Detroit Senators say they are locked out of DPS legislation negotiations

Posted at 6:37 PM, Jun 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-09 09:34:23-04

When you try to walk into the Senate, you have to walk through crowds of lobbyists. Most are in Lansing trying to sway Senators on the fence about the House Detroit Public Schools bills.

The Republicans in the Senate are divided on this piece of legislation, that was passed by House Republicans.

There are 27 Republican Senators in Michigan right now. Nineteen votes are needed to pass the DPS bill. Senate leaders say they don’t have the votes, but they aren’t calling it a stalemate.

“Say snail mate. It is kind of just creeping along,” said Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof.

Meekhoff says he wants the House bill changed to make sure no money comes from the school aid fund, potentially impacting other districts.

He says he would prefer to see the more moderate Senate DPS Bills passed, which provide about $100 million more to Detroit Public Schools, but the House Bills are the bills they have to work with to keep Detroit Public Schools out of bankruptcy. 

The House refused to consider the relatively bi-partisan Senate Bills.

There have been concerns voiced that the House Bills don't provide enough funding. Late Wednesday afternoon Gov. Rick Snyder's office weighed in.

"The Legislature is working hard to put in place a plan that will improve schools for the families of Detroit, while maintaining full funding for the remainder of the state’s school districts," said a statement from Anna Heaton, Press Secretary for Governor Rick Snyder.  "The House-passed plan does not fall short on funding. It fully funds the Detroit Public Schools, including debt repayment. Interest on future debt service will be required – just as it is on all other bonds and debts for school districts across the state. We are confident this can be achieved without using School Aid Fund dollars, now or in the future.”

“The kids in Detroit deserve better than what were giving them,” said Meekhoff. "We have to work with all our partners to get that done.”

When he says partners, that doesn’t include senators from Detroit. As Republican senators worked behind closed doors to negotiate a deal, Detroit senators complained they weren’t invited or welcome.

“Republicans are doing what they do best. They have a bunker mentality,” said Sen. Bert Johnson, a Democrat who represents Highland Park and part of Detroit.

"We are deciding the fate of my constituents, and we’re not in the room,” complained Sen. Morris Hood III (D-Detroit).

“They’re not talking to us. It is why they are in the situation they are in and quite frankly why this is not going to work. In a few years or a few months from now we will be in this situation again,” said Sen. Coleman Young II. “This will be the political version of (the movie) Groundhog Day.”

Summer vacation is supposed to start at the end of next week. Senators really want to get this done.

They could work late Wednesday trying to pass the house bills, or call it a day and pick up the Detroit Public Schools Bills Thursday.