Gov. Rick Snyder said today that he plans to sign Enbridge Line 5 legislation, but will not necessarily go along with all GOP-sponsored Lame Duck bills.
Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who unsuccessfully ran in the GOP primary this year to succeed him, met this afternoon with about three dozen reporters, including some from national outlets, to discuss their two-term tenure before leaving office. The Snyder administration prepared a 52-page document, “8 Years of Department Success,” to accompany the governor’s final year-end press conference.
Topics included Lame Duck, Enbridge Line 5, the Flint water crisis, Michigan State Police, roads and other infrastructure, Detroit’s economy post-bankruptcy and economic development and jobs.
“Michigan is fundamentally a much better state than when we started,” Snyder said during his opening comments as he highlighted the “560,000 private sector jobs created” and unemployment under 4 percent.
The term-limited governor referred to his tenure as an “exciting eight years” and called Michigan “a place of destination.” But when asked about the Flint water crisis, which dominated much of his second term, Snyder used terms phrases like “terrible thing” and “tragedy.”
Snyder was asked whether he thought his legacy would be tarnished by the crisis.
“No,” he said. “Actually, I don’t think about legacy. It not why I sought this position or the honor that I have holding this position. I’ve never viewed this about me. This is about what’s best for the people of Michigan.
“The Flint water crisis was a terrible thing that happened,” Snyder added. “But we put a lot of response into it though. In fact, we’re done some things that have shown national leadership like the [new] lead and copper rule … So again, it was a tragedy and people suffered — but again, how can we be better and stronger in the long term as a state, and hopefully help our nation?”
Snyder was asked about the GOP-controlled Legislature’s rapid-fire Lame Duck session and whether he will sign bills stripping power from Gov.-Elect Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel and Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, who are all Democrats. Snyder stopped short of declaring whether he would sign the legislation and said he’s not a “horse trader.”
“I have personal feelings on it, but I will tell you that I represent the executive branch of government,” he said. “The legislative branch are my partners. I respect that they have to make their own decisions about what they going to pass and not pass.
“I can tell you though with respect to the legislation coming to me, people should not just expect that I’m going to sign things or just veto things. I take each piece of legislation seriously. And I will look at it and if I believe that it’s in the best public policy interest of our state, I will sign it. If it’s not, I won’t.”
However, Snyder did commit today to signing legislation to create an authority to oversee the construction of a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac that could encase the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline. This was expected, as he negotiated the deal with Enbridge and made it clear this was a top priority. The Legislature today passed a final version of Senate Bill 1197 over the objections of environmental groups.
The Advance reported this week about lack of ethnic and gender diversity at the Michigan State Police. Snyder was asked today whether he thought this was a problem.
“It’s an issue and I’m been very aggressive about partnering with the leadership at the Michigan State Police about working to increase those numbers,” he said. “I think that effort such continue after I leave this office. I think numbers should go up, but I think it’s challenging. I lot of it is that we didn’t hire anyone for more than a decade. I lot of people retired and no one was really hired.”
He added that the agency is “one of the finest in the country,” but said people have more career options. The governor encouraged people from “disadvantaged communities to go into law enforcement.”
The Advance asked Snyder whether MSP Director Col. Kriste Etue’s 2017 Facebook post describing black NFL players who kneel during the national anthem as “anti-American degenerates” and “millionaire ingrates” hurt efforts to recruit people of color.
“I think that it took away something, but again, she apologized. She was proactive about understanding that she made a mistake,” he said.