Bill allowing lawmakers to intervene in court cases advances in House
Lansing — The full state House will consider a bill allowing the Legislature to intervene in any case to protect the "right or interest" of the state or Legislature, creating what could be competing legal efforts between Michigan’s lawmakers and newly elected Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel.
The House Government Operations committee approved the bill 3-2 Tuesday during a hearing cut short by disruptions and protesters.
GOP Rep. Rob VerHeulen of Walker has denied his bill would supplant the authority of the attorney general, but argued the Legislature needed a voice in the court process where “more and more public policy arguments are being made.”
He said the decision to intervene in a case likely would be made by a majority vote of the House or Senate, though that isn't detailed in the bill. The courts currently can allow the Legislature to weigh in on cases, but judges are not required to do so.
“I don’t think this would be a line item in the budget,” VerHeulen said. “I think it would be somewhat of a unique situation.”
Noting that the attorney general’s office handles 40,000 cases a year and has an annual budget of $100 million, Democratic Rep. Christine Greig of Farmington Hills challenged what she argued was the redundant cost of the policy.
“How can you possibly justify setting up a parallel organization when we already have an attorney general and process in place to take care of these issues?” Greig said.
House Minority Leader Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, also criticized the legislation and questioned the details of how it would be implemented.
"It feels like this is almost an attack on the judiciary more than anyone else," Singh said, suggesting that VerHeulen’s bill implies the judiciary doesn’t have the wisdom to know when the Legislature has standing to intervene.
The bill is one of several introduced by GOP lawmakers that critics say would dilute the power of the incoming Democratic administration. Another Senate bill would shift oversight of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act from the Secretary of State’s Office to a newly proposed “fair political practices commission.”
A similar effort is underway in Wisconsin, where Republican lawmakers are seeking to limit the powers of incoming Democratic officials, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The bills would allow lawmakers to hire private attorneys to replace the attorney general, rein in the governor’s ability to write state rules and curtail his ability to alter public benefits programs.