Friday’s Coffee Hour with Sen. Jim Ananich and Rep. John D. Cherry could have been paraphrased from the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who famously wrote: “Water, water everywhere.”
The Flint Democrats fielded questions from a roomful of people gathered together in the Flint Township Carmen-Ainsworth Senior Center. Most expressed their concern with the ongoing Flint water crisis, the Enbridge Line 5 beneath the Straits of Mackinac, and Michigan groundwater pumped by the Nestle Corporation for its Ice Mountain bottled water.
The room also was abuzz regarding plans to fund road repairs in Michigan.
The two officeholders expressed their respective hopefulness that Lansing politicians will extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting government employees from six-years to 10 years. The current statute of limitations will end in spring 2020.
Doing so, both men agreed, would benefit the prosecutorial team led by Kym L. Worthy and Fadwa Hammoud, named by Democrat Attorney General Dana Nessel to replace Nathan Flood, the prosecutor appointed by former Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette and fired by Nessel.
Worthy and Hammoud dismissed the seven felony charges brought by Flood. The prosecutors’ dismissals were without prejudice, which means they can be filed again at any time. Cherry and Ananich stated more time is necessary to examine a cache of documents, smart phones and computers seized through search warrants previously this year.
As well, both men concurred with Nessel’s determination to shut down the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline. Ananich said current litigation between Enbridge and the Attorney General rendered legislative action unnecessary.
His comments were in response to questions as to why the state legislature hasn’t promoted bills to prohibit Enbridge from continuing to transport natural gas and propane beneath the Straits of Mackinac. Neither politician discussed the potential negative economic and energy dispersal impacts of shutting down the pipeline, which has been operating without a significant incident since 1953.
Regarding the Nestle groundwater withdrawals, Cherry stated he doubts whether a legal challenge would be successful under current law. He noted he wants to change the law through the legislative process to address the Nestle situation in the near future.
Ananich also spoke about his recent bill to phase out the Michigan Economic Grant Authority tax credit payouts. Savings recognized from this bill would be in the millions, he said, and those savings could help pay for Michigan’s road repairs.
“I know there will be pushback,” Ananich responded to The Center Square’s question whether some companies would challenge his bill in court. “I believe they will argue, understandably so, that the contracts signed some years back should be fulfilled,” he said.
The contracts, he said, were “renegotiated in 2015 the first time and there was no requirement that we keep a certain tax in place for perpetuity. At the end of the day there may be some way to have a conversation about making a resolution to take the liability off the State’s books but at the same time make sure we fulfill the contracts. I’m open to having that conversation,” he said.
“A number of people I believe have MEGA [deals], but I don’t know because we’ve had very little transparency on it, have set up meetings with me over the next couple of weeks,” Ananich said. ”I’m assuming they’re coming to express their disagreement with me. I’m looking forward to that conversation.”