Rachel Maddow has focused on Michigan for some time now, specifically in connection to Public Act 4, more commonly known as the emergency manager law. While I don’t agree with her fully on her reasoning regarding it, she has stumbled onto something very troubling in the state legislature.
The Michigan State Legislature has rules for how it adopts laws and how they come into effect. One stipulation is that laws cannot come into effect until 90 days after the close of the legislative session. This was designed to slow the process down, to give people who didn’t like the law the ability to contest the outcome, appeal decisions, and generally let democracy take its assigned course. This is how an open government works, if it is to work at all.
But, there are exceptions, as there should be. Sometimes you need to have a public act come into effect immediately, as governments must, from time to time, respond to events as they unfold. State governments don’t always have the luxury of waiting and waiting when there’s say, a flood that needs to be dealt with immediately. So, in when there’s an act that passes by a 2/3 majority in either house of the legislature (as provided by Article 4 Section 27 of the Michigan Constitution), a vote can be held that enables the law to take immediate effect. As I stated, this takes a 2/3 vote.
Now, let’s look at the party composition of the Michigan House. There are 63 Republicans and 47 Democrats. A 2/3 majority in this chamber would be 73. Republicans are running the show, and they don’t have the requisite number of votes. But of the 566 bills that the Republican majority there has passed since January of 2011, 546 of them have been passed with immediate effect, even though there doesn’t appear to be the 2/3 majority needed. How are they doing this?
Take a look at this video. In it, towards the last five minutes of it, you see that the Republicans do so by a voice vote. During one such vote portrayed, the House Speaker kept the vote open for three seconds. Basically, Republicans are faking voting results in the State House.
A judge has issues an injunction, and with the media interest in this suddenly picking up, Democrats have suddenly found their backbones, and beginning to resist this Republican onslaught, as they should have 14 months ago. This is the beginning of what could turn out to be an absolute shitshow. If 546 of 566 bills were passed with an immediate effect stipulation, then something’s rotten indeed in the state of Michigan, as the legality of those statutes has suddenly been called into question. Yet another example of the far right in this country not playing by the rules by which the rest of us are obligated to live.