Rick Snyder kicked off his second term as governor this week insisting that he will step on the gas to get things done and will not accept lame duck status just because he’s term-limited.
Snyder has been a pragmatic leader willing to face down partisanship from Democrats and his fellow Republicans when the goal is fiscal reform. Michiganders should look forward to a continuation of level-headed budgeting and extra effort to resolve problems like the Detroit bankruptcy.
Yet there is room for some concern as the governor begins his next four years. A primary worry is where Snyder will stand on divisive social issues should the new Legislature — expected to be more conservative than the last one — pursue such topics.
Example: Widely supported revisions to Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act would have granted protection to the state’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens. A strong business coalition favored the change, touting such protections as essential to attracting top talent to live and work here. Lawmakers tried to piggyback a Religious Freedom Restoration Act with the civil rights expansion. That bill would have protected people with “sincerely held religious beliefs.” Supporters of LGBT civil rights believed wording of the bill made it possible — even probable — that RFRA could be used to diminish LGBT protections of an expanded civil rights act.
In the end, neither bill passed. But Michigan’s reputation was damaged nonetheless. Not only did the state fail to extend civil rights to LGBT citizens, but it raised the possibility of increased discrimination.
Snyder also cannot afford to let lawmakers and special interests make end runs around him the way they did in his last term with, for example, abortion insurance riders. The governor can say he vetoed the bill, but lawmakers and special interests then worked to pass it through an initiative, a method that eliminates the governor’s signature — or veto.
Snyder must work...