Lawmakers Announce Priorities for New Southeast Michigan Caucus

MACKINAC ISLAND –State Representatives Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak), Maureen Stapleton (D-Detroit) and State Senators Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) and Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) and other members of the Southeast Michigan Legislative Caucus today unveiled the issues that the Caucus will focus on to enable Southeast Michigan to complete in the global 21st century economy.

The Southeast Michigan Legislative Caucus will be co-chaired by Townsend and Colbeck with Stapleton and Kowall serving as vice chairs. The Caucus is a bipartisan, bicameral forum devoted to regional reform and economic transformation and the legislation necessary to make it a reality.  Its focus is on the region’s most pressing concern – the economy – and its goal is to provide a vehicle for conversation and action on reforms, efficiencies and investments that Southeast Michigan should have embraced long ago.  Information about the Caucus can be found at www.semcaucus.org.

"This is the first time that lawmakers from across Southeast Michigan have come together in this way to set priorities, take action and accept responsibility as the region’s delegation in Lansing to move Southeast Michigan forward," Townsend said.  "We have had some very productive meetings to kick off the Caucus.  I am encouraged by the level of participation and excitement in our efforts and I look forward to channeling that energy to benefit the Southeast Michigan region."

The Caucus consists of at least 40 lawmakers from both parties in the Michigan Senate and the House.  The group has identified four areas of focus:  Economic Development and Collaboration, Municipal Services Collaboration, Water Quality, and Transportation Infrastructure (i.e. roads, bridges and mass transit).

"The Southeast Michigan Caucus represents the beginning of what I hope will be a new era of bi-partisanship.  By focusing on data not demagoguery, we are working to create a forum whereby Democrats and Republicans can work together to lead Southeast Michigan’s recovery and restore our region to the international prominence it once held," Colbeck said.

The Caucus announced its leadership and mission today on the porch of the Grand Hotel during the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

"As lawmakers from Southeast Michigan, we are excited about the possibilities for progress in our region. There is no better place to stand and show our solidarity than at the Detroit Regional Chamber's policy conference, where leaders from our business and civic communities gather each year to move our region and our state forward," Stapleton said.

The Caucus will continue to meet throughout this legislative session to find common ideas and solutions to move Southeast Michigan, and the rest of the state, forward".

"Southeast Michigan is the economic engine of our state. What we do here reverberates across Michigan. I’m convinced that our economic recovery will begin here, and I look forward to creating a bipartisan partnership with my Southeast colleagues to move our region, and our state, forward," said Kowall.

In developing its regional priorities, the Caucus partnered with regional stakeholder organizations, including the Detroit Regional Chamber, Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), Metropolitan Affairs Coalitions (MAC) as well as experts in regional data, economics and development including Data Driven Detroit, MSU’s Land Policy Institute and the Brookings Institution. The regional economic growth strategy published in August 2010 by SEMCOG and MAC was an important source of data and overlapped with the priorities of many Caucus members.

“It’s inspiring to see a group of state lawmakers organize themselves to work on behalf of the region,” said SEMCOG Executive Director Paul Tait. “Leadership of this kind from state officials will be critical to executing strategies for building a vibrant economy in Southeast Michigan.”

The Caucus held its first regional forum on May 13, 2011 at Wayne State University with 70 participants including state lawmakers and board members and leaders from the Detroit Regional Chamber, SEMCOG, and MAC with the Center for Michigan providing facilitation. Through keypad voting and break-out groups, participants in the forum helped the Caucus build and refine its priorities.

“The business community knows that our economy is regional and that we must have government leaders who can see past turf and party politics and work together to make Southeast Michigan globally competitive in the 21st century,” said Detroit Regional Chamber President & CEO Sandy K. Baruah. “This is an important development not only for Southeast Michigan but for the entire state."