The question of Michigan House Republicans’ illegal passage of hundreds of bills will likely be decided by the courts, but in the meantime, this story is about to go national. At issue is the Republicans use of the immediate effect provision of the state constitution. This is related to the
lawsuit filed by Michigan House Democrats which resulted in a court injunction requiring the majority House Republicans to honor House Democrats requests for roll call votes. A request that has been repeatedly ignored by the Republicans since they took over the statehouse in 2010.
The story has been the big buzz on Twitter all day, after Rachel Maddow’s segment on it last night, which you can watch in its entirety here. Ironically, the case centers on modification made decades ago to the state constitution under a task force that was headed by George Romney before he became governor.
The modifications set out a timetable for when laws passed by the legislature could take effect. It purposely established a lenghty waiting period, except for emergencies. There is an immediate effect clause in the constitution that allows the waiting period to be waived and this is where it gets interesting. The immediate effect clause can only be triggered with a 2/3 majority vote. While Republicans do have a bare majority, they do not hold 2/3 of the House, yet they have passed 546 out of 566 bills using the immediate effect clause. They accomplished this by claiming a 2/3 majority but apparently never allowing a roll call prove they actually had the required number of votes to back up that claim. You can watch this happen in real life in the video starting at about the 12:30 mark.
This is how they rammed through the Emergency Financial Manager bill, prevented grad students from unionizing and stripped health insurance benefits from domestic partners, the last one being signed into law just before Christmas.
The Republicans immediately appealed the injunction, and are being represented by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, presumably on the taxpayer’s dime. I wonder how it’s legally allowed for a state AG to favor one political party over another in a court action where the issue is possible illegal conduct in the course of governance? I understand the Democrats are paying for their side of the lawsuit out of their own pockets.
Even more bizarre, the Republicans, again being represented by Michigan’s AG who should be representing the interests of all the state’s citizens, are claiming judicial overreach in the injunction. Perhaps they’re so used to running roughshod over the rule of law, they’ve forgotten the purpose of of the judicial system is to prevent, and punish, illegal conduct. Which is what they’re accused of in the complaint. Or perhaps, since they’ve already virtually destroyed local democracy via the EFM law, they believe the courts should be abolished too so they can just do whatever they darn well please?
Can’t think of any other reason they wouldn’t want to prove their case within the normal judicial process, under the rules of law that served us well for so many years before they took charge of the state.