With a host of state lawmakers facing recall efforts by their constituents over their stances on the pension tax that was approved last week, state Rep. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield) has become the latest legislator to become the target of an effort to unseat a sitting lawmaker.
Waterford resident Neil Billington, who challenged Haines in the August 2010 Republican primary election, has filed proposed petition language to recall the second-term lawmaker. In the proposed language — which goes before Oakland County Circuit Court Family Division Judge Linda S. Hallmark on Tuesday, May 31 at 1:30 p.m. — Billington states Haines “is not casting her vote to reflect the needs and desires of her constituents.”
The proposed petition language reads as follows:
“This petition to recall State Representative Gail Haines is based on her repeated failure to represent District 43 constituents. After signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and vowing not to raise taxes, she has consistently supported legislation which raises taxes. She has publicly stated that even though she was absent during the voting for House Bill 4361 (the proposed budget for 2011/12), she would have supported this legislation, which reduces the Michigan Business Tax and shifts that tax burden to lower- and middle class citizens, including the removal of exemptions for senior citizens’ retirement pensions. She voted in favor of House Bill 4408 (Public Act 14 of 2011), which reduced unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. She voted in favor of legislation which is now included in the Emergency Financial Manager Law (Public Act 4 of 2011), which gives excessive and unconstitutional power to Emergency Financial Managers. Rep. Haines has missed 8 key votes on issues that negatively affect her constituents. When present to vote, a review of her voting record shows that Rep. Haines is not casting her vote to reflect the needs and desires of her constituents. Representative Haines is not representing the people.”
House Bill 4361 is an omnibus legislative package that, among other things, removes the tax exemption many retirees have on their pension income and replaces the Michigan Business Tax with a 6-percent corporate income tax on Class C corporations. The state’s budget, which is laid out in various bills going through conference committee this week, has yet to be finalized.
Michigan Votes, a service of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, reports that Haines has missed eight votes so far this year. That includes all roll call votes on which she did not vote, regardless of whether she was present or absent when the vote was taken.
If the recall petition language is approved May 31, Billington would have 180 days to collect 8,613 signatures — an amount equal to 25 percent of the total ballots cast for governor in the 43rd House District during the last election.
Billington said his original petition language was shot down on May 9, and this is his second attempt to get language approved by the Circuit Court.
“We resubmitted again, and changed the language a little bit then so it’s not so personal,” Billington said. “This woman, who is our representative, she’s absent a lot. She’s not doing her job. I never knew anyone who missed as much as she missed on critical votes and not be there.”
Haines shot back, saying that the only times she’s missed votes have been for family emergencies.
“I missed one day when my father was transported, by ambulance, from our home to Beaumont Hospital,” she said. “Prior to that, I abstained on one vote. That is it. It is very untruthful if anything other than that is being said. I work very hard at this job, but my family comes first. My 88-year-old father lives with us. If this individual (Billington) would like a copy of the ambulance bill or would like to verify that my father has cardiac disease,” that’s okay with her, she said.
Billington, 62, said that if this attempt to get recall petition language approved, he plans on submitting again.
“If I have to do this 10 more times, I’ll be back,” he said. “She doesn’t belong there.”
Haines said she is “very proud” to have won two primary elections and general elections to represent the 43rd House District and that she works “very hard” to represent her constituents.
“That really is exactly the way I feel. I’m proud to live in a democracy. We have young men and women who protect our rights fighting all over the world. This is just one individual exercising that right, and that’s okay with me.”
Billington’s proposed recall petition language that was rejected May 9 reads:
“We the People of District 43 (Waterford, Lake Angelus and parts of West Bloomfield Twp.) in the State of Michigan, charge our State Representative, Gail Haines for misrepresentation and discriminating against the citizens by voting in favor to abolish our once given and expressed rights. Starting with but not limited to H.B. 4099 and H.B. 411, which totally Bans Smoking from previous Smoking Allowed facilities and Penalizes Patrons and Owners with Fines and/or with shut down of these Private Clubs, Local Bars and Restaurants from dueling deciding the beset policies for their establishment. This law states, No Exemptions and bans all smoking in these private and public facilities. Whereas this same Law, exempts Michigan Gabling [sic] Casinos from its restrictions and/or consequences. Causing further damage to Michigan’s economic stability of other related industries with lost jobs and revenue. This opinionated act jeopardizes more than just the freedom and civil rights of all citizens, it is oppression of a bias [sic] government and tyranny.”
In the 2010 GOP primary race against Haines, Billington nabbed 24.15 percent of the vote (2,259 votes), while the incumbent Haines received 75.85 percent (7,094 votes).