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End the lame duck embarrassment

We find ourselves greatly ashamed of our local legislators, and the Republican legislators as a whole in this state this month.

These legislators — including our own representatives Lee Chatfield, Triston Cole and senator Wayne Schmidt — took part and are taking part in one of the most divisive and partisan lame duck sessions of state government that we have ever seen. It seems because the state-wide elections for governor, secretary of state, attorney general and propositions one, two and three did not go the way these nakedly partisan politicians wanted, they are having a full-blown temper tantrum and ramming poorly thought-out bills through the government process before a new party takes power in the state’s executive branch next year.

These bills strip power from the executive branch, attempt to rewrite propositions voted on by voters in November and are an all out assault on clean water and the environment in Michigan.

They are bills written by lobbyist and partisans, for lobbyist and partisans. Chatfield, Cole and Schmidt are embracing them with glee. These bills attack the environment that makes Michigan a wonderful place to live and visit, attack our system of government in this state simply because one party did not like the results of the November election and have made our state a mockery on the national stage.

Chatfield, Cole and Schmidt counter these bills are very important and needed — although we fail to understand why a bills that would make it easier to pollute the waters of Michigan — such as one pushed by Cole and another by the term-limited anti-environmental Senator Tom Casperson — are very important and needed for the state. Further, if these bills are so important and needed and good government — as Chatfield, Cole and Schmidt maintain — why shove them through the government in less than a month? And if these legislators can do so much work in less than a month in pushing bills, what have they been doing the rest of the year? Apparently not the people’s business.

Lame duck legislative sessions in Michigan are an embarrassment for the state and a disservice to the voters. It is time the state voters put a stop to them and these partisan power plays that take place during them.

Sure, some Republicans gloat, they have been beneficial in pushing through red-meat partisan policies that are beloved by the base over the past decade. But what if the Republicans are no longer in power in the state legislature? With the redistricting proposal that was passed by the voters in November, there is a very real possibility the state legislature could flip to Democratic control in the near future. And then Democrats will have control during lame duck sessions.

What then, Republicans?

Lame duck needs to end. We have three proposals to consider:

1) Move up the swearing in of newly election politicians to the day after the November election results are certified. This would greatly limit any future lame duck sessions.

2) Following a November election, forbid the state legislature from meeting, except in cases of emergency.

3) Following a November election, allow the legislature to meet, but only in “caretaking mode.” This means they can only do business that would keep the government running — such as paying bills — for the next government to take over. During this time, no new bills may be introduced or voted on.

If our legislators really want to be “for the people” and really want to promote good government and really want to put state over political party, then they should look at ways to end the lame duck sessions that have become a national joke.

— Petoskey News-Review

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