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Year’s biggest state news, as ignored by governor


Gov. Rick Snyder is done at year’s end.

That’s not necessarily groundbreaking or newsworthy in itself.

The point that Snyder’s swan-song year faded away into an unremarkable footnote in Michigan’s eventful political year is.

Was it on purpose that One Tough Nerd blended into the wallpaper as the biggest news items of 2018 swirled around him? “Pink waves” and “blue waves” churned up a new political dynamic that he flatly refused to wade into past his ankles.

Once his second in charge, Brian Calley, lost the Republican gubernatorial nomination, Snyder lost interest in politics. Sure, he showed up at a fundraiser here and there, but screaming from his bully pulpit, waving his arms around has never been his style.

Workforce training, anyone? Balancing the budget ahead of schedule eight years in a row? Trade missions? How about roundtable discussions on the economic development program du jour?

Yawn. News hooks for nerds. Meanwhile, all of this was happening.

Biggest issue of the year: Larry Nassar.

Snyder never went after the Michigan State University Board to dump Lou Anna Simon. He didn’t pressure anyone to resign, even though his appointment director, MSU board Chairman Brian Breslin, worked down the hall.

Biggest grassroots effort: The redistricting ballot proposal. Snyder never said boo about it one way or the other. He’s an old venture capitalist, not an old lawmaker. If he cared about Proposal 2, he had a funny way of showing it.

Biggest, baddest, busiest lame duck legislative session in Michigan history: The governor took a stand on almost nothing. He’ll read the bills when he gets them. Next question. Listen for the sound of another reporter’s head banging against a wall.

Biggest bureaucratic frustration: Obtaining a medical marijuana business license. His board, his administration, the courts. They all seemed to play yoyo with people who want to grow or sell a legal substance. They’re not decoding national secrets.

Think Snyder could step in and grease the wheels of government a little bit? Dig into the cushions for a spare nickel or two for a couple more medical marijuana licensing staffers?

Yeah, right. He’s so uninterested in pot, he could have forgotten legalized recreational marijuana was on the ballot.

Biggest political blowoff: Surely, Snyder had to be agitated that the Republican convention booed his Supreme Court justice appointee, Beth Clement. Or that his own party printed door hangers without Clement’s picture. They were concerned activists wouldn’t circulate them with her face on them.

If he was ticked about either, the media never heard about it.

Biggest general election race: Replace him as governor. Gretchen Whitmer and Bill Schuette were the major party nominees, remember? Think Snyder endorsed? Think he even showed up to the state Republican convention? Or Vice President Mike Pence’s rally in Grand Rapids?

Michigan’s reinvention doesn’t have time for that.

Biggest protests: The repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law drew a pretty pissed-off bunch to the Capitol. But the governor had nothing to do with approving or rejecting the citizens’ initiative, so Snyder sat safely behind his spreadsheets as trade union guys shouted at legislators from the balcony.

Biggest news miss: Snyder and First Lady Sue Snyder welcome Gretchen Whitmer and her family to the official governor’s residence. Nobody knew about it until days after the fact. So much for the good-government/transition photo op.

After years like 2011 (emergency manager) 2012 (right to work), 2013 (Medicaid expansion/Detroit bankruptcy), 2015 (Flint), 2016 (MORE Flint), it’s as if Snyder is more than happy to step away from the limelight.

Maybe now that the “dog years” of his administration have nearly caught up to his natural age, it’s time to find a way to step back from the spotlight? Could he be slowing down? Or maybe not.

Biggest environmental issue: Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac or oddly high PFAS levels popping up in random locations like Parchment? Either one, Snyder is behind the scenes neutralizing the issue before either goes nuclear.

Snyder got Enbridge to pay for a utility tunnel from Mackinac City to St. Ignace he wanted anyway for an electric transmission line. He rushed with light speed to create this new straits corridor authority to oversee construction. Next issue anyone?

Wait, Snyder has north of 350 bills sitting on his desk. Maybe the year’s “biggest veto” is coming? The way 2018 has gone, pinning hopes on a Snyder “big splash” will likely yield nothing but “biggest disappointment” honors.

(Melinn, an editor of the Capitol news service MIRS, is at melinnky@gmail.com — or will be when he recovers from lame duck.)


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