The Michigan Legislature has come under fire recently due to questionable practices by the Republican majority of the House of Representatives. It seems that either they can’t count to 73, or would care not to if it means they can pass legislation with immediate effect.
The Michigan Constitution provides that no law can take effect for 90 days after the current legislative term. This is designed to allow ample time for people to make adjustments for the new law of to challenge the constitutionality of the law in court. A 2/3 majority in both houses of legislature is required to give a bill immediate effect once it is signed into law.
House Republicans currently enjoy a 63-47 majority in the House of Representatives, and clearly believe that 63 is the equivalent of 73 when it comes to controversial legislation they want passed. The Michigan Constitution provides that if 1/5 of members of either house request a roll call vote, then one must be taken. However, time and time again, the roll call vote was skipped even with all 47 Democrats requesting it.
So far, the House of Representatives has passed HB 4246, which bans the unionization of graduate student research assistants; HB 4929, which bans the automatic deduction of union dues from public school employees paychecks; and HB 5063, which would prohibit the circulation of ballot petitions without prior approval by the State Board of Canvassers, all of which without the necessary 2/3 majority to make the bill take immediate effect.
Ordinarily, the Senate would serve as a check for this type of cheating, but the Republicans hold a 26-12 majority in the Senate, which basically eliminates that check by arithmetic.
Governor Rick Snyder himself has already shown his penchant for supporting Republican cheating by affixing his signature to Public Act 280. The Act, in effect, invalidated the apportionment plan adopted by the Oakland County apportionment commission and place the responsibility for drawing new districts with the Board of Commissioners. The Act also reduces the number of county commissioners from 25 to 21.
This might not be so serious if it wasn’t for these facts: The Democrats have a majority on the Apportionment Commission, the Republicans have a majority on the Board of Commissioners, the Apportionment Commission redrew the electoral lines in a fair manner that Republicans saw as not in their favor and therefore decided to change the rules so they could redraw the map and eliminate four formerly Democratic-Party controlled seats on the Board of Commissioners.
What’s even more galling is that the state Attorney General, Bill Schutte, is defending their practices, and even went as far as to appeal an injunction that would force House Republicans to recognize any request for a roll call vote.
Last time I checked, the Attorney General is supposed to only take on cases that benefit all citizens of the state and take the side of the people when questions regarding violation of the Michigan Constitution comes into question. It seems that in this case Republicans don’t object to using taxpayer dollars to protect private interests.
House Democrats have been accused of using the very same tactic when they enjoyed a majority in the Michigan House under Governor Granholm. While this may be the case, the Republican majority in the Senate during Granholm’s governorship ensured that the bills that did get passed with the immediate effect clause enjoyed wide bipartisan support.
The current conduct of Michigan House Republicans is reprehensible at best. They have chosen to ignore the provisions of a document they are sworn to uphold for nothing more than political gain. Then they have the audacity to use taxpayer money and the attorney general (who is supposed to be a servant of the public trust) to defend their indefensible practices.
This practice must be stopped. The Michigan Court of Appeals should uphold the injunction to force House Republicans to follow the rules.
Be sure to write the Speaker of the House and the Speaker pro tempore (go to www.house.mi.gov/mhr public to find their contact information) and tell them to stop pretending they don’t know how to count to 73.
House Republicans should be willing and able to operate within the rules as politicians who have sworn to uphold them. Otherwise, voters should prepare to send them packing under the provisions of the Michigan Constitution that allows us to vote for representatives who will actually represent the public’s interests every two years.