Lennox: Full-time Legislature is not Michigan’s problem
It’s doubtful that making the Legislature part-time will do anything but make the situation in Lansing even worse. Limiting the number of days members of the House of Representatives and Senate can sit in session would be great for everyone except the people.
The governor, regardless of the incumbent or political party, would essentially be allowed to govern without any check on the executive branch’s power. At least that would be the case when the Legislature was between sittings.
The same would be true for the civil service, who are already too powerful in this era of term limits when shrewd bureaucrats confuse legislators. This is to say nothing of the gubernatorial appointees who nominally run state departments and agencies, but often lack the clout and secondary appointments to effectively control the machinery of state government.
Making the people’s voice in state government part-time would only disenfranchise everyday Michiganians, who depend on their legislator to be their voice in the halls of government.
Notwithstanding an eight-time felon serving on the House Criminal Justice Committee last session and the more recent scandals involving gun violence, gross indecency and inappropriate behavior, one must defend the people’s voice as a co-equal branch of state government.
Let’s not forget the last time a reactionary change to the constitutional arrangement of state government was put forth. The year was 1992 and voters reacted to a wave of anti-government, anti-political class sentiment by passing a statewide ballot question that imposed some of the toughest term limits in all of the country.
This populist reform was supposed to open up the halls of government to Jane and Joe Michiganian while also throwing out the bums, despite the fact that for all of its problems Lansing was and is much cleaner and less corrupt than many other state governments.
The endless turnover in the occupants of legislative seats hasn’t given the people an effective voice because by the time a legislator gains sufficient experience and knowledge it’s time for them to vacate their constituency for a new senator or representative.
The real discussion needs to be term limits, the value of the public service provided by legislators and who we Michiganians actually elect to the Legislature.
Dennis Lennox, freelance columnist