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SBAM | House R’s Announce Plan for $415 Million Grant Program

Michigan Business Network
February 5, 2021 6:00 AM

This Week in Lansing

Yeah, he really did say that . . .


"I ask myself, 'How many times will Lucy pull the ball out from Charlie Brown?' In the comic strip, I know the answer. It's every time. But our kids aren't a comic strip."

- John Thompson of the Michigan High School Athletic Association on when the governor's administration will clear the way for contact high school sports to begin competition.

House R’s Announce Plan for $415 Million Grant Program for Affected Businesses

Calling Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's request "off the mark by a wide margin," House Appropriations Committee Chair Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) Wednesday unveiled his own $3.5 billion plan, roughly $2 billion less than what the governor recently proposed.


Albert's proposal makes $2.1 billion funding in school education contingent upon approval of a law moving the power to close in-person learning and sports activities away from the governor or her administration to local health departments, which would have that authority following health metrics.


House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) is in full support of the plan, which he said is the best option to get relief in the hands of people who need it. He referred to the governor’s $5.6 billion plan as a “blank check.”


“It focuses all funding on COVID relief instead of the political pet projects and corporate welfare the governor included," Wentworth stated.



EGLE Approves Permits For Line 5 Tunnel; MPSC & Fed Approval Still Pending

A state agency has signed off on some of the permits Enbridge needs to build its planned underground tunnel to encase a Line 5 replacement pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) concluded that the proposed construction of a tunnel beneath the lakebed can comply with state environmental laws, the department announced Friday.


Enbridge has pending requests for approval tied to its tunnel project before the Michigan Public Service Commission and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, so EGLE's decision Thursday doesn’t make the tunnel a done deal just yet.


EGLE’s review confirmed the proposed tunneling project would have minimal impact on water quality in the Great Lakes and would not affect protected public uses of Michigan’s water resources.


EGLE also said the project would result in minimal impact to wetlands, estimating wetlands affected to be an area roughly one-tenth the size of a football field, according to a press release. However, EGLE said Enbridge will be required to protect 1.3 acres of existing Great Lakes coastal wetlands and purchase wetlands credits from a state wetlands mitigation bank to address the impact.


Michigan COVID Restrictions Tougher Than Most, But Not Abnormally So

Michigan is ranked 42nd among the states according to how much it's reopened from COVID-19 restrictions, according to one site tracking pandemic-related restrictions on a state-by-state basis.

However, Michigan isn't necessarily an outlier among the states when it comes to particular COVID-related restrictions, according to a MIRS review of sites tracking restrictions, such as the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP), The New York Times and USA Today.


The state openness rankings compiled by Virginia-based government relations firm Multistate is based on a score derived from 11 factors, ranging from whether state residents are under a stay-at-home order, to the extent of specific restrictions on industries like bars and restaurants and large crowd venues, for instance.



State Scammed Out Of $24K Trying To Buy PPE, Could've Been $4.9M

The state lost $24,896 in attempting to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), a loss that could've been as much as $4.9 million if the involved financial institution hadn't stepped in, according to an audit released Tuesday.

Caleb Buhs, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget (DTMB), said that out of the $250 million the state has spent on PPE, the incident in the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) report "was the only time that product was not received after funds were sent."


The OAG said the financial institution told the state about some "red flags" on an out-of-state vendor's bank account that the state was attempting to purchase from.


However, after "further inquiry" the DTMB opted to wire the vendor $4.9 million.


The morning after that transaction, the financial institution stepped in and froze the vendor's bank account after the vendor "attempted to make a large cash withdrawal of the funds," according to the OAG.


Gordon Died On The Hill For Continued Restrictions

Former Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon may have signed the order to allow restaurants and bars to reopen on Feb. 1 with restrictions, but he allegedly didn't like it and his disapproval helped lead to his eventual departure, MIRS has learned.


Sources tell MIRS Gordon wasn't convinced the data showed that opening bars and restaurants -- where individuals inevitably need to take off face coverings to consume food and drink -- was safe in the era of COVID-19.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other members of her team, sensing a need to show some flexibility to an industry severely hurting from state government's recent restrictions on indoor entertainment, saw it otherwise.


While the governor hasn't answered if Gordon was forced out, sources tell MIRS the answer to the question is beside the point. It was no longer a good fit, with Gordon plowing forward on strictly data-driven decisions, while the governor was seeing a need to show some flexibility on the business restrictions.

Michigan Business Network is an online broadcasting company that provides knowledge, news, and insights into Michigan’s businesses, industries, and economy.