From pastor’s son to power broker, Lee Chatfield takes Lansing

Republican Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, flanked by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and House Minority Leader Christine Greig, all Democrats, speaks on Mackinac Island in May about a bipartisan deal to reform state auto insurance laws — long a priority for Republicans. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

BURT LAKE—Drivers curving around Burt Lake on state Highway 68 can’t miss Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church, a sprawling brown-and-white building with an American flag out front and “Jesus Christ is Lord” emblazoned on the wall. 

Students at the church’s K-12 school, Northern Michigan Christian Academy, read the U.S. Constitution in full every year. A small portrait of President Trump hangs next to a chalkboard. Books by Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Mike Huckabee sit near the encyclopedias and dictionaries on a classroom bookshelf. 

This is where Michigan Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield came of age before entering politics. First as a congregant, one of seven children of the church pastor, Rusty Chatfield. Then as a student, and later as a soccer coach and teacher. 

He grew up steeped in faith, service and small-government philosophy — which would become fundamental to his job this year leading a Republican-dominated chamber, a time when little gets done without the agreement of a Democratic governor. It’s in this position, those close to him say, that the young Speaker, at 31, has learned to temper ideology with pragmatism. 

“It’s no secret that my father is a conservative,” Chatfield said of his upbringing. 

“But he always challenged me to think for myself and always see both sides of an issue. I think that’s part of the reason why I can work with folks in Lansing whether they’re on the right side or the left side of the aisle.”

Rusty Chatfield is pastor of Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church and superintendent of its adjoining K-12 school, Northern Michigan Christian Academy. House Speaker Lee Chatfield is one of his seven children. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

Those skills will be tested this summer when Chatfield and fellow Republican Mike Shirkey, the Senate Majority Leader, face off against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over one of the biggest, most intractable issues facing state government: How to raise more than $2 billion a year to fix roads that residents of every political stripe agree are horrible. Whitmer opened the debate in March with a proposed 45-cent hike to the state’s gas tax. Republicans have responded with promises to reduce spending in other corners of the state budget and redirect existing taxes.  

Related: See how much a 45-cent Michigan gas tax might cost you

The final contours of a deal may settle somewhere in the middle, a mix of new taxes and existing revenue; compromise that will likely test political principles on both sides. Early reviews suggest Chatfield, the state’s youngest Speaker in more than a century, has the soft skills to keep fellow lawmakers at the table.  

“In a political arena where there’s a constant search for villains, Lee is difficult to villainize,” said Mark Bernstein, a Democrat who serves on the University of Michigan Board of Regents and led Whitmer’s transition team. 

“Policies are a different conversation, but his personality makes him a person that you want to work with... it’s an old-school ethos in a millennial representation.”

By all accounts, Chatfield still hews closely to the conservative beliefs he brought into office. While some in the Republican party slowly become more open to gay rights such as same-sex marriage, Chatfield continues to oppose adding protections for the LGBTQ community to the state’s anti-discrimination law, a central issue of his first campaign in 2014.

But he’s also gained a reputation as an active listener and open communicator among members of his own caucus and among some Democrats in Lansing. 

House Republicans told Bridge that Chatfield makes caucus members feel heard, incorporating their concerns into policy priorities. Several Democrats also profess a positive relationship with the Speaker despite disagreeing on politics. 

That may come as a surprise to those who watch Lansing from afar, including Michigan residents who overwhelmingly list hyper-partisanship as the greatest issue facing the state. As he often does, Chatfield traced his approach to such matters to lessons he absorbed growing up.

“I think people need to be treated with respect whether or not you agree with them,” Chatfield told Bridge Magazine. “I truly think you should love your neighbor as yourself and do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

Rooted in the church

Pastor Rusty Chatfield paces back and forth behind the wooden altar in his low-slung, fluorescent-lit chapel one Sunday early in June, discussing uncertainty. 

A balding man with wire-rimmed glasses, a gray suit and black tie with print of a Bible cracked open, the pastor is an animated speaker. As he moves across the stage, he swings his arms to the ceiling or crouches low to the ground to punctuate his sermon, delivered to a rapt congregation of about 100 people. 

“In this day, especially in our country, it’s iffy. But let me tell you this —”

He punches the air, his index finger outstretched to the crowd, and leans into each word.

“I reject, absolutely, the thinking: ‘Well, our country’s gone. We’ve become so immoral there is no hope.’ 

“That is a lazy man’s excuse.”

A choir, including Pastor Rusty Chatfield on far left, sings hymns during Northern Michigan Baptist Bible Church’s Sunday morning worship in early June. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

This is not a community walled off from the world of politics. The church’s website still contains a plea from 2017 urging the state to reject efforts to expand its civil rights law to protect the LGBTQ community. And Rusty Chatfield remains a believer in the power of Christian faith to revive America’s promise.   

“Government is a God-ordained institution that is designed to restrain evil,” he wrote in a Facebook post days before last November’s elections. “Politics is not irrelevant. CHRISTIANS MUST BE INVOLVED IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS.” 

In urging a vote for Republicans, the pastor added: “The great division in our country is not really between two political parties. It is between those who recognize God and those who do not.”  

From its classrooms to the sanctuary and the soccer field out back, this church is where Lee Chatfield and six siblings spent much of their time growing up. 

Lee — named after Baptist pastor Lee Roberson, founder of Tennessee Temple University, his father said — rose before dawn to run his paper route, head to school and then practice. When it wasn’t soccer, Chatfield’s preferred sport, it was baseball or basketball. On weekends, he worked at a local golf course. Church was Wednesday night and twice on Sunday. As a pastor’s kid, he was reliably in the pews. 

Asked what was the most important thing he wanted his children to leave the nest with, Rusty Chatfield said simply: “We wanted them to believe the Bible and serve the Lord.”

Lee Chatfield, age 25 in black shirt, stands with father Rusty Chatfield and three brothers, Nathan, Paul and Aaron (left to right). The family was visiting the grave of Rusty Chatfield’s grandparents in New Mexico in 2013. (Photo courtesy Rusty Chatfield)

Lee traveled the region with his dad, checking in on congregants and doing service projects. One of his sisters grew up with autism before most people knew what therapies could help the condition. “We all kind of learned together how to take care of each other,” he said.

“He had a mischievous streak to him,” Ken Bradstreet, a Chatfield family friend, fellow churchgoer and former state representative, said with a laugh. He recalled Lee teasing Bradstreet’s son in elementary school about a crush on a girl. 

“You could see it on his face sometimes,” added Barbara Bradstreet, Chatfield’s third grade teacher. “But he wasn’t bad, he just liked to have a good time.” 

Though Chatfield says he didn’t consider working in politics until his 20s, conservative ideology was the water he swam in. 

His father has long co-hosted “Freedom’s Foundation,” a talk radio show on the local Christian station, with Ken Bradstreet. The men would discuss “the Christian heritage of America” on the program, Bradstreet said, and Lee sometimes helped out with historical research. 

“The purpose of government is not to provide for people’s housing or food or anything like that. The purpose of government is to protect their rights,” Bradstreet said of the show’s philosophical underpinnings. 

“That’s the whole recipe in the Declaration of Independence. It talks about all our authority, all our rights come from God, and government comes from the people through their leaders for the purpose of preserving their lives and their property.”

Lee met his future wife, Stephanie Zondervan, when the two were still in high school. They married before graduating college and had three children by the time Chatfield was 26. 

Preserving a childhood similar to his own for those kids, he said, was a turning point in his choice to run for office. 

That decision was also an act of party rebellion: The office he sought in 2014 belonged to a two-term Republican incumbent of the state House, Frank Foster. 

Word got out the Michigan House of Representatives would soon see legislation that would add LGBTQ protections to the state’s anti-discrimination law, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. If successful, LGBTQ Michiganders would be shielded from being fired from a job, refused housing, or barred from public schools because of sexual orientation ‒ protections already afforded others based on gender, race, national origin, religion and more.

Foster, it turns out, would be the unlikely sponsor and major proponent of the legislation.

Chatfield said he felt the law, if passed, “was going to be used as a weapon against religious institutions.”

So Chatfield and Ken Bradstreet drove to Lansing to speak with Foster about the issue, Bradstreet recalled. When it was clear he wouldn’t change his mind, Chatfield got serious about mounting a challenge. 

“That position simply didn’t fit the district,” Bradstreet said.

Foster wasn’t pleased, but he was hopeful. 

“No one likes a primary” challenge, Foster told Bridge. “But I thought, OK, I think we can win.’”

Among other signature issues that first campaign, Chatfield opposed Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and Common Core, educational benchmark standards used in most states. The three issues, he felt, spoke to a core belief about the role of government. 

“Many times,” Chatfield observed, “the more government gets involved and takes away individual responsibility from people, the more problems are created.”

“Part of the beauty of our system of government is you can run for office and leave it to the people,” he said. “I did what I thought was right and was going to leave the results in God’s hands.”

Despite being outraised by nearly $80,000, Chatfield defeated Foster in the Republican primary with 54 percent of the vote, sailed to victory in the general election and moved into Foster’s old office in Lansing two months later. 

Foster now works as a lobbyist for Lansing-based firm Public Affairs Associates. He said he hasn’t changed his position on expanding Elliott-Larsen, but he and Chatfield now count one another as friends.

“Politics can be civil,” Foster said. “Politics isn’t everything, you can still have relationships outside of it.”

The Representative from Levering

Clay Genereaux, an owner of the Small Town Grill in Pellston, is bent over a searing flat top churning out omelettes and hashbrowns for a Saturday-morning breakfast crowd. 

His wood-paneled diner is one of a handful of local gathering places along U.S. 31, an  artery that snakes from Mackinaw City to Petoskey, hitting Chatfield’s hometown of Levering along the way. Unincorporated Levering — two square blocks of homes surrounded by miles of farmland — is technically where Chatfield lives, though he considers Pellston and Burt Lake, where he grew up, home.

Employees and diners at the Small Town Grill on Highway 31 in Pellston, as well as others around the area, say they are frustrated by a local prosecutor’s decision not to pursue criminal charges against Chatfield for having an unregistered, loaded gun while going through airport security. (Chatfield said he had forgotten the gun was in the bag.) Even so, most local residents interviewed said they felt Chatfield served them well in Lansing. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

For Genereaux, Chatfield’s name brought one thing to mind: How the young lawmaker avoided criminal charges after being caught in July 2018 with an unregistered, loaded .380-caliber handgun in a carry-on bag while going through security at Pellston’s airport. 

The county prosecutor chose not to pursue criminal charges, arguing the state’s failure to update its law made it impossible to enforce. Chatfield called the episode an accident and apologized (“It was a mistake that certainly became a life lesson for me,” he told Bridge) and eventually paid nearly $2,000 in fees to the Transportation Security Administration.

Genereaux said he’s “got nothing against (Chatfield) personally,” but said in his view a regular person wouldn’t have been let off the hook. 

“Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law,” he said. “That just shows me about the good ol’ boys club.”

Added a waitress listening nearby: “I’d still be sitting in jail if it was me.” Several employees and diners murmured agreement.  

That sentiment was common among roughly a dozen people Bridge spoke with at shops, gas stations and restaurants near the tiny outposts of Levering, Pellston and Alanson in Chatfield’s mostly Republican district. Many saw the incident as another indicator of a broken political system that favors those in power.

Even so, they largely expressed confidence in Chatfield’s integrity. “He’s an honorable guy,” said one man at the local hardware store. And since entering office, Chatfield’s votes have, for the most part, closely aligned with the conservative Republican base that sent him to Lansing. 

He was among the five most conservative House members his first two years in office, according to MIRS News voting record scorecards. He was in the top 25 his second term.  

In 2015, Chatfield voted to allow adoption agencies to refuse adoptions for same-sex or unmarried couples if it goes against their religious beliefs; in 2016, as part of the controversial package that dissolved the old Detroit Public School system, he voted for a bill that increased sanctions on striking teachers and barred them from collective bargaining with school districts on certain issues. 

Political observers say while his politics have not changed, Chatfield has become more pragmatic since entering office. In the words of Bradstreet, he’s learned “not every issue is a spiritual issue,” a lesson Chatfield echoes when asked about it. 

“Not every issue is a moral issue that you can view through a black and white, right and wrong lens,” Chatfield said. “When you approach an issue wanting to stay true to your core values, you also understand it’s possible to compromise on policy without compromising on your principles. But that first (requires) that you know what your principles are.”

In an early decision that surprised even him, Chatfield voted for raising the state gas tax in 2015, a lingering frustration for many anti-tax conservatives. He said he realized at the time that if he didn’t vote for it, Democrats may have found enough votes for an alternative plan that would have raised taxes more. 

“The easy thing would have been to say no,” Chatfield said. “Sometimes to be involved and wrestle in the swamp, you’re going to get mud on your face.”

At the helm

Chatfield rose quickly in Lansing; entering the House as a committee chair (a rarity for a freshman legislator), he was elected Speaker Pro Tempore his second term and Speaker for the third. 

Chatfield has an athletic build, close-cropped hair and a methodical speaking style. He’s controlled and relentlessly on-message when the cameras are rolling, apt to repeat the same talking points (“real rate relief” and “real reform with guaranteed rate reduction,” in the case of the recent auto insurance package). 

He has a tendency to pepper conversations with verses from Scripture or quotes from historical figures, recited word-for-word — a holdover, he said, from childhood memorization exercises that were a favorite of his father.

“The Bible says only by pride comes contention,” he said. “So if you can’t get along with folks in government, then there’s not enough humility.”

Liberals in Lansing seem to agree he lives those values: A half dozen Democrats who spoke with Bridge said while they rarely agree on policy, Chatfield is open with his goals, willing to talk about issues and even points people to other potential bill supporters when he can’t offer support himself. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel have told Bridge they have positive relationships with Chatfield. Nessel meets with him regularly and the unlikely pair have been reliable partners on criminal justice reforms.

Republican Lee Chatfield (right), poses for a selfie with GOP Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (left) and Democratic Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (center) at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in late May. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed state auto insurance reforms into law shortly afterward. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

Chatfield also has a long-standing friendship with Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, one of Michigan’s first openly gay state legislators, since the two first entered the House in 2015. Hot off a campaign in part spurred by Chatfield’s opposition to expanding state civil rights laws, the men entered their freshman class already knowing of one another, Moss said. Their friendship evolved from there as they worked together in committee.

“It would be very easy for us to put up walls and say the other is intolerable in this area,” Moss said. “But we do have dialogue on (expanding Elliott-Larsen), and also have a lot more to talk about than Elliott-Larsen, so it is a meaningful friendship for me here in Lansing.”

It’s hard for political observers to say whether Chatfield would be as amenable to working with Democrats were he Speaker a year earlier, when Republicans in the legislature benefitted from also having a governor in their party. 

And some Democrats say Chatfield sometimes ignores their colleagues in favor of negotiating directly with Whitmer. In perhaps the most striking moment of conflict this term, House Minority Leader Christine Greig said Chatfield “looked in (her) eyes and lied” during negotiations over auto insurance reform. She told Bridge at the time she was referring to Chatfield’s promise to work with Democrats through a bipartisan committee, which was bypassed in the rush to a floor vote. Greig could not be reached for comment for this report. 

The elusive auto deal, struck with Whitmer five months into this term, was a signature victory for Chatfield and Shirkey, one that colleagues say required discipline and trust among Republican rank and file.  

“He listens and puts into action what you were talking about,” Rep. James Lower, R-Greenville, said of Chatfield’s leadership. “To the extent that I’ve had concerns with a bill or had input on the process, he’s always taken that seriously and I think done a great job.”

“I think that’s why he’s been able to unite the caucus as well as he has. It’s no secret in town that the House Republicans are as united as we’ve been in the last 10 or 20 years.”

Changing Michigan’s auto insurance laws has been a Republican priority for decades. After weeks of negotiations with Gov. Gretchen Whtimer, Republican leaders agreed on a deal. House Speaker Lee Chatfield, facing camera, hugs a GOP colleague following House passage of the deal in late May. (Bridge photo by Riley Beggin)

That unity, multiple Republican state representatives told Bridge, is due largely in part to the collaboration Chatfield fosters. 

“It’s easy to block out differing viewpoints if it’s not your own,” said Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township. “One thing that he always does is make sure that everyone has a voice.”

When he became Speaker, Chatfield installed a two-tier committee process in an effort to improve the quality of bill crafting. Rather than having a measure go from a single committee to a full vote on the House floor, most bills now pass two committees before receiving a floor vote, giving lawmakers more opportunities for input on legislation. 

“The last couple of Speakers you heard a lot more complaining from Democrats and Republicans in terms of their ability to get things done,” said Adrian Hemond, a Democratic consultant and CEO of Lansing-based firm Grassroots Midwest. “I don’t hear as much about that type of thing as far as Lee’s concerned.”

The next big test — approving the state’s budget — looms on the horizon. “Obviously the proof’s in the pudding, he’s got to get his first budget done,” Hemond said. 

That will surely include a showdown over road funding. Republicans have argued that money can be found in other ways, primarily by cutting spending elsewhere in the budget and changing the structure of taxes paid at the pump.

As summer unwinds with no deal imminent, the gulf between what the governor and Republican leaders want remains as wide as Burt Lake. But Chatfield said he has faith in the process, and in his own ability to bridge differences.   

“When you approach a topic with humility in attempting to understand the other perspective, another side of the position, that’s when you can have the healthy conversation” that solves problems, he said.

“That’s the art of politics.”

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Kevin Grand
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 7:34am

I personally see this year's state budget passage coming down to one immutable fact: who blinks first.

That doesn't bode well for Gov. Whitmer.

Despite the fact that she repeatedly says the right things to her base when necessary, Gov. Whitmer has already clearly demonstrated that she is incapable of making difficult decisions when the time calls for it (see Exhibit "A" - Benton Harbor Area Schools).

The Michigan Legislature will shortly finish their job; pass next year's budget and send it to her desk for her signature.

She can harangue all she wants about her priorities, including a gas tax that would have nuked her political ambitions if she only had the integrity to be upfront with voters about it during the campaign.

In the end, if Michigan Government does shut down due to her intransigence, people WILL know that her refusal to sign is the sole reason.

Not the public image you want to portray your party in during the lead-up to the '20 Election.

Laurel Raisanen
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 8:44am

Talk's cheap. Anyone who can support Trump after what he is doing to our great country is not to be trusted. Anyone.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 10:58am

Yes. If you support Trump then you have NO principles. None.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 3:50pm

And just what is it that you think Trump is doing to our great country? I see borders being protected, treaties being made that put Americans on equal ground, jobs increasing for everyone, small businesses being strengthened, the economy rising for everyone, bad decisions by previous administrations being corrected, and on, and on. Anyone who can support those that espouse a socialist agenda can not be trusted. Anyone.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:55pm

I wish I lived in your rose-tinted dream . The planet is burning, our government is running concentration camps predicated wholly on cruelty and fear, and the average American is a major illness or car wreck away from homelessness. The GOP offers no solutions for our unaffordable healthcare or the looming college debt bubble. No solutions for our endless imperial wars. No solutions for the capitalist system collapsing in on itself. Stuff your Red Scare rhetoric; it's socialism or barbarism

Chuck Fellows
Tue, 07/09/2019 - 7:25am

Trump and associates are not doing any of the things you mentioned. Immigration law and regulation reform, proposed several times, has gone nowhere. The border is insecure since our Border patrol officers, instead of securing the border from real threats must deal with an overwhelming number of asylum seekers while the administration cuts funding to deal with the root cause and uses family separation and metering to further exacerbate a humanitarian crisis in violation of our Constitution and human rights. No treaties have been made (NAFTA 2.0 still not approved); treaties have be violated and actions taken increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation. The economy is not rising for everyone, the tax reform benefited only the wealthy, income inequality is increasing, real wages are stagnant and the administrations tariff policy is destroying farms and increasing consumer prices for everyone. Trump's policies , immoral behaviors, insults , bullying and continuous lying has destroyed the trust of the US that existed before he came into office. Do you include in your "bad decisions" from a previous administration the fact that our economy was saved from total collapse and that the current economy is a continuation of those decisions?

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 9:22am

Do you watch anything but Fox news?

Marlene Murphy
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:10am

This country still has a separation of Church and State and Chatfield’s adherence to biblical rules does not impress me. Take Jesus out of his statements and he really has nothing substantive to say.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:50am

Thank you Marlene. As soon as you have to crow about being a “christian”, I am suspicious. Show it in your actions sir, not in print and not in speeches. You have now lost me. The song we learned as a child fit here...’They will know we are Christians by our love’.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:19am

Twisting Christianity to support the Republican agenda. Mike Pence without the "Dense".

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:56am

I found this comment by his father very sad and misguided..."In urging a vote for Republicans, the pastor added: “The great division in our country is not really between two political parties. It is between those who recognize God and those who do not.”" Some of the most authentic believers in history ...Jimmy Carter, Gandhi, Mother Teresa would never condone this current republican ideology. We have a new brand of Pharisee...and he appears to be one of them.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 7:06pm

The pastor is also violating IRS regulations that ban political activities by "nonprofit" church organizations, which seems to be honored mostly in the breach these days.

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 10:07pm

Yah Katey, Mother T was a big abortion advocate wasn't she?

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 12:59pm

Lee Chatfield, as amiable as he may be in person, comes from a family of religious extremists, who want to impose a reign of "christian" terror on everyone else in this country. There's no convincing most people up north of this fact, but there are those who understand and are doing what they can to oppose it. I just hope the Governor understands what she's up against.

Peter C Eckstein
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 10:04am

I don't get it. The Chatfields say that God created government to protect people's rights. If so, then God created some people "straight" and others LGBT. Then why shouldn't government protect the rights of the latter just as it protects the rights of those God created female or black?

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 11:19am

Peter, What's your evidence that gay and lesbian Michiganders are being harmed? Income? Education? Net worth? We're not talking graffiti, dirty looks, stolen rainbow flags or vague feelings of unhappiness or any stories of some one somewhere ... real concrete data please.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 9:57pm

I can still be fired or denied housing in Michigan because of my sexuality; we still are not equal, despite the crowing of hypocritical ghouls like you

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 5:39pm

Again any real concrete statistics showing harm? Just guessing here but it's not your sexual preference that may cause you trouble?

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 2:56pm

Matt, I truly hope that one day you get to experience the sort of discrimination you so blithely dimiss. When your generation is in the ground, maybe we can start building the kind of equitable society that you so despise

Chuck Fellows
Tue, 07/09/2019 - 7:29am

It's called discrimination. Look to the court decisions and Federal and State law. The statutes exist since discrimination is very real and pervasive in our society. If you need more evidence start with reading "Biased" by Eberhardt.

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 6:18pm

Again Chuck where's this discrimination showing up? Income? Net worth?, Educational attainment? There's nothing hostile to gays or lesbians implied here, they've been good customers for me, but that some people don't approve of every aspect of someone else's life ... so what?.

John Chastain
Tue, 07/09/2019 - 9:43am

Matt, so aggression and intimidation aren't harm are they? You consider graffiti like swastika's on synagogues and mosques simply an issue of "vague feelings of unhappiness"? I find that appeals by conservatives for facts and "real concrete data" are disingenuous nonsense at best. But just on the off chance that your serious I present the following from the UCLA school of law. It is a comprehensive report with "evidence" on the impact of actual harm being done to the LGBT community in Michigan. Read it if your up to having your comfortable assumptions challenged:

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 5:44pm

Prosecute them for vandalism to the full extent of the law. Again John what stats do you have showing the impact of discrimination? You won't answer this because there aren't any.

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 6:05pm

And by the way aside from the fact that gays and lesbians on average have higher incomes, higher net worth and more education than average, (from my experience often higher IQs), which that paper twists around, the rest of that study is meaningless nonsense that proves nothing other than that some people are unhappy with their lives. Evidence of nothing.

Almighty Dollar
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 10:38am

Michississippi - Moonscape roads, refusal to pay $100 per year in road tax, when car repairs costs are $600 per year due to roads damage, on average. And the big issue is whether we make sure LGBTQ people have civil rights protections? No wonder the overwhelming amount of recent college grads leave every year. We will soon have more 65 year-olds than under 17-year-olds.... and good luck when that happens.

We have embraced the anti-union, gerrymandered, poisoned water, emergency manager, business tax cutting, never tax ar pay for infrastructure model, for the past 30 years. And we wonder why our population has not grown in that time. Soon, we will have all the affluence and education and of Mississippi and Alabama.

Actual intergenerational mobility
Estimation among those surveyed, by state, of the percentage of Americans born into the bottom fifth of the income ranks who will reach the top fifth in adulthood. Percentage of children in each state who were born into families in the lowest fifth of the income ranks but moved into the top fifth by adulthood. Souce: NYT July 8, 2019 ECONOMY - "Southerners facing big odds"

Michigan 6.1%
Mississippi 4.5%
Alabama 5.2%
South Carolina 4.0%
North Carolina 4.6%
Ohio 5.6%

California 9.9%
New York 9.6%
Minnesota 10.5%
Washington 10.2%

We have achieved Southern status in our gerrymandered state. However, the Michississippi model does not work, no matter how much you pray to God. Good luck Mr. Speaker. Perhaps flying cars will save us.

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 12:01pm

Ok, you win how about a $100 per head/poll minimum tax? Just call it a admin fee attached to each state tax return?

Almighty Dollar
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 7:40pm

This is right out of the Mississippi playbook, only confirming my point.

As to the poll tax, it did effectively disenfranchise millions of recently freed blacks from 1890 to 1910, and there is the small issue of the 24th amendment. But for a hot take, it's pretty darn funny!

As to my points, I guess you can't really refute them. Republicans had 8 years of 100% Republican power at the state level and all they really accomplished was, to 1) poison Flint, 2) let the roads rot even further while 3) trying after the fact to overturn the ACA and Medicaid expansion with a lawsuit, even though Snyder begged them to pass the ACA/Medicaid expansion (the one with a mandated "admin fee"). But hey, poll taxes!

This, even as the Governor boasted of the health of Michigan hospitals due to an additional 700,000 poor people now getting insurance. For most Michigan hospitals, the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion helped to make the law a net positive for them, according to Laura Appel, a senior vice president at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

I guess that by getting rid of the mandate (tax/admin fee, whatever) the rural and financially troubled hospitals will close at an increased rate.
With the poison water and lousy roads, that would be a Republican trifecta, real knee slapper. As to Michigan's low social mobility index -Thoughts and Prayers!

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 5:55pm

Oh ... so turning your logic back on you, because you don't favor a tax on each person (who by definition benefit from the roads), now means we should assume you are a do nothing Democrat(?), in favor of bad roads?

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 11:56am

It's amazing how a an innocuous little general info fluff piece generates nothing but a bunch of nastiness and bile. And you know what, he probably doesn't believe in evolution either! (Who cares?) Next you'll be back to complaining that we can't get anything done.

John Chastain
Tue, 07/09/2019 - 10:05am

The speaker of the Michigan house of representatives is a christian conservative fundamentalist whose father actively promotes bigotry and discrimination based on biblical literalism. That is a little more important than "fluff". As to (Who cares?) if an anti science zealot with a pleasant demeanor is a republican leader then yeah that matters. Regarding your "complaining that we can't get anything done" it depends on what is getting done. So far years of reactionary republicanism in this state hasn't got much done besides posturing and pushing the state into third world government status. If that's your idea of getting stuff done I'll pass. Nastiness and bile? That's the Trump way of life, conservatives have brought it to our fair state in their quest for domination. Look to your own house first before complaining about others.

Tue, 07/09/2019 - 6:42pm

John, Leaving aside your take that someone can't disagree without you unless they're a bigoted anti-science zealot fundamentalist Nazi , seems Michigan is doing pretty well and much of the stats your side points at is carry over from our 1990 - 2000 - 2010 manufacturing implosion and other earlier actions. And yes a very quick glance shows the left seems to spew a lot more nastiness and bile, ad hominem crap than I see from the right wing commentors HERE, (not to excuse Trump's stupid comments).

Mon, 07/08/2019 - 1:54pm

Christians have consistently been on the wrong side of history. Just looking at the short history of America, Christians have:
- Fought against the American rebellion in support of the king
- Fought for the right to own slaves
- Fought against equal rights for women
- Fought against equal rights for ethnic minorities
- Fought against equal rights for LGBTQ people
- Fought against women's reproductive health
- Sworn fealty to a corrupt, draft-dodging philanderer

All of these things were done with solid Biblical justification. Every time the rational-thinking people of the world have dragged Christians kicking and screaming into modernity. Every time the Christian mainstream eventually re-orients itself and declares once again that this time they REALLY have it right. At no point have they ever considered that perhaps their invisible friend isn't so infallible after all; no no, it's just that those earlier Christians misinterpreted the scripture.

Anyone whose moral compass is based on a superstition which has so consistently embraced morally abhorrent values has no place writing secular laws.

Jonah 4
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 2:36pm

And these same evangelical Christians along with the Bishops and Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church have been silent about this country's treatment of children and families at the border. Their silence is a testament to their belief in Jesus. Jesus would have driven Chatfield and the other evangelicals and Roman Catholic hierarchy from the "Temple" were he here today!

Barbara Wallace
Mon, 07/08/2019 - 3:12pm

One of the best pieces of advice my father, an attorney, gave me was “never trust anyone who wears their religion on their sleeve.” He was both a staunch Episcopalian and life long Republican.

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 3:32pm

So how does Lee wear his religion on his sleeve? I follow this fairly closely and this is the first time I heard about his religious background. Granted the leftists in this state and here think all Republicans are Taliban but you have to admit the Democrats have the Wiccan, new agey vegan animal rights /worshiper vote all locked up!

Alexander Beaton
Thu, 07/11/2019 - 11:54am

My initial impression of Rep. Chatfield (I've only met him briefly) is he seems like a decent person, means well, and is a good listener. The important thing to me.... is he out to impose his religious beliefs on everybody else in all realms of governance? If not, good on him.

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 9:29am

Oh Matt, is this your column? Had I known I wouldn’t have read on and on...... Take a break and a breath.

abe bubush
Tue, 07/09/2019 - 7:55am

This was the best response the right could come up with, a youngster elected on an anti-gay platform? LOL. Lunch is served.

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 11:17am

A race to the bottom in education and infrastructure and a theocracy. Keep voting Republican and you too can live in Trumpistan!

Dr Gonzo
Mon, 09/16/2019 - 10:12am

In urging a vote for Republicans, the pastor added: “The great division in our country is not really between two political parties. It is between those who recognize God and those who do not.”

^ No, no and no. This is egregious, irresponsible and lacks logical awareness. This state is in trouble.

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 5:08am

Church gatherings put healthcare workers needlessly at risk of contracting COVID19