Republicans selected new state legislative leaders Tuesday charged with helping GOP Gov.-elect Rick Snyder improve Michigan's economy and state government budget.
Republicans will be the dominant party in the Michigan Legislature starting next year, holding majorities in both the Senate and House based on the results of last week's statewide election.
Senate Republicans picked Sen. Randy Richardville of Monroe to be their majority leader starting in 2011. House Republicans selected Rep. James 'Jase' Bolger of Marshall as their leader, meaning he will become the next House speaker as the GOP takes over the majority in the chamber in 2011.
Republican lawmakers say they will work with Snyder and develop their own ideas to improve Michigan's 13-percent unemployment rate and balance a state government budget expected to have a $1.5 billion shortfall for the fiscal year starting in October 2011. Some of those ideas likely will fit in nicely with Snyder's plans, and some of them might not.
"We're going to be going in the same direction in general," Richardville said. "But we will be an equal voice in the government in the state of Michigan with the administration."
Snyder and Lt. Gov.-elect Brian Calley met with many of the current and incoming state lawmakers Tuesday. Calley, now in the state House, will team with former lieutenant governor and incoming Snyder senior adviser Dick Posthumus to guide policies through the Legislature.
Richardville will lead a Senate where Republicans will have a 26-12 edge over Democrats. He replaces term-limited Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop of Rochester.
Senate Republicans picked a leadership team including Dave Hildenbrand of Lowell, Arlan Meekhof of West Olive, Phil Pavlov of St. Clair, Rick Jones of Grand Ledge, Patrick Colbeck of Canton, Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township, Darwin Booher of Evart, Tonya Schuitmaker of Van Buren County's Antwerp Township and Goeff Hansen of Hart. Roger Kahn of Saginaw will be the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman.
Republicans will have more than 60 seats in the 110-seat House next year. Democrats have had the majority for the past four years. But Bolger said both parties in the Legislature and the Snyder administration must work together to fix Michigan's problems.
"The challenges facing this state are too great to allow any politics or partisanship to stand in the way," Bolger said.
Among the leadership positions filled Tuesday by House Republicans were Jim Stamas of Midland as majority floor leader, John Walsh of Livonia as speaker pro tempore, Pete Lund of Shelby Township as majority whip and Dave Agema of Grandville as majority caucus chair.
House Democrats picked Richard Hammel of Genesee County's Mount Morris Township to be the minority caucus leader next year. Hammel said he was encouraged Snyder reached out to lawmakers of both parties Tuesday.
"That was a very good sign," Hammel said. "We believe, and I think he does too, that there are a number of things that we can work together on. It's our expectation that we will not be a party that blocks good policy. We'll be certainly involved at every step of the way."
Hammel will be taking over as the Democratic leader from House Speaker Andy Dillon, who is joining Snyder's administration as state treasurer. Hammel said he hopes Dillon remains on the job as House speaker until the 2009-10 session ends.
Kate Segal of Battle Creek will be the floor leader for House Democrats.
Senate Democrats last week picked Sen. Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing to be their leader starting in 2011.