Skubick: What the new Michigan legislature should be focusing on

With the new Michigan legislature set to convene this week, many folks are focusing on the "L" word, legislating, when they should be worried about the "R' word instead, relationships.

Like any other human institution, the legislature works best when the players know, trust, and can work with others and this new bunch of salons has a long way to go just based on their mere numbers.

There are 44 new members of the Michigan House. Most of them have never set foot in this joint, let alone studied how to make the process work and while they have had some time together after the election, the theme song for the new freshman class is "Getting to Know You."

The new members bring their own set of experience to the game but they can not match, at this read, the experience of the folks who left. In all some 248 years of legislative background walked out the door when the now ex-lawmakers were forced to leave because of the state's term limit law.

The state senate, as it has been over the years, remains the bastion of legislative expertise. Yes it has ten new members all but one came over from the house so they are not exactly babes in the woods like their counterparts across the rotunda.

As each new member struggles to build trust, the focus will be on a few key individuals who have relationship challenges of their own.

Starting at the top of the legislative food chain, Gov. Rick Snyder has begun work on forging a new relationship with three new members of the so-called quadrant.  Those are the two GOP and two Democratic leaders of the house and senate who regularly meeting with the boss.

Gone are the three amigos Randy Richardville, Jase Bolger and Gretchen "I don't always agree with the governor" Whitmer.  Like them or not they managed to work with the governor to forge bi-partisan agreements along with the lone returning member of the new quadrant, Rep. Tim Greimel, the house Democratic leader.

The new senate leader is Arlan Meekhof.  The new GOP House Speaker is Kevin Cotter and the new senate D leader is Jim Ananich.

The governor has already had the two R's over to his Ann Arbor home to break bread and commence the "getting to know you" process which must be done in real time.  You can't speed it up.

Mr. Meekhof reports the governor "has a nice home.  It was entertaining to have a relaxing time with him and lt. governor Brian Calley."

Asked how you build a new chemistry, the West Olive senator suggests, "spending time together.  Understanding each other's communication style.  Making sure you are communicating.  Sometimes the unspoken communication is the part that get's you into trouble."

Well put. And the only way to learn your way around that is to do it and so far the quadrant has not tackled anything, but that will change.

And it could get interesting as Messrs. Kotter and Meekhof might send the governor some legislation he will not like such as repealing prevailing wages for union members and creating a new method of electing the president in Michigan.  But that story will wait for another time.

Other key relationships have yet to form.  At the top of that list the new chairs of the house and senate appropriations committees.  Rep. Al Pscholka and Sen. David Hildenbrand are both from west Michigan and while both are confirmed conservatives, they've not crunched any budget numbers together yet, but they'll get a chance real soon.

It's a new day.  It's a new legislature.  And whether these new relationships will jell remains the biggest question mark of the new year. 

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