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Finley: Snyder should veto Legislature's power grab

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Legislative Republicans used the lame-duck session to push the limits of their constitutional authority. Gov. Rick Snyder should use his veto pen to keep policymaking in its proper lane.

Two bills that would have expanded the power of lawmakers and weakened that of other elected officials have already died — one failed to clear a vote and the other was vetoed — but two more remain.

Snyder has not said what he'll do with a bill to allow the Legislature to meddle in lawsuits involving the state, or another to limit the executive branch's ability to protect Michigan's environment. 

He should stack them in the veto hopper.

There's no way to disguise the first bill as anything other than an attempt to hamstring Dana Nessel, the incoming Democratic attorney general.

Nessel said on the campaign trail that she would not feel obligated to defend a state law she deems unconstitutional.

So Republicans passed a bill that basically says, if she won't, they will.

They gave themselves the power to intervene in a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a state law, or the validity of legislation or legislative action.

The bill was watered down from its original version in hopes of winning Snyder's approval, and now specifically states that it doesn't restrict any duty or power of the attorney general.

But it does set up a "too many cooks in the kitchen scenario." The attorney general is the state's lawyer. And it is the attorney general who should represent the state in court. 

Adherence to separation of powers demands that lawmakers butt out of the elected attorney general's exercise of her constitutional duties.

A companion bill that would have restricted the secretary of state's authority over elections and given lawmakers more oversight of that office did not make it out of lame duck. That, too, was a victory for the constitution.

Also before the governor is a bill that would prevent Michigan from imposing environmental rules that are stricter than federal requirements. It is an affront to Federalism.

GOP lawmakers worry that a Democratic governor will force land use and air and water quality rules that will hurt Michigan's economic competitiveness. And incoming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer may do just that. Too bad, so sad. Voters knew what they were getting when they voted for her.

The bill would, in effect, allow the federal government to dictate how Michigan protects its environment. 

This state should have the flexibility always to do what's best for its citizens. 

Losing the top three statewide elected offices was a bitter pill for Republicans. 

But they should not get to turn their loss into a partial victory by limiting the ability of incoming Democrats to do their jobs.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder gives an exit interview to editorial board and reporters of The Detroit News in the Tony Snow conference room at the newspaper office in downtown Detroit on Friday, December 7, 2018.

Changing the rules in lame duck to continue a measure of Republican control over those offices is a shady bit of business.

Snyder has already vetoed a bill that would have altered the role of the state auditor general.

He should deep-six these two bills as well and send a message that elections do indeed have consequences. When voters toss the rascals out, they expect them to stay out.

Catch “The Nolan Finley Show” weekdays 7-9 a.m. on 910 AM Superstation.