Billions approved for infrastructure upgrades, AG primary race heats up: The week in Michigan politics – MLive.com

LANSING, MI — Lawmakers will return to their districts for a two-week break before coming back to Lansing next month to consider ongoing legislation including proposals to cut the state’s 6% gas tax.

Democrats and Republicans agreed to a major spending bill this week that would use billions in federal funding and state surplus dollars to appropriate $4.8 billion for upgrades to public transit, broadband internet, local parks, affordable housing and water infrastructure projects.

“These are tough times for families, small businesses, and communities, and this supplemental will help grow our economy, create jobs, and invest in every region of our state,” Whitmer said of the spending plan.

Lawmakers are going on break as the Republican attorney general primary race is heating up. Donald Trump-endorsed candidate Matt DePerno, of Portage, took criticism from State Rep. Ryan Berman and former House speaker Tom Leanord during a Thursday debate for allegations of unethical behavior and spreading conspiracy theories about the November 2020 election.

Meshawn Maddock, the co-chair of the state Republican Party, in an unusual move has already endorsed DePerno. Republican delegates will gather in Grand Rapids in April to select the party’s attorney general nominee.

Here’s what happened this week in Michigan politics.

Michigan Supreme Court denies challenge to Michigan redistricting commission’s House map

A meeting of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission in Michigan.

People speak during Michigan’s new Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission meeting on Oct. 21, 2021, in Lansing, Mich. Michigan’s new redistricting commission approved a U.S. House map Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, one that is fairer to Democrats than when the process was controlled by the Republican-led Legislature for two decades. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)AP

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday tossed a legal challenge to the state House map adopted by the state’s redistricting commission.

In a 5-2 decision, justices determined a challenge brought by the League of Women Voters of Michigan and other organizations that participated in Michigan’s redistricting process failed to show sufficient proof the independent redistricting commission did not comply with constitutional requirements.

While other legal challenges are possible, Michigan’s newly drawn maps remain intact for now.

Election fraud, government corruption, transgender athletes discussed in Republican AG debate

DePerno/Leonard

Attorney general candidates Tom Leonard, left, and Matthew DePerno, right, are vying for the Republican nomination. GOP delegates will make their selection at an April nominating convention. (MLive.com File Photos)

Election fraud, government corruption and transgender athletes were among topics discussed by Republican attorney general candidates at a Thursday night debate.

State Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township, Portage attorney Matthew DePerno and former House Speaker Tom Leonard participated in a debate at the North Oakland Republican Club in Waterford Township. Berman and Leonard raised a Bridge Michigan report about DePerno facing allegations of unethical behavior and criticized him for spreading blatantly false narratives about voting results in Antrim County.

In one month, Republican delegates will gather in Grand Rapids to select the party’s attorney general nominee.

Michigan lawmakers approve $4.8B supplemental for infrastructure upgrades

MLive wins 24 awards at the 2021 Michigan Press Photographers Association conference

Josie Nash, 18 of Elsie, works to save fish with her friends by placing them in water buckets and transporting them back into what is left of Wixom Lake on Wednesday, May 20, 2020 in Edenville Township north of Midland. After two days of heavy rain, the Edenville Dam failed and flood waters rushed south, ravaging the landscapre in its path. (Jake May | MLive.com)

Michigan lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that would use billions in federal funding and state surplus dollars to appropriate $4.8 billion for upgrades to public transit, broadband internet, local parks, affordable housing and water infrastructure projects.

The supplemental plan, which will soon be signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was agreed to late Wednesday night by appropriations chairs Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, and Rep. Thomas Albert, R-Lowell.

Of the total, $3.1 billion comes from federal COVID funds. $945.4 million is from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. $571.6 million is being appropriated from the state’s general fund.

House Democrats call for bipartisan investigation into Lee Chatfield’s alleged misconduct

Democrats call for Lee Chatfield investigation

Terry Sabo, D-Muskegon, and Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, speak to reporters during a press conference on their resolution to demand a bipartisan investigation into Lee Chatfield, the former House speaker.

House Democrats are calling for a bipartisan investigation into the allegations of “ethical failings and misconduct” against former Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

But Republicans aren’t interested.

“The House is staying focused on cooperating with (Michigan State Police) and (the Lansing Police Department), assisting their investigations and getting them whatever they need. Partisan press releases won’t change that,” said Gideon D’Assandro, a House Republicans spokesperson.

House Democrats introduced a resolution this week calling for a bipartisan committee to conduct an investigation into the full scope of Chatfield’s misconduct in office. Democratic leadership said Thursday it’s imperative the public learns the full scope of Chatfield’s alleged improprieties.

Michigan unemployment agency hired some ‘high-risk’ workers with criminal records, audit finds

Michigan unemployment website

A worker files a claim on the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency website.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency, in a rush to hire thousands of workers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, failed to ensure background checks were conducted. As a result, people previously convicted of financial crimes were employed, an audit found.

The March 18 audit also says the Michigan UIA was slow to remove former workers’ access to sensitive information leading to one case of fraud totaling $3.8 million.

Gas tax vs. sales tax on gas: Will Michigan lawmakers suspend taxes for relief at pump?

Michigan gas prices

Gas prices are on the rise in Michigan, picture of gas prices in Muskegon, Michigan on Monday, March 7, 2022. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

Gas prices in Michigan remain well above average and while other states like Georgia and Maryland have already approved suspensions to their state gas tax it’s unclear whether Michigan lawmakers will agree on a plan to bring drivers relief at the pump.

After Senate Democrats effectively killed a Republican-proposed plan to cut the state’s 27-cent gas tax by not giving it immediate effect last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer promised a veto and declared her support instead for bipartisan proposals that would suspend the state’s 6% sales tax on gas.

A plan is in the works: Sen. Jim Ananich introduced a bill this week that would suspend the tax, but it won’t see movement until next month.

Trump comes to Michigan in April to campaign for DePerno, Karamo

Trump Rally Muskegon

President Donald Trump steps off of Air Force One for his campaign rally at the Muskegon County Airport in Norton Shores, Michigan on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. The rally was held 17 days before the election on Nov. 3. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com) Joel Bissell | MLive.com

Former President Donald Trump will hold a rally in Michigan April 2 to promote Republican candidates he’s endorsed for 2022 elections.

Republican delegates will choose their nominees for attorney general, secretary of state and other races at an April 23 convention. Trump endorsed Matthew DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state, calling on Republican delegates to fall in line and unite around his picks.

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