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Politics & Government

Republican lawmaker whose members walked out of her committee hearing over a no-fault bill says she's not giving up

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Courtesy of Lora Rosenbaum
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Michigan State Police were called in to keep auto accident survivors out of House Speaker Jason Wentworth's office at the Capitol.

Survivors of catastrophic car accidents, and the agencies that care for them, have been pleading for help since last year, when deep cuts to insurance company payments for care took effect.

But they've made no progress in the face of key Republican leaders' refusal to take up any bills that have been introduced to fix the controversial law.

Until last Thursday, when State Representative Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) put one of the bills, a narrow fix to one problem related to the law, up for a hearing before the committee she heads — the House Insurance Committee.

Rendon asked care providers to testify about insurance companies refusing to pay anything for the work they do caring for survivors, because there are no financial consequences.

But before testimony began, members of her committee staged a walkout, rather than listen to the testimony. Joining the walkout were state Representatives Matt Hall, Beau LaFave, T.C. Clements, Bronna Kahle, Bryan Posthumus, Mike Harris, and Luke Meerman, and Democrats Lori Stone and Kyra Bolden.

Hall was observed speaking with two lobbyists for the Insurance Alliance of Michigan before he departed the room. The Insurance Alliance of Michigan opposes any reform to the 2019 auto no-fault law, even though the law is driving providers out of business and leaving car accident survivors without medical care.

"I am disappointed they didn't choose to listen before they 'jumped ship,' so to speak," said Committee Chair Daire Rendon. "I would not have forced them to vote on the bill. But when we crafted the 2019 no-fault law, one group — home health care — was not represented at the table."

Rendon said she and others involved in crafting the legislation three years ago were repeatedly assured by Republican leaders that the changes to no-fault would not be retroactive — in other words, people who had already been severely injured in car crashes would not have their care taken away.

Instead, some survivors have landed in hospitals when they lost their home care; at least seven have died after being transferred to nursing homes; and others are struggling to live at home with only family members to care for them. The most well-known car crash survivor of all — Red Wings hockey player Vladimir Konstantinov — could lose his home care soon.

"I don't believe this is going away. It's hard for me to see why we can't look at the issue and thoughtfully craft something," Rendon said. "I'm a small business owner. I see this as leaning on small business people, and through the years, I've observed that the people who are first casualties are always small business — and big business always survives."

Rendon was critical of family members who "stormed the offices" of House Speaker Jason Wentworth's office in March. Michigan State Police were called to force them out and stand guard outside the door. After that incident, Wentworth said he would not allow any bills to fix the controversial no-fault bill to move forward. "It's time to move on," he said.

Rendon thinks it's time to do something.

She did have praise for advocates who have been "dogged and persistent" in seeking one on one meetings with state legislators to call attention to the issue.

She also said she has sympathy for people whose lives were upended after catastrophic car crashes. "People had big plans — to go to college, to go to Europe, and all of a sudden, their lives changed overnight," she said.

Rendon said she could not divulge her next step, but she encouraged people to ask for meetings with their own legislators and try to get them to listen before they made a judgment call.

"Part of our job is listening," she said.

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