Inside and outside of Oakland

Michigan no-fault insurance debate: Apology for Hitler analogy may not be enough for some

  Did Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's tweeted apology Friday comparing Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger to Adolf Hitler go far enough?
  Some Republicans don't think so.

  "He didn't apologize to Bolger or other Republicans," state Rep. Crawford, a Novi Republican, said Monday. "Other people have an apology coming."
  Patterson made the comparison after a legislative committee refused to admit his testimony Thursday opposing proposed reforms to Michigan's no-fault auto insurance law, which he blamed on Bolger.
  House Republicans called for an apology, regardless of their position on auto no-fault reforms, offended to the comparison of one of their own to the Nazi dictator.
  Patterson's apology came later.
  "I alienated some in Jewish comm.when I called the Speaker "Adolf." I was commenting on his leadership style. To those offended I apologize," Patterson said shortly before 6 p.m. Friday in a tweet crammed into that online platform's 140-character limit.
  Republicans may be waiting a long time for anything more than that.
  "I've gone as far as I'm willing to go," Patterson said Monday, questioning why Crawford didn't ask for sanctions against Bolger for refusing to allow committee testimony on the no-fault reform bill.
  The more serious debate behind the verbal theatrics, of course, remains the legislation to reform Michigan's no-fault auto insurance laws backed by Gov. Rick Snyder as a way to reform the system and curb rising auto insurance premiums.
  The legislation, House Bill 4612, may not be dead on arrival in the 110-member House, but it's certainly on life support.
  Perhaps the most controversial part of it is replacing unlimited medical payments for catastrophic injuries in auto crashes with a $1 million cap, which Patterson said will drive accident victims to bankruptcy and to the Medicaid system.
  All 50 Democrats have taken a unified position against changing no-fault auto insurance in Michigan, meaning it'll take just six Republicans to join them in order to defeat the bill, when and if it comes up for a vote.
  A head count Monday indicates there's enough opposition just within Oakland County at present to defeat the bill.
  All but one of the Oakland County's nine GOP lawmakers oppose the bill in its current form or lean toward voting against it.
  "There's another six to nine Republicans around the state (who oppose it)," says Crawford, the Novi Republican. "That's a lot of Republicans for Gov. Snyder to be twisting arms on.
  "I think seven of us (in Oakland County) are strongly opposed," Crawford said. "I just don't think it's the right thing to do."
  Says Rep. Eileen Kowall, a White Lake Republican: "I'm a no. I just have a lot of concerns. I can't vote it in its current form, that's for sure."
  Leaning against the bill is Rep. Joe Graves, a Genesee County Republican whose district includes northwest Oakland County.
  "I was leaning no," Graves said. "Until I see something different, I'm still voting no."
Democrats continued to believe Monday that there's not enough support among House Republicans to pass the no-fault reforms.
  "I think that other than Tom McMillin, all of the other Republican representatives from Oakland County are either definite no votes or likely no votes," state Rep. Tim Greimel said Monday.
  Greimel is an Auburn Hills Democrat and the minority party leader in the House.
  "There are at least 10 Republicans who are strongly opposed," Greimel said. "The open question is did Brooks' comments on Friday backfire and make it more likely the Republicans who have been opposed would actually vote for the thing? I think the answer is no.
  "I would be very surprised if there's a vote anytime soon, if ever," Greimel said.
  McMillin, a Rochester Hills Republican, delivered the most stinging comment about Patterson's remarks, calling Patterson "the Joe Biden of the Republican Party," a dig at the vice president's frequent verbal gaffes in the media.
  "I laughed," Patterson said Monday.
  But McMillin and Patterson have occasionally been at odds for well over a decade since they battled over control for the Oakland County Republican Party when McMillin was an Auburn Hills city councilman.
  Patterson won that fight.
  "Brooks and I are largely on good terms," McMillin said Monday. "I think things are going to simmer down."
   As for the proposed no-fault reforms, McMillin said he's open to them.
  "It seems to me that the system we have in place is fraught with a lot of incentives for fraud," he said. "There's a lot of people making a lot of money off the current system.
  "Something needs to be done. If we can make some of those significant changes that can make it a better system for all of us, I would be less open to going to a cap," McMillin said. "One of the benefits of a cap is it makes people more aware of costs."

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