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Tim Skubick: Bill Schuette Has Knack For Touting Issues Where Fear Often Trumps Logic


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You don’t have to work around this joint long to figure out when a lawmaker is frustrated. You can see it on their face and hear it in their words. And when it’s a Republican fighting another Republican, it can get even worse.

Ran into Rep. Joe Haveman the other day. He was there.

He was trying desperately to get his prison sentencing reform legislation through the house and senate. He was on a mission to save the taxpayers some money.

As the former chair of the house correction’s budget subcommittee and now the chair of the entire appropriations committee, the West Michigan Republican has seen that budget mushroom more quickly than a marijuana plant in Denver. The state spends more on housing inmates than on any other state service.

His goal was to enact some reforms that would send young crooks, not behind the big wall, but to alternative programs. “React early to nip it in the bud before it happens” and “before they commit big crimes,” Mr. Haveman explains.

Problem was his fellow Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette was on a crusade to block the legislation for fear it would result in more bad guys being on the streets committing mayhem and maybe even murder.

Mr. Haveman shrugged his shoulders as the frustration button kicked on.

“Did you expect any different? He’s true to form. You can’t have change without change. I expect no different from him.”

Mr. Schuette, according to his critics, has the knack of latching onto to populous issues and riding them for all they are worth politically. His supporters counter he is simply doing his job to protect the public, the touch stone of his recent re-election campaign.

There’s a laundry list, the critics contend, where he has stepped in to oppose medical marijuana, gay marriage, expansion of Medicaid coverage for needy families (the governor supports that) and now sentencing reforms.

“That’s the way he plays,” says Mr. Haveman and when they counted the house votes, guess who won?

Fears trump logic, which only added to Mr. Haveman’s frustration as his measure was “gutted.” Even though he did get presumptive parole, the rest of the package went down in flames.

Score one for Mr. Schuette - and for Mr. Haveman, half a point.



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