Michigan House leadership prepares for a 54-54 partisan tie with two Dems departing soon ⋆

For 10 months, Michigan Democrats have held the first bicameral majority in the state Legislature in almost 40 years. But now that’s ending.

Two Democratic House members won their mayoral elections in Southeast Michigan on Tuesday, knocking Dems 56-54 majority down to 54-54 once they get sworn into their new offices, likely next week.

Democrats win mayoral races in Westland and Warren — and temporarily lose Michigan House majority

Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland), 40, was elected to be mayor of Westland by about 2,500 votes and Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren), 43, was elected to be mayor of Warren by about 1,500 votes, both by strong margins in their cities.

Stone talked with the Advance after a marathon session on Wednesday which bled into the early hours of Thursday as Democratic leadership used the last days of the current majority to move through top policy priorities. 

She said she gave the idea of running for mayor a lot of thought, prioritizing the needs of her community and placing faith in her district to continue valuing the kind of values that made Warren residents chose her as mayor.

“I know it comes with a disruption,” Stone said. “I have no doubt that leadership and my colleagues will use this time wisely to load the pipeline with the next round of value-driven policies that is going to improve the quality of life for Michigan residents.”

Both Stone and Coleman occupy traditionally Democratic districts, so it’s likely that Dems will return to their 56-54 majority — it’s just a matter of when and what happens in the meantime.

To Democrats’ advantage, Michigan’s election rules places Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, in a position of power to ensure the empty seats are filled quickly by calling for special elections. However, voting rights reforms passed in 2018 and 2022 set rules for absentee ballots, which will likely mean a longer timeframe before the elections are held.

Whitmer has not yet announced dates for special primary and general elections.

Rep. Kevin Coleman | House Democrats photo

Once Coleman and Stone resign their seats, the House will no longer have a Democratic majority to approve bills along solely partisan lines for a period. Democrats have passed several packages throughout this session with no Republican support, most recently a clean energy overhaul package and the Reproductive Health Act removing some abortion restrictions.

In the meantime, House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) remains in his role. It would take both the empty seats to flip to Republicans to allow for a new Republican majority to pick a new House speaker, according to Tate spokeswoman Amber McCann.

That means that under Tate’s leadership, Democrats still control what legislation ends up on the House agenda for the day and receives committee hearings.

But amid uncertainty of having to get Republican colleagues on board with any policy, the Legislature is expected to adjourn for the year in the coming days. And the chamber seems unlikely to hold votes until new members are sworn in, which means that legislative action on the rest of the Democrats’ agenda would come to a halt.

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township) offered his congratulations to Stone and Coleman on social media in the early hours of Wednesday. He added that Democrats shouldn’t wait until the special elections to do their duty as elected officials.

“House Republicans stand ready to work together in the middle to find common ground that will make life better for the people of Michigan,” Hall said. “Together we can forge compromise and achieve the most productive months of the session, or the House Democrat leadership can take their ball and go home until next spring. The people of Michigan are counting on us, their elected leaders, to put them first and solve the problems that face our state.”

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Marshall), Jan. 11, 2023 | Laina G. Stebbins

Tate told reporters on Wednesday that the local mayoral elections show a desire within the state to elect Democrats to positions of power for the values they hold and the policies they support.

“Our focus right now is how can we continue to get our agenda done for the people and the State of Michigan,” Tate said.  “… It’s business as usual in terms of us. We still are able to guide the agenda, House Democrats. … We’ll see once those seats are vacated, how we move forward.” 

authored by Anna Liz Nichols
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F11%2F09%2Fmichigan-house-leadership-prepares-for-a-54-54-partisan-tie-with-two-dems-departing-soon%2F

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