LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A Republican who pushed for passage of right-to-work laws and Medicaid work requirements will lead the Michigan Senate for the next four years.
Sen. Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, the founder and owner of an automotive engineering firm in Jackson, was chosen Thursday to be the chamber's next majority leader starting in January. Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint, a former teacher, will continue to lead Democrats.
In the House, GOP Rep. Lee Chatfield of Levering was elected as speaker for the 2019-20 term. Democratic Rep. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills will be minority leader after defeating Rep. Brian Elder of Bay City in the only contested race for one of the top four leadership positions. She also will become the third woman to lead a legislative caucus in state history.
Incoming members of each chamber selected the leaders. Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer said this week she plans to hold regular meetings with the leaders, unlike recent governors.
"Senate Republicans are not going to change course in what we've been on for the last eight years," Shirkey said. "Everything we do is going to be oriented and focused on making sure that we create an environment that is attractive to capital investment, create some jobs and maximizing opportunities. ... Really, it's mostly about freedom and opportunity."
The 63-year-old Shirkey, who has served nearly eight years in the Legislature, said he is open to listening to all of Whitmer's proposals. He said the only thing he would "categorically reject" is any attempt to repeal or change the right-to-work-laws that made union fees optional.
He said he is most proud of helping to pass those laws in 2012 and, earlier this year, successfully adding a work requirement for Medicaid recipients.
Ananich, 43, said he expects there to be more compromise and cooperation after Democrats took the governorship and netted 10 legislative seats. Republicans will control the Senate 22-16 and the House 58-52.
Chatfield, a 30-year-old former teacher, coach and athletic director, said he hopes to tackle Michigan's high cost of car insurance, to spend more on the roads and to improve government accountability.
"When we're talking about improving the condition and economy of our state, I think we have to be willing to work across the aisle," he said while cautioning that no House Republican "ran on raising taxes."
Greig, 55, worked in business and co-owned a computer services company before being elected in 2014. She said she "can't wait to get going" in the pursuit of clean drinking water, high-quality schools and policies that ensure people do not have to leave their hometown to get a job or a good education.
"I'm passionate about people. That's the reason I ran," said Greig.
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