(EDITOR’S NOTE, 12/12/18, 9:57 PM ET: This article was updated to include comment from State Senator-Elect Sean McCann.)
Various grassroots campaigns descended on the Michigan capitol in Lansing on Wednesday to protest the wild power grabs of the state’s lame duck government.
From One Fair Wage to Clean Water Action to We the People, countless grassroots groups and people from every walk of life converged on Lansing to fight an “end run around democracy” with direct political action. People even wore Red for Ed shirts from last year’s wave of teacher protests.
“I agree with most people expressing that this lame duck activity is not what people originally envisioned for it to be used for, that it is exacerbated greatly by term limits, that it should be stopped, and that this lame duck session particularly flies in the face of the will of the voters as expressed in the election,” said State Senator-elect Sean McCann (D).
“It appears there’s small odds that the Governor may veto some of the bills, but the unfortunate more likely outcome is that much of it happens and passes,” he added. “Then there will be much expensive litigation of a lot of it for months to come.”
These were not the first protests in Michigan’s rotunda over this lame duck session, and likely will not be the last. Coincidentally, schools also sent kids to tour the capitol building in time to see Wednesday’s massive mobilization.
Michigan state representative Donna Lasinski (D) speaks to protesters at the Michigan state capitol in Lansing fighting the GOP's #lameduck #powergrab (video by Tracy Brasseur-Pease of @MIOneFairWage) pic.twitter.com/t4530ziuyf
— Grit Post (@grit_post) December 13, 2018
— Grit Post (@grit_post) December 13, 2018
“There were a lot of kids, you know, elementary school kids that were there that were seeing how democracy is in action,” One Fair Wage ambassador Tracy Brasseur-Pease told Grit Post. “And our state representatives were not only in the crowd, but they spoke.”
The students got to see what Brasseur-Pease described as a phenomenal energy of activists, representatives, attorneys and everyday people united in one purpose and one message: The lame duck actions being taken by Republicans are not the will of the people.
“What’s going on in the house right now, what’s going on with lame duck, that is people wanting to take our democracy from us,” Brasseur-Pease said. “What you saw today was people pushing back.”
The core issue for Brasseur-Pease is to the state’s minimum wage increase, which was adopted and abandoned by Michigan Republicans in an effort to prevent a ballot initiative. This was done because the required votes to overturn a citizen initiative are much higher than needed to overturn the legislature’s own law. This procedural gimmick could be unconstitutional.
“The power of the people, the power that’s been entrusted in you and in me as a person and resident of the State of Michigan, is the power to petition and enact law that legislators refuse to enact,” freshman State Representative Donna Lasinski (D) told a rotunda full of protesters. “That right was taken away in a crass, in a potentially unconstitutional fashion, by simply voting it in to take it out.”
But that gimmick was far from the only reason. Lame duck actions taken by Republicans before they have to contend with Democrats taking every statewide office include, but are not limited to: an attempt to save the business of a member of the legislature to the tune of $9000 a year by ending the state’s massively successful bottle deposit program; limit the use of science in environmental policy, and creating a shadow Board of Education to block Democrats from engaging in any meaningful education reform.
The attempt to block incoming Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer from creating meaningful education policy change is part of a broader slate of attempts to weaken the new all-Democrat and all-women executive slate. Those also include allowing the legislature to insert itself into judicial affairs and taking the role of campaign finance oversight from the Secretary of State.
There’s also the policies state voters approved like recreational marijuana and increased voter access, which the lame duck legislature has attempted to gut. Outgoing Governor Rick Snyder (R) recently signed into law a controversial pipeline project frantically negotiated in the lame duck portion of his tenure.
Collectively, the policies being advanced by the lame duck legislature are themselves being called “lame duck” as if it was the formal name of the policy package by some protesters.
The Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine has a convenient tracker of all the things the lame duck session has done. But the Metro Times succinctly summed it up: Republicans are acting like cornered animals.
And the people are outraged.
“[We’re] ready to go ahead and start all the petitions over again,” said Brasseur-Pease. “Should Snyder pass lame duck, we’re ready to start all over again.”
McCann said there might be a chance to fix some of what the lame-duck legislature has done, but that chance is slim.
“Some options are being looked in to, but too early to say,” he said. “Legislatively, things will be difficult to undo, but the new Governor and [Attorney General] may have some possible avenues.”
Grit Post has reached out to several other legislators, both presently serving and being sworn in in January, and will continue to update this article with any responses.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.