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Michigan GOP lawmaker aims to end lame-duck bill spree

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Chanting demonstrators, including a man wearing duck head and a 'Lame Duck' name tag, jam the second floor of the Rotunda at the Michigan State Capitol building on Tuesday, December 4, 2018, protest legislation being considered in the "Lame Duck" sessions of the House and Senate.

A Lapeer County Republican wants to kill Michigan’s post-election lame duck legislative scramble by prohibiting session days past the November election in even-numbered years.

The resolution for a constitutional amendment by Rep. Gary Howell of North Branch comes after a raucous lame duck session at the end of 2018, when lawmakers considered more than 400 bills in a three-week period. Some of the legislation sought to curb the powers of the incoming Democratic secretary of state, attorney general and governor.

The post-election, lame duck session has long been criticized as a way for term-limited or outgoing legislators to push through controversial legislation with little public input and without the threat of reprisals from the electorate. The post-election sessions, some of which went overnight, were greeted with protests by opponents of controversial GOP legislation. 

"My mother always said, 'Nothing good ever happens after midnight,' and that is definitely true about the Michigan Legislature," Howell said.

Howell is hoping the support of 25 co-sponsors — 13 Democrats and 12 Republicans — will give the effort momentum this year. He introduced the resolution in 2017, but it never received a hearing.

Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, left, confers with Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, during a busy evening Thursday as the senate considers a fIurry of bills on what should be the last day of the "lame duck" session.

“It’s really simple,” Howell said. “We’re elected for two-year terms in the House. We’ve got 24 months to do the public’s business. I see no reason why we can’t do it in 22-and-a-half months and not meet between the November election and Jan. 1.”

Lawmakers have an “ethical obligation” to ensure voters know about a lawmaker’s favored legislation prior to elections and appropriate time to weigh in on legislation if they so desire, he said.

“This is trying to stop legislation that is not given full consideration and not given to the public for full participation,” Howell said. “I think it’s important that the newly elected folks make the decision, not the folks leaving.”

Lapeer County Road Commission Chairman Gary Howell was winning big Tuesday night for former state rep Todd Courser’s seat.

Howell’s proposed constitutional amendment would go before voters in 2020 if the House and Senate approve it. 

The bill has been referred to the Government Operations committee, but there is no hearing scheduled yet for the committee.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, was one of 28 co-sponsors for another version of the resolution in 2015. That resolution never received a hearing.


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