Tuesday, 21 May 2019
BREAKING NEWS

Roads, auto insurance top issues for state House of Representatives candidates

At least three new faces will be part of Macomb County’s delegation in the state House of Representatives in 2019. Voters will decide Tuesday if more will be part of the changeover.

Lori Stone upset incumbent Democratic Rep. Patrick Green in the August primary election, while Republican Pete Lucido is leaving the lower chamber after two terms in an effort to replace term-limited Jack Brandenburg in the state Senate.

And voters in Sterling Heights will select a new legislator as state Rep. Henry Yanez, a Democrat, is also term limited. Republican candidate Jazmine Early will face City Councilman Nate Shannon, a Democrat, for the position.

All 110 House seats are up for election. Heading into Tuesday, Republicans hold a 63-47 majority.

Representatives serve two-year terms and earn a $71,685 salary, plus expenses.

In preparation of this report, The Macomb Daily asked candidates to complete a questionnaire. Here’s a look at the matchups:

18th House District (Eastpointe, St. Clair Shores and part of Grosse Pointe Shores)

Incumbent Democrat Kevin Hertel, 33, of St. Clair Shores, is seeking his second term in office. Kyle McKee, 24, also of St. Clair Shores, is a regional field director for the Michigan Republican Party.

How do you propose to improve the condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges?

McKEE:  The number one issue with our road funding is the unfair way we fund them. We do not need to raise taxes, especially after the recent gas tax and registration fee increase. We need to make funding fair. Currently, the roads are funded based on a formula that was created in 1951. The roads and infrastructure are significantly different than they were in 1951, and we need an updated, modern formula. Rural counties receive a higher amount of funding per mile of road than counties that have more people and more traffic like Macomb. However, these counties will not want to give that funding up, which is why we need to work out a plan that they can accept. We will need to prioritize their items and work with all the elected officials, regardless of party, to make a deal. This could include prioritized funding for rural communities to expand high speed internet access in exchange for a fair amount of the dollars dedicated to road funding. The problem can’t be solved by throwing more money at it. We will need to find bipartisan solutions that are mutually beneficial.

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kyle mckee

McKee 

HERTEL:   Michigan’s current road funding formula under Public Act 51 does not provide Macomb County with an adequate share of state road funding. Instead, it spends our tax dollars on road projects across the state. I have cosponsored legislation to change P.A. 51 to make sure we receive the proper amount road funding in Macomb County. We also need to do more to invest more in infrastructure. I support plans to invest in a Michigan Infrastructure Bank that will leverage local, state and federal dollars to address our aging infrastructure needs. I also support a tax structure in Michigan that requires corporations to pay their fair share.

Is insurance reform needed? If so, how would you propose insurance premiums?

McKEE: Auto insurance reform should be one of the highest priorities in Lansing. It is no secret that we are paying significantly more for insurance than other Midwestern states. There is not one simple answer for fixing auto insurance prices, so we will have to approach the problem at multiple angles. We need to have a fee schedule for procedures after no-fault auto accidents so that doctors and hospitals can’t charge an outrageous price at the expense of the taxpayers. The state also needs a way to fight fraud with auto insurance. A large part of our problem is also the number of drivers on the road that do not have insurance because of the price. As we decrease the high cost of auto insurance, more drivers will be able to be insured, which will improve the price of insurance even more. This is a long-term fix and won’t be solved in just a year or two. We will need to continually work for the next few years to solve this issue.

HERTEL:  The cost of auto insurance is too high and reform is absolutely needed. We can lower auto insurance costs without lowering the protections and benefits people across our community rely on. I support a plan that would reduce premiums by outlawing the use of discriminatory non-driving factors, creating a fraud authority with real power to go after those misusing the system, and reducing medical costs through a fee schedule negotiated with hospitals. Furthermore, seniors should not be required to purchase medical coverage through their auto insurance because they are covered by Medicare and all drivers should be able to coordinate their health coverage.

Are you in favor of Proposal 1, the ballot question on recreational use of marijuana?

McKEE:  I am not in favor of the proposal. The largest area of concern is what will happen if this passes and we need to edit the law. As a constitutional amendment, it is more difficult for the Legislature and elected representatives to edit the law if it needs to get changed. We need to be able to quickly react to any changes that are needed.

HERTEL: I am in favor of Proposal 1 to regulate marijuana as alcohol in Michigan and will support the will of Michigan voters. If passed, this would create a regulatory framework for the sale and use of marijuana. I am committed to working with partners in law enforcement and the medical community to ensure proper implementation and any necessary legislative changes that may be needed.

List three other issues that should be a high priority for the Legislature

McKEE:  The highest priority for Macomb County legislators needs to be the quality of our lake and preventing sewage dumps into our waters. I grew up on the lake, fishing, boating, and playing pond hockey. If we do not prioritize our shoreline and our lake, future generations will not have the opportunity to enjoy the water like we all have. We also need to address this issue because of how many of our local small business rely on the lakes and rivers. Another issue near and dear to Macomb County is the opioid crisis and drug addiction. Macomb County has one of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the state. I had the pleasure to work with the Governor’s taskforce on prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction to help fix this issue that affects every part of our community. I was also able to work on legislation allowing for anti-overdose medication to be sold over the counter in the state of Michigan which had led to lives being saved. We need to continue to address this issue in Lansing and bring results for Macomb County.

HERTEL:  I believe the three most pressing issues in Michigan are education, infrastructure and water quality. The current legislature has an obligation to work together to find real solutions to the issues facing Michigan families.

22nd District (Roseville and a portion of Warren)

Democratic incumbent Rep. John Chirkun, 66, is seeking his third term in Lansing.  Republican Arthur Blundell, 69, is an engineer from Roseville. Libertarian Matt Kuehnel, 35, of Warren, is a facility maintenance tech.

How do you propose to improve the condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges?

BLUNDELL: Motor fuel taxes appear to be utilized for things not connected to roads. I propose all funds derived from these taxes be used for building, and maintaining our roads.

CHIRKUN: To improve our roads, we need to make sure that we are doing things efficiently and effectively and that we maximize our road funding match from the federal government. We need to implement best practices and techniques when it comes to road construction projects with things like expanding road warranties, video conferencing when feasible, more competitive bidding and increased penalties for violating weight limits. We must better prioritize existing funding in our current budget for roads and infrastructure.

It is important that we have voter input as any potential long-term solution and revenues for roads will come from the taxpayers’ pocket. Legislative support for a constitutionally-protected and voter approved sales tax increase is a tough sell so, additional user fees, elimination of registration fee loopholes or other taxes, or some combination of each, will be needed. I am open to consideration of all potential road funding options. I support legislation (House Bills 6242-6249) that would create a state-wide bond and low interest loans to fund sorely needed water and sewage infrastructure updates.

KUEHNEL: I would like to see those who depend on the roads the most subsidize road maintenance through taxation. That would be largely private businesses, as well as the federal government. I would strive to ensure the funds do not come from struggling families so I would oppose excessive gas tax hikes. I would accept federal funding. I would also support ending the contracting of private businesses for road construction, in favor of putting residents to work through a statewide jobs program, thusly eliminating the waste of private profits from construction costs while improving the lives of our residents and workers.

Is auto insurance reform needed? If so, how would propose lowering insurance payments?

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blundell

Blundell 

BLUNDELL: As we are in the highest cost of insurance in the country, we need some reform. However, as long as there is no top dollar that lawyers can push for, we the premium-payers will have to foot these bills

CHIRKUN: I co-sponsored two different, bipartisan, bill packages to address the cost of auto insurance. One would keep the uniform unlimited benefits currently provided for in law in place while putting in place a fee schedule of 185 percent of the worker’s compensation fee schedule, provide for attendant care limits and other caps on provider charges and services, and prohibit the use of credit scores and other non-driving factors such as occupation and zip code from being used to set auto insurance rates. The legislation also creates a fraud authority and subjects the MCCA to the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. The other package of bills would allow insurance companies the option of offering up more consumer choice by allowing drivers the option of picking the level of coverage they want that is offered, a kind of a la carte option, by auto insurance providers. Unlimited coverage would still be offered as well if drivers choose to purchase it but the bills would allow drivers the ability to better work with their auto insurance agent to come up with a coverage plan that works best for them and their budget.

KUEHNEL: No-fault insurance should be abolished. I would like to remove all requirements to own or maintain insurance on vehicles. Insurance for damages to one’s vehicle should be a voluntary decision to purchase and any damages or claims should be handled case by case. I would like to see a state provided insurance program for damages to public property, funded by the auto makers and oil industry. Providing everyone universal health coverage would greatly reduce costs of auto insurance by eliminating the need for auto insurance to cover injuries.

Are you in favor of Proposal 1, the ballot question on the recreational use of marijuana?

BLUNDELL: No, I am not in favor of recreational drugs of any sort.

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chirkun hed shot

Chirkun 

CHIRKUN: Voters will have the final say on this matter and I will support whatever decision they come to. Any change in marijuana laws must be done with the public’s safety in mind, however. As a retired Wayne County Sheriff’s deputy, I have seen the negative effects of drug abuse on families and the community firsthand. The voter-initiated medical marijuana law has resulted in numerous unintended consequences that voters did not expect. Legalization means regulation and with that increased tax revenue — like we have seen in Washington and Colorado — which could be put toward a number of important things like our roads and schools. If there is any legalization of marijuana, it must be done in a highly regulated manner, similar to the system Michigan uses for alcohol.

KUEHNEL: I do not see Prop 1 as a perfect solution. I prefer complete decriminalization of growing, selling, and consuming cannabis and its products, as well as hemp. I believe the regulation will allow a monopolization of production into the hands of the wealthy and politically connected. I believe minorities and those in poverty will be unfairly targeted with the proposed regulation. I believe the proposal should include a retroactive clause to free the thousands currently serving time for what will now be legal and expunging all records. We should also address federal agencies that continue to enforce laws that the people of Michigan have rejected.

List three other issues that should be a high priority for the Legislature

BLUNDELL: We have a crumbling infrastructure. This is not a new thing. It has required decades of ignoring, a “let sleeping dogs lay” attitude, and now it is catching up to us. We are in need of some drastic cleanup, and overhaul of some government services. Can kicking should no longer be a SOP part of government.

CHIRKUN: The biggest problem facing Michigan is the economy and how to best create an environment that produces the conditions for solid economic growth and hiring. Another significant issue is education and concerns over funding and the futures of their children. A third issue is public safety, whether it is safe neighborhoods, the condition of the roads or clean water. I believe we need to address the high cost of auto insurance, which has impacted our state’s economy by taking money out of people’s pockets and not being spent in the local economy. My priorities are fostering economic growth that creates good paying jobs, investing in public education from pre-k to post-secondary/trade schools, and keeping our communities safe by funding police/fire and fixing our roads and water infrastructure.

KUEHNEL: Most important is healthcare.  Michigan and its residents cannot afford to wait for the federal government to decide healthcare for us. We should be looking into creating a universal healthcare for our state and eliminating the private insurance model that is filled with corruption and waste. I am also extremely against the current immigration practices and the

Michigan legislature should be working on making Michigan a sanctuary state, free from all federal agencies exercising inhumane treatment of those who come to our state to create a better life for themselves and their family. Finally, we need to end the violence and poverty that is both created and required to sustain private ownership of production and our resources. I would like to see an effort to socialize all industries in Michigan to create a plentiful and equal commonwealth for all of our residents through a republic of commonwealth for all of our residents through a republic of unions and local organizations.

24th District  (Harrison Township, and portions of Clinton Township and southern Macomb Township)

Republican incumbent Steve Marino, 29, of Harrison Township is seeking his second term. Democrat Laura Winn, 54, of Macomb Township is owner of Two Girls & A Bucket Cleaning

How do you propose to improve the condition of Michigan’s roads and bridges?

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marino

Marino 

MARINO: For our community in particular, the appropriate level of funding from Lansing does not until significant changes are made to the state’s road-funding formula, commonly referred to as Public Act 51. Under the current allocation method, the hard-earned tax-dollars of our residents is distributed to the other portions of the state. Macomb County will continue to be a donor c