Health Care News: Majority Oppose Defunding, Clinton the Explainer, Battle in Michigan over Medicaid Expansion

This month’s Kaiser Health Tracking Poll shows what most polls on the Affordable Care Act have shown–most people responding do not understand the law and a majority have a negative opinion. Unfortunately this poll didn’t break down support based upon specific aspects of the law. Multiple polls show a majority (often including Republicans) support the individual components of the Affordable Care Act even if they say they oppose it. Overall 37 percent have a favorable view with 42 percent having an unfavorable view. Despite this, only 36 percent of responders support the Republican strategy of defunding while 57 percent oppose, showing a much stronger regard for the rule of law than is seen by Congressional Republicans.

Bill Clinton has been recruited to help with the problem of many people not understanding Obamacare. After his excellent speech at the Democratic National Convention last summer, Obama said Clinton should be his “secretary of explaining stuff.” Clinton will be giving a speech on September 4 explaining the Affordable Care Act.

Hostility to the Affordable Care Act remains strong on most conservative sites. I’m seeing an increasing number referring to it as the Unaffordable Care Act, showing how conservatives prefer cute sounding names over reality, considering that the Affordable Care Act helps to cut health care expenses. Conservatives might argue that it doesn’t cut costs enough if not for the fact that it has been Republicans who have opposed cost-cutting measures. Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman supported the Republican position, resulting in the elimination of cost-cutting ideas such as a Public Option.

We had quite a battle over expanding Medicaid in Michigan yesterday. Governor Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley supported Medicaid expansion, which was passed by the House previously. On the first ballot, one Republican opposed to passage refrained from voting, resulting in a 19-18 vote, preventing the measure from achieving twenty votes while preventing a tie which Calley might have broken. They did have a second vote later yesterday in which expanding Medicaid did pass. Michigan is likely to lose potential federal funds due to Republicans postponing passage until after the August break, probably preventing them from  providing the benefits in time to receive the federal funds.

Tea Party supporters in Michigan have already been upset that Snyder and Calley have not supported them on all measures and are running a candidate, Wes Nakagiri, against Brian Calley for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2014. Hopefully the make up of the Republican ticket will not matter with the Democratic ticket winning.

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Rick Snyder Remains In Danger In Michigan

There is still a lot of time until the 2014 election but Republican Governor Rick Snyder is in serious danger of losing. An EPIC/MRA poll released today shows him even with two potential Democratic challengers. Considering the much greater name recognition of the governor, it is not a good sign for him if he is only tied before his potential opponents even begin to campaign:

Even though a big majority of recently polled Michigan voters don’t know who Democrats Mark Schauer and Bart Stupak are, the two politicians are in a dead heat with Gov. Rick Snyder in head-to-head matchups for the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Schauer of Battle Creek and Stupak of Menominee are both former state lawmakers and congressmen, and have been mentioned as potential candidates for governor, although neither has made an official announcement about running.

The poll of 600 people done April 13-16 by EPIC/MRA of Lansing showed that 56% of the people surveyed didn’t know who Stupak was and 75% didn’t know who Schauer was. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

And yet, Schauer holds a slim 39-38% lead over Snyder, while Stupak is a point behind Snyder at 38-39%.

“If they’re running even with Snyder and no one knows who they are, that’s an indication that Snyder is losing support,” said Bernie Porn, EPIC/MRA’s pollster.

The governor’s favorable rating hit a high of 55% in early December. But that was before controversial right-to-work legislation was passed in the raucous final days of the legislative session. Since then, Snyder’s ratings have been slipping. In the April survey, 42% of the people had a favorable view of him, while 46% had an unfavorable view. His job rating was 38% positive to 58% negative.

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R.D. Musser of Grand Hotel Dies at 80

Musser Porch

R.D. Musser, Jr. died earlier today of congestive heart failure.  From The Detroit News:

Robert Daniel “Dan” Musser, Chairman Emeritus of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, died today in Lansing of congestive heart failure. He was 80.

During his more than 60 years with the Grand Hotel, he helped guide it to its world class status and expand the size and length of the season, earning attention for the island and tourism in Michigan.

Musser began working at the hotel as a college student in 1951, when its 200 rooms were open from July 4 through Labor Day. His uncle, W. Stewart Woodfill, had owned the hotel since he purchased it in 1933 during the height of the Great Depression.

In 1960, Musser became president of the hotel and later purchased it along with his wife Amelia in 1979.

In the 1970s, Musser began a complete makeover of the hotel, updating the interior and redoing the 385 rooms so that no two look alike.

“When I took over we had about 120 rooms that shared a bath, which could cause real problems,” Musser once said. “If you were in one of those rooms, you could lock the guests in the other room out of the bathroom. People would come to the desk complaining they couldn’t get into the bathroom, which obviously was a problem. We got rid of the last rooms with adjoining baths about 1970.”

Musser also served as the Mackinac Island Public Works Commission Chair for more than 30 years. Under his guidance the island installed a modern water and wastewater system and capped the island’s landfill in 1991.

Former Governor William G. Milliken called Musser “an important figure in Michigan politics as host and friend.”

“Dan Musser was a pillar of great strength on Mackinac Island,” said Milliken. “He will be greatly missed not only on the island but also among those across the state who value what he did to assure the excellence of the Grand Hotel and that he so long did to promote the state.”

Former Gov. Jim Blanchard issued the following statement. “Dan wrote the book on hospitality. He and his family have done more for tourism in Michigan than anyone. The Grand Hotel is not only the crown jewel of Michigan, but a fabulous gathering place for the leaders of Michigan and America. People come from all over the world to go the Grand Hotel. Dan’s passing is a great loss for Michigan and the world of hospitality.”

In his hotel business, Musser was known for a very close attention to detail. On the day before the hotel opened for the season, he would tour the rooms one-by-one to spot any last minute problems. He was known for leaving handwritten notes to employees, sometimes as many as 50 or 60 a day, pointing out things that needed attention…

From  Grand Hotel’s Facebook page:

Musser

It is with great sadness we let you know R.D. Musser, Jr. passed away early this morning. Mr. Musser was highly respected in the hospitality industry and a true icon to everyone who knew him. He became president of the hotel in 1960 and then purchased it with his wife Amelia in 1979. For more than 60 years he operated America’s Summer Place. As we approach the 80th consecutive year of the hotel opening under the stewardship of the same family, it will not be the same without the presence of Mr. Musser who had a ritual of going through each guest room before the hotel opened to make sure it was ready for the season. He will be greatly missed by his loyal staff and guests.

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Michigan Republican National Committeeman Spreads Anti-Gay Bigotry

Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema has obtained a lot of attention recently, even alienating some Republicans, with his extreme views on homosexuality. He is comparing gays to alcoholics when talking about getting them to give up their lifestyle. MLive reports:

“What I’d like to have the homosexual community know is I don’t hate them,” he said. “As a matter of fact when Jesus caught a woman in the act of adultery when they brought her to him he said I don’t condemn you but go and sin no more. That ought to be the church’s goal here. We ought to be saying to these people, ‘Hey, we don’t agree with your lifestyle and we’ll help you get out of it, but we want you to know the facts of what’s going to happen to you if you stay in this lifestyle.’”

The former state representative from West Michigan entered the national debate on gay marriage two weeks ago by sharing an article on Facebook titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuality,” which began with a warning to parents that their children could be “indoctrinated” at public schools.

Agema repeated that claim on Wednesday, saying that school kids are already being conditioned to accept homosexuality and that “the next thing that will occur is your kids will come home and say, ‘I think this is a good thing and I think I want to be one.’”

The article also described various health problems associated with “the lifestyle,” citing various sources from 1978 to 1994, including a non-practicing chiropractor with ties to white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups. Agema has since updated the “traditional marriage” section of his personal website with links to additional sources, including the Family Research Council.

“If you really love someone, if you really were concerned about someone, if you saw your friend for example dying of alcoholism would you just stand quietly by and watch it happen?” Agema said on the radio program. “Or would you speak up and say hey I want to help you. That’s what we should be doing.”

As noted above, he recently shared an article with his Facebook friends expressing anti-gay bigotry:

Agema, of Grandville, sparked a furor Wednesday after he posted to an article titled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics on Homosexuals” on his Facebook page.

The article, written by a “Frank Joseph, M.D.,” purports homosexuals are promiscuous, riddled with sexually transmitted diseases and by and large are substance abusers.

It also alleges gay people are responsible for the spread of the AIDS virus in America, that “many homosexuals admit they are pedophiles” and that they are 100 times more likely to be murdered than “the average person.”

The outrage against this post also included protests by some Republicans. While they do not go along with Agema’s extreme statements, I wonder how many of these Republicans would be willing to support legal change to reverse laws which discriminate against homosexuals.

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Carl Levin Not Running For Reelection– Fortunately Republicans Are Now Very Unpopular In Michigan

Michigan Senator Carl Levin announced today that he will not run for reelection in 2014. He also announced the issues he plans to concentrate on in his final two years in the Senate now that he won’t be distracted by a reelection campaign.

Years of bipartisan work by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that I chair have shed light on tax avoidance schemes that are a major drain on our treasury. The huge loss of corporate tax receipts caused by the shift of U.S. corporate tax revenue to offshore tax havens is but one example of the egregious tax loopholes that we must end. Thirty of our most profitable companies paid no taxes over a recent three year period although they had over $150 billion in profits.

Tax avoidance schemes that have no economic justification or purpose other than to avoid paying taxes may be legal but they should not be. These schemes add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit. They lead to cuts in education, research, national security, law enforcement, infrastructure, food safety and other important investments in our nation. And they add to the tax burden of ordinary Americans who have to pick up the slack and accelerate the economic inequality in our country. I want to fight to bring an end to this unjustified drain on the Treasury.

Second, I want to ensure that the manufacturing renaissance that has led Michigan’s economic comeback continues. We’ve made progress in building the partnerships we need to help U.S. manufacturers succeed, but the next two years will be crucial to sustaining and building on that progress.

A third item I want to tackle is a growing blight on our political system that I believe I can help address: the use of secret money to fund political campaigns. Our tax laws are supposed to prevent secret contributions to tax exempt organizations for political purposes. My Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations needs to look into the failure of the IRS to enforce our tax laws and stem the flood of hundreds of millions of secret dollars flowing into our elections, eroding public confidence in our democracy.

Finally, the next two years will also be important in dealing with fiscal pressures on our military readiness. As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am determined to do all I can to address that issue. I also believe we need to pursue the rapid transfer of responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans. And, as our troops come home, we must do a better job of caring for those who bear both the visible and invisible wounds of war.

Open seats often provide the opposing party the best chance of picking up a seat. Levin’s retirement leaves the Democrats defending four open seats so far in 2014: Michigan, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Iowa. Republicans also have their best shot in off-year elections when the electorate is older and more conservative than in years with a presidential election.

While the Republicans totally dominated the election results in Michigan in 2010, this is unlikely to happen in 2014. Seeing the results of Republican government, Michigan voters are likely to vote heavily Democratic in 2014. This is seen in a new poll from Public Policy Polling. The poll shows that Governor Rick Snyder trails three potential Democratic opponents. The Republican legislature is also unpopular, with the poll showing that more voters would choose a Democrat (48%)  over a Republican (36%). While the individual candidates will affect the outcome, a Democrat running for Levin’s seat should have a strong edge over a Republican.

 

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Michigan Republicans Promote Election Rigging Scheme

Michigan wound up with far right Republicans in control of state government during the GOP sweep of 2010. This has led to problems including passing a so-called “right to work” law, attempts to restrict reproductive rights, and state government attempting to ignore the will of the voters in legalization of medical marijuana. While most states have given up on the idea of trying to rig elections,  many Michigan Republicans are still pushing for this:

Republicans handed Bobby Schostak another two-year term as state chairman Saturday and overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to change Michigan presidential electoral vote rules in a way opponents charge is intended to distort election results in favor of GOP candidates.

By a 1,370-132 margin at the party convention in Lansing, GOP members approved a resolution backing a proposal from Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, to divvy-up 14 of the state’s 16 electoral votes according to which candidate got the most votes in each congressional district. The other two would go to the state-wide vote total winner.

That switch from a winner-take-all formula that has been in effect 175 years could water down the dominance Democrats have had in Michigan in presidential elections for the last 24 years.

Critics say the plan would have given Mitt Romney nine of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes last year, although he lost by more than 500,00 votes to President Barack Obama state-wide. With the win, Obama captured all 16 Michigan electoral votes.

Lund introduced a bill to make the revision last year but it was unsuccessful. Hesaid he intends to reintroduce it in 2013, but leaders of the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers haven’t publicly announced a position on it.

Governor Rick Snyder, who is more moderate than most of the Republican elected in 2010, is not currently supporting this proposal. However, Snyder has often given in to the radical right, such as in reversing his position and signing “right to work” legislation in late 2012.

The current winner take all system in effect in all but two states might sound undemocratic, but provides results far closer to the national popular vote than allocating electoral votes by Congressional district. Under the current system, the winner of the popular vote has won the vast majority of elections. The 2000 election provided a notable exception with Al Gore winning the popular vote but George Bush winning the electoral vote. Reviews of the results in Florida afterwards did show that Gore would have won Florida (and therefore the election) if there was a state-wide recount, but not in the more limited recounts sought by Gore which were ultimately shut down by the Supreme Court.

There are two problems with the Republican proposal to allocate electoral votes based upon Congressional districts. Republicans hold a larger number of Congressional districts than they should receive based upon numbers of votes for each party due to gerrymandering. Even if not for gerrymandering, the concentration of Democratic voters in cities compared to the more rural Republican voters would result in Democrats controlling a smaller number of Congressional districts–winning by larger margins in cities than Republicans would win in other areas.

While is is preferable that the winner of the popular vote becomes president, allocating electoral votes by state helps to level out these issues and provides a result far closer to the popular vote than the Republican proposal would. Of course the Republican proponents realize this and prefer rigging elections to providing a platform which more voters would support. Even many Republicans oppose this. Hopefully some oppose this in support of democracy. Other motivating factors for some Republicans is the hope that they can carry an entire state and receive all of its electoral votes in the future, and fear of their state becoming less meaningful to candidates and receiving less attention during elections.

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Michigan Court Decision Restricts Access To Medical Marijuana

While Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has come under well-deserved national criticism for giving into the right wing recently, Michigan elected far more dangerous conservatives in 2010. This includes Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has been working to undermine the medical marijuana laws passed by Michigan voters. Schuette received a huge boost in his efforts from a Michigan Supreme Court decision:

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday the state’s medical marijuana law makes dispensaries illegal, throwing owners and patients into panicked uncertainty.

State officials said the justices’ 4-1 decision goes into “immediate effect” and could mean legal action against dispensaries that don’t close.

“It’s really up in the air at this point as to whether we’ll open tomorrow or not,” said Jamie Lowell, a co-founder of 3rd Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti, on Friday. “We’re still evaluating the decision with our attorneys. What it comes down to is whether we have any protections or defenses in the event we decide to continue helping people.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who joined the Isabella County prosecutor in a suit seeking the closure of another dispensary as a public nuisance, offered this interpretation of the ruling:

“Today, Michigan’s highest court clarified that this law is narrowly focused to help the seriously ill, not an open door to unrestricted marijuana sales,” he said in a statement Friday. “Dispensaries will have to close their doors. Sales or transfers between patients or between caregivers and patients other than their own are not permitted under the Medical Marihuana Act.”

This interpretation of the law provides very limited access to medical marijuana:

According to the ruling, the only legal sales of medical marijuana in Michigan are those specifically allowed in the state act. It states that as many as five state-approved users may register with a single state-approved caregiver, who then becomes a long-term provider of the drug — but only to those five users.

There is a bill in the Michigan legislature to legalize dispensaries, but for now it is doubtful the current dispensaries will be able to remain open without facing  prosecution. Schuette has been working to prevent the use of medical marijuana since taking office and I’m sure he will be able to find additional means to harass users regardless of whether dispensaries are legalized.

The best solution is to prevent any legal harassment of those who desire to use marijuana for medical purposes is to end attempts at prohibition and totally remove prosecutors from the issue by either legalizing or at least decriminalizing marijuana. The California Medical Association has previously called for legalization of marijuana with current laws creating an untenable situation.

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Rick Snyder’s Support Plummets After Signing Right To Work Law

In 2010 it was clear that Republicans would dominate the off-year elections due to the state of the economy and the national pro-Republican wave. Rick Snyder won the Republican nomination due to a combination of more conservative Republicans splitting the far right wing vote and Democrats crossing over to back Snyder as the lesser evil. By positioning himself as a moderate, Snyder had a good chance at getting re-elected in 2014. The problem with a moderate Republican governor is that he is still a Republican, and therefore will not veto extreme acts from the Republican legislature as regularly as a Democrat would. Signing the right to work legislation which the Republican legislature rammed through has cost Snyder a tremendous amount of support. From Public Policy Polling:

Snyder’s popularity plummets

Just last month when we took a first look at the 2014 landscape we talked about how much Rick Snyder had improved his popularity during his second year in office and how he led a generic Democrat for reelection by 6 points, even as Barack Obama won the state comfortably.

Last week he threw all that out the window.

We now find Snyder as one of the most unpopular Governors in the country. Only 38% of voters approve of him to 56% who disapprove. There are only 2 other sitting Governors we’ve polled on who have a worse net approval rating than Snyder’s -18. He’s dropped a net 28 points from our last poll on him, the weekend before the election, when he was at a +10 spread (47/37).

There’s not much doubt that it’s the right to work law and his embrace of other actions by the Republican legislature that are driving this precipitous drop in Snyder’s popularity. Only 41% of voters in the state support the right to work legislation, while 51% are opposed to it. If voters got to decide the issue directly only 40% of them say they would vote to keep the law enacted, while 49% would vote to overturn it. This comes on the heels of voters overturning Snyder’s signature emergency managers law last month. The simple reality is that Michigan voters like unions- 52% have a favorable opinion of them to only 33% with a negative one.

Snyder trails every Democrat we tested against him in a hypothetical match up. He’s down 49/38 to 2010 opponent Virg Bernero, 47/39 to Congressman Gary Peters, 46/38 to State Senator Gretchen Whitmer, and 44/39 to former Congressman Mark Schauer. The Bernero numbers are what’s most striking there. Snyder defeated Bernero by 18 points in 2010, so Bernero’s 11 point advantage represents a 29 point reversal. The Democrats all lead Snyder despite having very little name recognition- only 44% of voters are familiar with Bernero, 36% with Peters, 28% with Schauer, and 27% with Whitmer.

The Republicans in the legislature are even more unpopular than Snyder after their spate of last minute legislation…

Besides objection to the right to work legislation, many Michigan voters are also upset with the manner in which the legislation was pushed through.

Despite Snyder’s mistake in signing the right to work legislation, he is still far preferable to the other Republican choices who were available in 2010 such as Tea Party supporter Pete Hoekstra. At least Snyder will occasionally veto the most extreme Republican-passed legislation. Besides the right to work legislation which received national attention, the Michigan legislature has also pushed through other far right wing legislation.  After the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Snyder reconsidered a bill passed by the legislature to allow concealed weapons in schools and vetoed it. We know that many more extreme Republicans would have praised the idea with a warped view that having more guns in school would make children safer. While less likely, hopefully he will also veto legislation intended to reduce access to abortions.

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Now Waiting For All The New Jobs In Michigan

Michigan has passed so-called right to work legislation today. There’s already been a lot written about how right-to-work states wind up with lower wages for workers, which doesn’t sound like a good thing for the economy unless you are in the right wing bubble. I’m more interested in seeing data on the other question–whether right-to-work laws are really of any benefit to a state in terms of bringing in new jobs. Governor Rick Snyder says this is the case, playing the role of ventriloquist’s doll to the Koch brothers. Think Progress says this is false:

… the economic research isn’t on Snyder’s side. As Adam Hersh, Heather Boushey, and David Madland note:

“There is really no economic evidence showing “right-to-work” laws leading to more jobs or better outcomes for workers. This is seen plainly in analysis looking at the impact of such laws in Oklahoma, the only other state to adopt a right-to-work law in the past 25 years prior to Indiana doing so in 2011 and Michigan’s current legislative move. In fact, economists Sylvia Allegretto and Gordon Lafer of the University of California, Berkeley and University of Oregon, respectively, show that since Oklahoma’s law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and business relocations to the state actually reversed their “pre-right-to-work” increases and began to fall—and this at a time when Oklahoma’s extractive industry economies were booming. To the contrary, these researchers show that right-to-work laws have failed to increase employment growth in the 22 states that have adopted them.”

Instead, right-to-work laws simply result in lower wages and fewer benefits for workers, union and non-union alike. In Michigan (and across the country), as unionization rates fall, so does middle-class income. President Obama yesterday blasted right-to-work as “giving you the right to work for less money.”

Unfortunately we can’t have a fully controlled experiment here since Michigan’s economy is recovering and new jobs might be come to Michigan regardless of the law. However, a drastic step such as adopting right-to-work laws, with their known detrimental effects, should show a clear increase in jobs coming to the state. Just something to keep in mind in two years when Snyder is up for reelection.

Incidentally, Greg Sargent describes one way in which this might be overturned.

Update: Conservatives have “right-to-work” the “death tax” “right to life” and other ways of renaming positions to affect public opinion. The mainstream media tries to make both sides sound equivalent. “Inheritance tax” and “pro-choice” sound like far more honest terms than those used by conservatives. Are there any liberal equivalents to the conservative renaming of viewpoints which I’m not thinking of? Does the lack of similar tactics by liberals mean that liberals are more honest or less skillful politically (or both)?

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Michigan Legislature Considering Bills To Limit Access To Abortion

After the midterm elections of 2010 I found myself living in a red state. This November the Republicans realized that the situation which placed them in power has changed. The Michigan legislature will still be controlled by Republicans in the next session, but their majority is shrinking, and they realize there is a chance they will be removed in another two years. They decided to suddenly push harder for their reactionary agenda in the lame duck session. By now most have heard how Michigan has passed a “right to work” law. This isn’t the only mischief that the legislature has been up to. The Detroit Free Press reports on new legislation to limit access to abortion:

Legislation that could limit access to abortion — several measures that shot through Thursday in a chaotic day in Lansing — drew sharp criticism Friday from Michigan residents who said the proposals run roughshod over women’s rights and could allow doctors to pick and choose patients based on religious or moral beliefs.

A package of three Senate bills would prevent insurers on the state’s health care exchange — a provision of health care reform that Michigan must still establish — from automatically including coverage for abortion in their policies offered on the exchange.

Rather, an employer or an individual purchaser of the plan would have to request and pay separately for abortion coverage.

As it stands now, nearly 80% of plans in Michigan cover abortion, according to Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan…

The bills need to pass the House and be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder before they would become law.

But a similar measure to make abortion coverage available only through a supplemental policy might be closer to law.

It was tucked inside legislation that would allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to change its business structure. That bill, with last-minute amendments tacked on that would apply to other insurers as well, is headed for Snyder’s desk. Snyder has pushed for legislation to allow the Blue Cross the change in its business plan.

Voters sent a clear message in the 2012 election that we do not want Republican big government forcing the repugnant moral views of the religious right upon others. If younger and more liberal voters remain engaged in two years and do not stay home as they did four years ago, actions such as this could lead to Michigan becoming a fully blue state once again in 2014. The actions of the Michigan legislature also show why there is no safety in electing a moderate Republican such as Governor Rick Snyder if he is willing to sign most of the bills passed by the Republican legislature. If Jennifer Granholm was still in Lansing, we know she would be vetoing these measures.

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