Republicans continue majority in Michigan’s state House

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans will continue to hold the majority in Michigan’s state House following Tuesday’s election.

The party holds the same 58-52 edge it did in 2019 and 2020, despite some expectations that the GOP would lose seats. Republicans have secured House leadership for six consecutive terms.

With that advantage, Rep. Jason Wentworth from Clare will take over as House speaker in 2021. The current speaker, Rep. Lee Chatfield of Levering, was unable to run for reelection due to term limits.

Wentworth told reporters Thursday at the state Capitol that he looks forward to working with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whose relationship with Republicans in the state legislature has been strained since she took office two years ago.

The GOP-led Senate was not up for election this November and Sen. Mike Shirkey remains the majority leader.

The nearly 200 executive orders Whitmer has issued during the coronavirus pandemic — including stringent stay-home orders and rules keeping some business closed to slow the spread of the virus across the state — have increased tensions.

On Thursday, Whitmer called on state lawmakers to pass a statewide mask mandate.

Whitmer’s efforts to not work with the legislature and then call for a mandate on masks is a “stunt,” Wentworth said.

Over the past year, major decisions have been made on public health and people’s livelihoods, Wentworth added.

Wentworth said that the most important issues Michigan currently faces are health care and access to health care, and that under his leadership as House speaker residents will get “a seat at the table.”

Prior to being elected to the House in 2016, Wentworth served in the army, law enforcement and as a regional coordinator for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

Michigan’s state House Democrats also chose a new leader Thursday, Donna Lasinski of Scio Township. Lasinski will be the fourth woman — all Democrats — in state history to lead a legislative caucus.

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Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.