This article appeared in the February 2019 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.
Q: Congratulations on being named the Speaker of the House for the 2019-2020 Legislative Session. How has your background prepared you to help lead Michigan forward?
Speaker Chatfield: Michigan has made incredible strides over the past few years, becoming America’s comeback state and putting hundreds of thousands of people back to work. Our unemployment rate has fallen by more than half, and people are finally starting to move back home instead of leaving the state in droves. That success was made possible in part by the strong economic and fiscal reforms made by Michigan’s Legislature that put this state back on track during the tough times.
I have been blessed to be a part of the House leadership team that played a key role in those reforms over the past couple of years, and I have seen up close the way that excellent team got the job done and delivered real results. I will take those lessons and the positive example that has been laid out before me and use them to continue pursuing bold reforms that keep Michigan on the right path.
Q: What are your top priorities for the first few months of Michigan’s 100th Legislative Session?
Speaker Chatfield: The single biggest issue holding back continued growth in our state is the runaway cost of car insurance. This one monthly bill can single-handedly crush hard-working Michigan families who are trying to make ends meet, and it is well past time we fix our broken system. No-fault car insurance reform is a major priority of mine, and that is why I created a special committee specifically to tackle this important issue and craft a bipartisan reform that can finally lower rates for drivers across the state.
We have also chosen to make top early priorities out of expanding state transparency laws to include the Legislature and the Governor’s office, who are both currently exempt, and reforming the practice known as civil asset forfeiture. In both cases, we want to protect the rights of Michigan citizens and make sure government officials are more accountable to the people they serve.
Q: Manufacturers have created more than 190,800 new industry jobs since June 2009, however talent remains a challenge for employers of all sizes. What are your plans for continuing that impressive jobs growth and ensuring Michigan manufacturers can continue to locate, train and retain skilled talent?
Speaker Chatfield: A few short years ago, Michigan had few jobs and hundreds of thousands of people looking for work. Now, we have the lowest unemployment in decades and many open jobs employers are struggling to fill. That is a good sign for the overall health of our economy, but a real challenge for the individual job creators who are trying to grow and prosper without the right talent to fill critical positions. We need to do a better job teaching our kids about all the options available to them and the benefits of a future in skilled labor.
Q: Looking ahead at the next two years, how does your vision of Michigan’s future help ensure the state’s manufacturing sector will remain a global hub for manufacturing?
Speaker Chatfield: Michigan is doing far better than it was earlier in the decade. Michigan was the first state into the recession, and now it is one of the strongest coming out of it. But we cannot rest on that success. We must continue to introduce new, stronger reforms and push the state to new heights. We cannot become complacent, even as the recovery continues to spread to more and more local residents. This House will do everything it can to create an even better economic environment for manufacturers and others to start and grow a business. That is the only way to keep Michigan’s comeback going strong.