislature's 2015 plan for more funding that reaches $1.2 billion in 2021, would it take to make a serious dent in repairs. Mr. Ajegba dodged multiple questions on specifics of Ms. Whitmer's plans to fix the state's roads, preferring the governor to roll out plans in the coming weeks in her State of the State speech and budget presentation.
Mr. Ajegba faced several questions about various programs and laws enacted by the Legislature that appeared more of a way to get district-specific matters on the director's radar. Not the most earth-shattering material, but good for the director to know the Legislature will be studying his budget closely when Ms. Whitmer rolls out any specifics on how to "fix the damn roads."
Flat budgets were a question raised of Treasurer Rachael Eubanks, who essentially called the question a budget matter that will need to be figured out by the Legislature. Questions were also raised on addressing pension shortfalls.
For Department of State Police Director Joseph Gasper, the focus was on attraction and retention of staff, partnerships with local law enforcement to improve public safety in historically violent urban areas and making sure the MSP's crime lab is not falling behind on processing evidence.
And in the case of Children's Ombudsman Lisa McCormick, the focus of her hearing was on her independence and some background questions on her knowledge of complaints against Larry Nassar while working as an assistant prosecutor for the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office.
Committee chair Sen Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Township) said he did not expect a major change in process, but the key would be to determine competency of appointees and making sure there are no red flags meriting their rejection.
So, unless an appointee has some past financial troubles or legal history that might cause considerable heartburn for lawmakers, it appears most if not all appointees should have little problem staying on after the 60-day period provided for lawmakers to approve or reject a department head.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), who has in the past pushed for having more thorough advice and consent hearings, said they should be conducted regardless of the party structure in the Capitol.
Mr. Ananich succinctly summed up the process to reporters this week: "If you put forward people who can't handle questioning … than they don't belong in that position."Back to top