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Posted on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Washtenaw County's freshmen lawmakers land key legislative assignments in Michigan House

By Ryan J. Stanton

Washtenaw County's two newest representatives in the Michigan House say they're ready to get to work on tough issues facing the state after receiving key committee assignments.

Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger announced the new assignments on Thursday and state Reps. Adam Zemke, D-Ann Arbor, and Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, fared relatively well.

"I am excited to get to work setting the spending priorities for our state and all Michiganders," said Zemke, who will serve on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.


Gretchen Driskell at a campaign event last year.

Ryan J. Stanton |

In that capacity, Zemke will be a member of the Department of Education subcommittee and will be the Democratic vice chairman of the Joint Capital Outlay and Community Colleges subcommittees.

"I believe that the state's budget is a reflection of our priorities, and I am proud to assume a leadership position for these important subcommittees," he said.

Driskell, formerly Saline's mayor, will be serving on the Commerce Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee during her first term. She said she's excited to have the opportunity to work on transportation issues and, like Gov. Rick Snyder, wants to see funding increased.

"I have worked locally for many years on our transportation systems, and I am very concerned about the lack of revenue supporting our transportation infrastructure," she said. "Our ability to maintain our roads affects school bus routes and public safety."

Driskell believes her experience as Saline's mayor also will serve her well on the Commerce Committee. For 14 years, she said, she worked to create a pro-business climate and attract jobs to the city, and she looks forward to using her experience on a broader scale.

"Too many Michiganders are still looking for work, and many small businesses are struggling," she said. "Working on the Commerce Committee, I will focus on creating more and better jobs, including those generated by locally owned businesses in my district."


Adam Zemke

Noting that Washtenaw County is home to the University of Michigan, Washtenaw Community College and Eastern Michigan University, Zemke said he's particularly excited to be a member of two education-related subcommittees.

In addition to supporting K-12 schools and higher education, he said he's eager to work on the budget for early childhood education.

"Education is our No. 1 form of economic development, and increasing access to early childhood education offers the greatest return on our investment in a brighter future," he said.

Washtenaw County's two returning state representatives have mixed opinions about their assignments heading into their second terms.

Rep. David Rutledge, D-Superior Township, will serve on the Local Government Committee and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, while Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, will serve on the new Financial Liability Reform Committee and the Judiciary Committee.

Irwin, who's known for being a thorn in the side of the Republican leadership, complained he didn't get the committee assignments he hoped for last week.

He wanted to be on the Election and Ethics Committee and on the Energy and Technology Committee. Instead, he's on two committees that meet at the exact same time each week.

"I'll be using my staff on those mornings to help me know which committee I have to run to and when," Irwin said of how he'll handle the situation. "Obviously, I'll be running back and forth quite a bit, because I am very active with amendments in committee."

David_Rutledge_ headshot_2010.jpg

David Rutledge

Rutledge has been appointed minority vice chairman of the Local Government Committee where he plans to push legislation that will make it easier for local units of government to consolidate or share services. He also wants to restore previously cut revenue sharing dollars and strengthen public safety.

While he has been removed from the Education Committee, Rutledge vowed that his work for quality in community governed schools will not diminish. He said he will continue to be a vocal advocate for removing the "profit motive" from the state's K-12 education system.

As for his appointment to the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Rutledge said he's passionate about helping to find equitable ways of investing in Michigan's roads and bridges.

"For too long, our disinvestment has allow this important asset to threaten our quality of life," he said. "My work on the Transportation Committee will be focused on reversing this trend."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

According to the Secretary of State campaign finance website Ms. Driskell made a contribution to: RICK SNYDER FOR MICHIGAN on July 29th, 2010


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:53 p.m.

Think you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. $25.00 during a PRIMARY? Remember that Snyder's entire campaign was pretty much based on silence. He said as little as possible while the other candidates shot themselves in the foot. The strategy was to let people believe whatever they wanted to believe. And it worked, because the other candidates were more than happy to help by talking a lot and turning voters against them. She gambled $25.00 that Snyder wouldn't be as bad as the other republicans, and would be a better bet if the democrats lost in the general election. I am sure there are many others who gambled much more. I also agree with Epengar - $25.00 is certainly a bargain basement price to buy power in Lansing.

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 11:35 a.m.

Doesn't speak very well to Ms. Driskell's judgement now does it.? Has she apologized for her error or is she fine she helped elect the 'moderate' Mr. Snyder? I could find only one other donation to a democrat on this data base, one to a local Republican County Commissioner and several to a conservative real estate agent PAC. Apparently Ms. Driskell's love of moderation doesn't include contributing to democrats either. And of course we remember how the local media thought Snyder was a 'moderate' during the 2010 campaign and gave him a free pass, as did several local prominent local Democrats.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 11 p.m.

Yeah, Gretchen Driskell's donation to Rick Snyder was $25 in July 2010. A lot of Democrats were pulling for Snyder to win the Republican gubernatorial primary in August 2010 because he was seen as the more moderate of the choices, and a lot of local people supported him based on personal experience working with Snyder in his pre-political days here in Washtenaw County.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 9:10 p.m.

That link doesn't work. The databases are here:,4670,7-127-1633_8723_8751---,00.html the Contributions Analysis one lets you search by donor. It shows that Ms. Driskell gave whopping $25 to the Snyder campaign two years ago. $25! Who knew that plum legislative positions were so cheap!

Mike D.

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

Alan Goldsmith, Pat Lesko said Driskell supported Snyder, but I can't find any public record of a donation. Driskell's positions and statements have been consistently at odds with Snyder's. Other than Lesko's statement, is there anything that makes you believe Driskell will be a Snyder crony?

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Feb 1, 2013 : 2:32 p.m.

At the time of the contribution, those were he views. No regrets now on her part for being so naive? And being on the SPARK board explains everything--and likely why she was given choice committee assignments vs. Democrats who were 'thorns'. Good to know she's pro "placemaking" and "pro talent". Lol. Her naivety is breathtaking.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

I did ask her about the donation. At the time, she was mayor of Saline and had been serving on the Ann Arbor Spark board for many years and had worked alongside Snyder. She said she watched him campaign as a moderate who supported a talent agenda, but in her opinion his actions have proven to be different than his platform. "I am pro education, pro talent, pro placemaking and job creation," she said. "These were all in his platform."

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:25 p.m.

So Ryan, have you asked Ms. Driskell about why she supported Rick Snyder or are you just speculating about her motives?

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 2:08 a.m.

I'll venture a safe guess that Driskell won't be a "Snyder crony." She's spoken pretty critically of his record on a number of occasions, mostly in the context of commenting broadly on decisions made by Republicans during the 2011-12 legislative session.

Basic Bob

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 5:27 p.m.

I always thought the minority party leadership got to appoint their share of committee assignments to their own members. Can someone explain who makes these appointments?

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 2:04 a.m.

From the House Speaker's press release: "The committee assignments were made after weeks of study and deliberation by the Committee on Committees, chaired by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, and working together with House Minority Leader Tim Greimel."


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

put a dem in charge of education b4 all of our public school kids fall too far behind and all of our best teachers leave this state and it's kid bashing/teacher bashing republican legislature.

Dog Guy

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 2:58 p.m.

This signals great improvement: traditionally, new members of the minority party were assigned as restroom monitors.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

So (Jeff)"Irwin, who's known for being a thorn in the side of the Republican leadership..." gets bounced from more important committeee assignments while Gretchen Driskell a 'democrat' who actively supported the election of Governor Rick Snyder by contritbuting financially to his election campaign lands 'key legislative assignments". Funny how that works Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger. I'm sure Driskell won't be a pesky thorn in anyone's side.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 4:55 p.m.

Thanks for the follow up Alan.

Alan Goldsmith

Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 8:13 p.m.

@ThinkingOne: Driskell made a financial contribution to Snyder's campaign in 2010. It's a matter of public record.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

I am assuming you have some evidence to back up your statement about Driskell supporting Snyder. Sounds too weird at face value.


Tue, Jan 29, 2013 : 3:22 p.m.

Seriously? Greta point if true!!