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Shifting regional political power


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"Unless you're in the majority party, you can be largely irrelevant," Sarbaugh-Thompson pointed out. "Because Republicans have been so dominant ever since term limits took effect in the legislature, we have mostly had one-party control, with some blips of Democrats getting the House a few times. ... Within that, what tends to happen is that the party starts to fight when you have a dominant party."

The decision for Republicans to split with party leadership on key issues comes with consequences. In February, Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance) of Monroe County, was one of 12 Republicans to vote against a proposed tax cut that would have reduced Michigan's income tax. Sheppard, who was chair of the House Financial Services Committee, was removed from the committee by House Speaker Tom Leonard after the bill failed. The speaker told news outlets after the vote that while other Republicans voted against the tax cut, Sheppard had told him he was going to vote in favor of the bill, but didn't.

Representatives Michael McCready (R-Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, Bloomfield Hills) and Kathy Crawford (R-Novi) were two Oakland County Republicans who voted against the tax cut. The cut was also opposed by Gov. Rick Snyder. Those who voted against it had cited long-term budget implications. In April, the Michigan Conservative Coalition held a protest at the Birmingham Post Office, but only four people showed up. McCready stood by his vote, saying it would have created a $2.1 billion shortfall in the state's general fund.

"The direction of the House is very conservative," McCready said. "Looking at the last two speakers (Republicans Kevin Cotter, of Mt. Pleasant and Jase Bolger, of Marshall), Bolger wasn't as conservative, but he was forced to get things done with Snyder and Richardville because the state was in such peril, financially.

"He had to do some things that some conservatives wouldn't do," McCready said, referring to Grand Bargain legislation that provided the city of Detroit with more than $190 million during the bankruptcy process.

In terms of leadership, McCready said he personally hasn't sought out leadership positions, but instead prefers a "kingmaker" role by offering support to make others successful. "I'd rather help someone in that position with a fair and balanced approach," he said. "I think there is an antigovernment feeling in the air that is a different group and it's sometimes harder to work with them, but you do."

Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall said there is less friction in the Senate chamber than in the House, but those power struggles aren't new.

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Tags: LONGFORM

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