Lansing State Republicans rally to help recall target

By Tim Martin

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Supporters, including other Michigan Republicans and business organizations, are mounting a campaign to defend state Rep. Paul Scott against a recall effort backed by the state's largest teachers union.

Scott, a Republican from Grand Blanc and chairman of the House Education Committee, is the only state lawmaker in jeopardy of facing a recall election in November. He has until Tuesday to challenge the validity of signatures gathered against him and also has court cases pending in an effort to stay off the ballot.

If the legal challenges don't work, Scott will get continued help from fellow Republicans, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and other groups who don't want him to become the first Michigan state lawmaker recalled since 1983.

"If it continues, we'll have the necessary funds to get our message out," said Scott, elected to his second two-year term in the state House last November. "I feel confident about it. Once you boil it down to the issues, we win."

The recall petitions circulated against Scott note that he voted in favor of bills to cut education funding and allow income taxes on some forms of retirement income. Those are among the same issues cited on many of the recall petitions targeting more than 20 other Republicans in the state Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder. Some of those campaigns are likely to remain active in an effort to make ballots in 2012.

Scott was targeted by the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, as he played a key role in changing the state's teacher tenure policies. Bills approved by the Legislature and signed by Snyder will make teacher performance, instead of seniority, the key factor in decisions to award tenure and decide layoffs. Supporters say the changes will keep effective teachers in classrooms while making it easier to get rid of bad instructors.

Critics say the teacher tenure bills could lead school districts to lay off high-seniority teachers to save money or allow administrators to play favorites. The MEA called the bills "anti-school employee" and "anti-collective bargaining" and recruited volunteers to help with the Scott recall on its website.

The MEA's political action committee had donated $25,000 to the committee trying to recall Scott through late July, accounting for more than 99 percent of the campaign's reported fundraising. The MEA has supported other recalls through other means, the union said, including volunteers.

The MEA also is upset that the Legislature passed bills that will require many teachers to pay more for their health care coverage and legislation that gives state-appointed emergency managers in troubled districts the power to toss out labor contracts.

MEA members involved in the recall attempts are "citizens, taxpayers and voters in those areas who are tired of the attacks and want to fight back," union spokeswoman Rosemary Carey said.

Scott's supporters say the recall campaign isn't a grass-roots effort within his district, but rather an orchestrated attempt by a statewide public employee union to scare lawmakers into dropping other proposed reforms.

House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, has said the MEA "is engaging in partisan political games, using schoolchildren and hard-working teachers as their playing pieces."

Specific grounds for recall such as the commission of a felony, ethics violations or incompetence are required in only eight states. In many of the others, including Michigan, a lawmaker can be targeted for recall simply because an opponent disagrees with a lawmaker's policies. That's what is happening to Scott, and leaders of some organizations involved in Michigan politics consider it an abuse of the recall system.

"The MEA is really playing with fire," said Richard Studley of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which plans to help Scott through independent expenditures. "It's I think a very bad, very dangerous precedent in Michigan when you have one of the state's largest unions pursuing recalls to resolve policy differences."

Published: Wed, Sep 7, 2011