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Michigan Part-Time Legislature Initiative (2014)

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A Michigan Part-Time Legislature Initiative did not appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot in Michigan as an initiated constitutional amendment. The measure, upon voter approval, would have decreased the length of regular legislative sessions to 60 days, capped legislator compensation at $35,000 per year and allowed for no more than 250 total legislative staffers.[1]

On June 11, 2014, the Committee to Restore Michigan's Part-Time Legislature announced that they were abandoning their campaign. They stated, "The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-time Legislature regrets to announce the suspension of its campaign to restore Michigan’s citizen-driven, part-time legislature. It is now apparent that we will fall short of collecting enough valid signatures before the end of June to get our amendment on the ballot this coming November."[2]

Support

The Committee to Restore Michigan's Part-Time Legislature (CRMPTL) led the campaign in support of the initiative.[3] Marlene Elwell led the organization’s signature petition drive. She successfully led the petition drive for the Michigan Marriage Amendment, Proposal 2 in 2004.[4]

Supporters

Arguments

CRMPTL Chairperson Norm Kammeraad argued that a part-time legislature and lower compensation for lawmakers would benefit Michiganders.

  • "We believe Michigan's former 1963 amendment which adopted our present full-time legislature has led to the over-regulation and over-taxation of Michigan's residents and businesses which has resulted in the decline and economic hardship for all of Michigan over the past 50 years. It further caused Michigan's legislators to place more focus on being career oriented lawmakers rather than truly representing its citizens as our state's forefathers intended."[1]
  • “Yes, we’re not saving much with the salary reduction, but what we are doing is we’re beginning to promote honest, true, citizen-driven legislation because they too, like us, will have skin in this game.”[7]
Committee to Restore Michigan's Part-Time Legislature Logo.png

Stephen Henderson, Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit Free Press, did not endorse the initiative, but said he is "taking a close look at this proposal."

  • "The Michigan Legislature considered more than 1,700 new laws in 2013, including one to give bike riders an alternative option for making right-hand turn signals and another to change “Michigan Heritage” roads to “Pure Michigan” roads. Can you say, “Too much time on their hands”? There’s no question in my mind that Michigan should join the ranks of states that have part-time, rather than full-time, legislators. Not just because the full-time gig inspires a lot of useless lawmaking (and some really dangerous and frightening proposals, too), but also because I’ve lived in two states — Kentucky and Maryland — where part-time legislators seem to do the job just fine."
  • "The part-time nature also hasn’t stopped the Maryland Legislature from handling other big issues. Legislators there have handled bills to legalize gay marriage and eliminate the death penalty in recent years. Back in the late 1990s, a significant reorganization of Baltimore schools came out of a legislative session. It was a question of priorities. The shortened sessions meant leadership had to create a focused agenda, marry it with what the governor was thinking, and get it moved quickly."[8]

Other arguments in support of the initiative included:

  • Lt. Gov. Brian Calley (R) said, “While there are many arguments that favor the institution of this style of government, there is one that stands out above all else: Part-time legislative systems produce fewer laws each year than full-time systems. That's a win for the people in my book. Over 40 states have part-time Legislatures. The People's business still gets done, constituent needs are still met and laws still get passed (albeit a lot less of them).”[5]

Tactics and strategies

Campaign contributions

Committee to Restore Michigan's Part-Time Legislature committee received $49,815 in contributions.[10]

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised Amount spent
Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management $49,815 $38,526
Total $49,815 $38,526

Top 3 contributors:

Donor Amount
Michael Kuras $30,000
Ronald Wiser $5,000
Dave Agema $2,500

Opposition

Opponents

Officials

Organizations

  • Michigan Chamber of Commerce[13]

Individuals

  • Dennis Lennox, Republican strategist and consultant
  • Nancy Kaffer, Columnist at the Detroit Free Press[8]

Arguments

Dennis Lennox, a Republic strategiest and consultant, strongly criticized the effort.

  • "While making the Legislature part-time may appeal to the limited government beliefs of most tea party, libertarian and conservative activist, the actual impact on policy and governance of something as radical as this will likely abhor those on the right. As it stands now, the people’s voice is an equal branch of government. This would no longer be the case if this proposal somehow passed, as both the executive and judicial branches would remain full-time while these in the Legislature would be politically neutered. The prospect of this must surely excite the bureaucrats, who dream of having pesky legislators away from the capital for 10 months every year… Making the Legislature part-time might save money, but it will do so at a huge cost to representative government and democratic accountability.”[14]
  • "You know, so we either have to create a situation where our legislators may be -- I hate to say it -- are getting food stamps or we’re giving them second and third jobs and then we’re creating situations where there’s all kinds of conflicts of interest. I mean, I just think when you start running down the list, this is a no-win."[7]

Nancy Kaffer, Columnist at the Detroit Free Press, stated that a part-time legislature would further decrease representation for underrepresented social groups.

  • "In the legislative system that we have created, it seems as though legislators have just begun to get the hang of things when they’re shown the door. Instead, power has shifted to the folks who don’t have to leave Lansing — bureaucrats and lobbyists. So further limiting the amount of time lawmakers spend on the job seems as though it will move power even further away from elected officials and more firmly into the hands of folks who have no public accountability."
  • "The switch to a part-time Legislature would come with a commensurate drop in pay, and I can’t help but think that the idea that you’d need to keep a full-time job — but take 60 days off a year to work in Lansing — would further limit the pool. And my gut instinct is that this change would have a disproportionate impact on women, who already are underrepresented in the Legislature. Women are almost always the ones who take time off to bear or rear children, which can slow a career trajectory. They also earn less than men, so forgoing any income can be a deal-breaker."[8]

Other arguments against the initiative include:

  • Karl Kurtz of the National Conference of State Legislatures noted, "“The issue there is whether the Legislature can effectively balance the power of a very large executive branch and typically in most large population states the Legislature tends to be more full-time. You’ve got House members representing 90,000 people in Michigan and Senate members representing 260,000 people. So, that’s a very significant demand that is on the time of legislators in addition to session time."[7]
  • Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a political researcher at Harvard University, found that “states where legislators had smaller budgets, convened for shorter lengths of time, and spent less time crafting policy were more likely to enact ALEC [American Legislative Exchange Council] model bills.”
  • Rep. Terry Brown (D-84) argued that having a job in the legislature and another job outside the legislature would create a conflict of interests. A legislator who is also a teacher, for example, would not want to vote to cut education, just as a businessperson would not want to increase the state's business tax.[12]
  • Opponents argued that a part-time and lower-compensated legislature would discourage middle-class and lower-class people from running for office.[15]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing the initiative process in Michigan

The proposed initiated constitutional amendment was filed with the Michigan Department of State's Bureau of Elections and was approved for circulation on February 6, 2014. Supporters were required to gather 322,609 signatures and submit them by July 7, 2014.

See also

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External links

Support

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 MLive, "Committee to 'restore Michigan's part-time Legislature' submits proposed ballot language," January 24, 2014
  2. Detroit Free Press, "Push for part-time Legislature proposal for November ballot halted," June 11, 2014
  3. Committee to Restore Michigan's Part-Time Legislature
  4. Press Cloud, "MI Part-time Legislature Effort Organizes All 83 Counties," April 29, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 MLive, "Lt. Gov. Brian Calley reaches out to tea party, backs push for part-time Legislature in Michigan," March 24, 2014
  6. Midland Daily News, "Part-time legislature drive begins," February 28, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Michigan Radio, "Part-time Michigan Legislature could mean more power for bureaucrats and lobbyists," December 13, 2013
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Detroit Free Press, "Henderson & Kaffer: Debating a part-time Legislature for Michigan," February 6, 2014
  9. MLive, "Tim Skubick: Part-time legislature advocates face long shot on getting on November ballot," January 28, 2014
  10. Michigan Secretary of State, "Michigan Committee Statement of Organization," accessed April 28, 2014
  11. MLive, "Petitions for Michigan part-time Legislature approved, backers to begin drive toward ballot," February 6, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Huron Daily Tribune, "Lawmaker has questions about part-time Legislature," February 7, 2014
  13. PR Newswire, "Michigan Chamber of Commerce Opposed to Ballot Proposal That Would Damage Checks and Balances That Protect Michigan Citizens," January 30, 2014
  14. Morning Sun, "Just say 'no' to part-time Legislature," November 29, 2013
  15. Michigan Radio, "Governing Michigan – a part-time job?," January 26, 2014