As the November election draws nearer, Americans won't be voting just for a presidential candidate, both state and local candidates will be voted upon, too. In Michigan, there will be dozens of candidates running for the first time and for reelection across the state. Between The Lines has reached out to pro-equality candidates to get a sense of their goals and priorities for the LGBTQ community if they are to be elected. To get a full list of the pro-equality candidates running, visit mivoterguide.com.
Here, Michigan 50th-District, which includes Burton, the City and Township of Grand Blanc and Mundy Township, State Rep. Tim Sneller answers questions about why he would be a good fit for reelection.
Why are you a good fit for reelection?
I think I'm a good fit for office not only because of my experience prior to getting elected in 2016, but I was also a legislative staffer for 33 years. I worked for various state reps, state senators and briefly I worked for John Cherry who was Granholm's lieutenant governor. I just figured, who better to serve my community — which I've lived in all my 64 years — to go and represent you in Lansing. And I have the experience to maneuver through the legislative process.
What experience sets you apart from other candidates?
Well, one thing is an understanding of the legislative process. There are actually people that do believe that we go to Lansing, we write a bill and we vote on a bill. They don't understand the whole committee process, they don't understand that you've got to work across the aisle. I've got to go find four or five or six Republicans that I can work with to help get my bills passed because we don't have enough votes on the Democratic side to do that. And I think I have more votes passed out of the House than probably any other Democrat because I do that. Many of the Republicans I work with, many of them were former staffers that I had long-term relationships and friendships with. And all of the constituent work that I've done for 33 years. Constituent work is probably my most important. I believe that when you go to Lansing, you've got to remember that those people in the 50th House District sent you there. I always tell people, "Don't get wrapped up in the Lansing lobby and all that other stuff. Go home every night to your district." One thing that I love hearing in my district is, "I see you everywhere." This is my community. I went to Burton's Bentley High School, I graduated in '74, I know this community. Even with all the senators and reps I worked for, I always commuted to Lansing. I always came back to this district every night. And I don't mean to pat myself on the back, but because of term limits, nobody will ever walk through the door of that House or Senate that has as much legislative experience as I do.
What are your priorities for your district?
Education, that's probably number one with me. When I look at a budget — it's two under Snyder and now the two under Gretchen Whitmer — I look for, "Are we giving teachers, students and parents the resources they need?" Now with the COVID-19 pandemic, we've run into an obstacle that I think we're working on daily, such as the idea of doing virtual learning or doing in-class learning or what we call a hybrid, which is a combination of both. We're looking at different ways of teaching, but we have to have those resources. And in every budget I voted for, it was an increase in pupil-student funding. This year it was flatter because of the COVID pandemic and the loss of revenue because of having to close our economy down. I also serve as the vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee. I can't tell you how many times in 2016 and 2018 I've heard, "When are you going to fix the roads?" As we know now, Gov. Whitmer's campaign slogan was, "Fix the damn roads." And being able to be part of that, we're getting there, but we know we need funding first. We have great infrastructure, we're going to create business and if we have a great education system, we're going to have highly trained, educated workers to meet those jobs that will eventually come in. And clean water is a priority for me because I border Flint, and I was born in Flint. Protecting the environment is another one.
Do your priorities for the state of Michigan mirror those for your county?
Yes, definitely. What legislator wouldn't want to have the premier schools? But you've got to fund those schools. If you come up to Flint, you look at what we have right here, it was really built because of General Motors. In the early '80s, we had 85,000 UAW jobs just here in Genesee County — that doesn't count the white-collar and the other side jobs of General Motors — and right after the recession we went down to about 4,000 or 5,000 UAW jobs. Now, we're back up to maybe 10,000 or 12,000. I think those jobs are important and we've got to have good jobs up here. Just in the four years I've been in office, General Motors built a new plant in my district, and that employs about 1,500 people. About 65 to 75 percent of the workers that built that General Motors plant were skilled tradesmen right here in Genesee County in Michigan and then we got the workforce that could go do that. They all go hand-in-hand. People want to live in safe communities, people want to live in communities where they have clean water. In Burton, we have a county [water] line here now. I grew up in the '60s where if you turned on a faucet and you let it run for maybe 15 seconds, you had the cleanest, coldest water you ever wanted to drink. That's where we need to get back and with clean air. People want to breathe clean air. It's so simple.
How will you plan to continue your support of LGBTQ Michiganders?
It's very frustrating when you get pushback. There's three of us in the House, there's Rep. Jon Hoadley, Sen. Jeremy Moss and myself. The first term I was there we worked together and had various pieces of legislation and, for example, Jon Hoadley had the bill for amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include the LGBTQ community, I had the bill to expand the hate crimes law in Michigan to include LGBTQ communities and Jeremy Moss had the bill for adoptions within the LGBTQ community. So, we worked very hard, but we know they're not going to go anywhere because that's the frustration of being in the minority. But we'll continue to do it because I think you need to bring those issues up, and I think that they need to be out there for people to see. You know, we've got marriage equality, but we still have discrimination here in the state of Michigan. You can be fired, you can be evicted because you're gay, because you're not protected under the civil rights law here in Michigan. You can still be beaten because you're gay and not have it considered a hate crime, and it's outrageous. There's still a long way to go, but we'll continue to fight the fight.