lame duck

As the lame duck session winds down and Lansing, Michigan prepares to transition to the new administration of Democratic Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, constituent services for the outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder closed this Christmas Eve.

Meaning so too did the opportunity for citizen input on the more than 300 bills the Governor still has to sign or veto from the lame duck session of the Michigan legislature.

Michigan’s wild lame duck session has been one Grit Post has watched closely. From naked power grabs to procedural gimmicks to get around the democratic process, to attempting to create a second Board of Education that wouldn’t be influenced by the incoming Democratic administration, Michigan’s Republicans have been throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks.

In total, 408 bills passed through Michigan’s legislature. Fifty more pieces of legislation than in the rest of 2018.

These include a measure to restrict citizen-led ballot initiatives, which the legislature passed after failing to curtail the state’s new laws regarding recreational marijuana that voters adopted in November. New regulations would limit how many signatures for a ballot petition could come from any single congressional district.

The lame duck session also took aim at another ballot initiative, Proposal 3, which was a package of voting rights reforms that included easier voter registration. To counter the increased access, the legislature mandated that voters must register at a clerk’s office, severely limiting registration drives.

The Republican legislature also passed legislation allowing it to intervene in lawsuits where it felt it had a compelling interest. This essentially steals the role of the Attorney General for the legislature, much the same way as the legislature sought to clone the Board of Education.

This usurpation of authority was so brazen even former Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican who held the office from 2003-2011, urged the Governor to veto the measure.

“[M]any of my fellow conservatives in the Michigan House and Senate voted to usurp the power of the Attorney General by allowing either the House or Senate to intervene in any of the 40,000 or more cases the Attorney General currently prosecutes or defends each year,” Cox wrote in the Detroit Free Press. “The legislation that would encroach on the attorney general’s authority, House Bill 6553, defies not only logic, but also Michigan’s constitution and history.”

It remains to be seen if the mountains of legislation that flowed through the lame duck legislature are constitutional, though if they have their way they’ll be able to intervene in court cases regarding that exact question.

Term-limited Governor Snyder has more than three hundred more bills to sign or veto before the end of the year.

The historic breadth and depth of the lame duck session has met historic public resistance, which makes the shuttering of constituent services particularly disappointing.

Constituents who do try to reach out to Governor Snyder are treated to a voicemail message explaining that no one is around to answer: “Unfortunately, due to the process of transitioning out of office as Governor Snyder’s term ends, we are no longer able to record comments or directly facilitate constituent requests.”

Michiganders can at least still tweet at the departing Governor using @onetoughnerd.

 

Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.

 

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