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Whitmer, Tate hesitant to endorse transparency, economic development bills during NFL draft promo stop

Interior of the state Capitol's rotunda.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio

The upcoming NFL draft in Detroit is a little over a month away.

State officials and Detroit tourism advocates are touring around the state to build hype for the event they say will boost the city’s economy.

Claude Molinari is president of the group Visit Detroit. He said investments made into the city for the draft are paying off.

“It’s about $10 million and we anticipate the NFL’s probably going to spend about four times that themselves in the city. So, again, economic impact of $160 to $170 million more than justifies the $10 million local organizing effort,” Molinari said during a press conference this week.

Molinari said the draft will have ripple effects for tourism in areas outside of Detroit as well.

This is the largest NFL event taking place in Michigan since Detroit hosted the Superbowl in 2006.

The press conference took place the same week as the state Senate sent the House of Representatives a bill package that would rebrand a program aimed at attracting largescale business investment in Michigan.

That's creating another chance to strike a deal between the Legislature and governor.

The legislation would rename what’s currently the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve, or SOAR Fund, to the Make it in Michigan Fund.

It would also require half of the money in the fund to go toward community infrastructure projects, like transportation and housing.

When asked if she supported the change Thursday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer cast some doubt on whether she agreed to the changes before the Senate voted the bills out.

“That was something that we had not thoroughly discussed and so I’m confident that as the bills move into the House, we’ll be able to have a little more thoughtful dialogue on that front,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer says she’s still happy to see the bills move out of the Senate.

House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) said he’s also glad to see his chamber have more chances to work on economic development.

Aside from economic development, another potential priority for the House when lawmakers come back from their spring break will be accountability legislation introduced last week.

The package would require political action committees and certain nonprofits associated with officials and candidates to register with the state.

It would also tighten the state’s rules around gift-giving for lawmakers and their staff.

But, at the NFL draft press conference Thursday, Tate wasn’t ready to commit to bringing those bills to a vote before they worked their way through the committee process.

Many of the ideas in the package were proposed last year but never made it to a floor vote in the House. Instead, the Legislature opted to pass an accountability package that started in the Senate.