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Democratic agenda

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The best Democrats can hope for is to hold onto the House. If they can't do that, political analyst Bill Ballenger says, their wish list will be short: Keep the Republicans from doing what they want to do.

According to House Speaker Hertel, Dems plan to focus on these issues:

Health care

Continue pushing legislation to ensure that physicians, not HMO bureaucrats, make important decisions for patients.

U-M's Barry Rabe says such proposals have been put forth in virtually every state to loosen insurance company and HMO restrictions on patient care. The proposals, popular and backed by Clinton and other Democrats, put Republicans in a difficult position, he says. Republicans don't want to restrict corporate profits but know their own party members are increasingly dissatisfied with health care.

Education

Put more money into education, reduce class size, and get all kids reading by the third grade.

Rabe notes Engler's commercial announcing the same goal.

"Now it's bipartisan," he says. "Who's against third graders reading?"

Roads

Hertel says Democrats will continue to push for an increase in the diesel fuel tax to help pay for road repairs, something Republican senators oppose.

Stealth agenda

Although Republicans have expressed the usual fears that Democrats plan to raise taxes and ruin the economy, pundits interviewed by the Metro Times agree Michigan Democrats won't be able to do much about a stealth agenda even if they have one.

"The best they can do is push these things and hope they get into a situation where they can make a deal of some kind with the Republicans," says Ballenger.

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