Commentary: Orgy of lawmaking

Dec 13, 2012

Don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the current lame duck session of the legislature is trying to do about as much as lawmakers normally do in about ten years. Now I am sure that’s an exaggeration, but it doesn’t feel like one.

Consider this. In a single day, the governor and the Republican majority pushed through the most momentous labor legislation in years, taking the once inconceivable step of outlawing the union shop and making Michigan a so-called right to work state.

They aren’t stopping there, however: The governor is going to have to make a decision on four bills, or parts of bills aimed at making it harder for women to get abortions in Michigan.

For the last two years, lots of people have believed that Rick Snyder may be a pro-business fiscal conservative, but that he was really a moderate on social issues. Well, now we are about to find out.

And if that wasn’t enough heavy lifting for a group of lawmakers whose terms are about to expire, they are also about to pass a sweeping new emergency manager law, replacing the one voters rejected in November. We haven’t seen the final bill yet. But one of the differences is that it will apparently contain a financial appropriation, put in there so the citizens can’t again try for a statewide referendum to repeal this law.

You may call this democracy, or you may call it something else. The lawmakers may also try to get personal, meaning business, property tax reform done before they adjourn.

Nobody can say our legislators haven’t been busy, and you may be happy they are finally earning their pay, after a year in which our full-time legislature seemed very frequently on vacation.

But something bothers me about all this major, deal-changing legislation being passed now. Traditionally, lame-duck sessions usually have been pretty tame affairs, called mainly to clean up old business. This one is anything but. What bothers me is that momentous decisions are being made in part by lawmakers who voters turned out of office last month, or who are retiring and will never have to face the voters or the consequences of their actions. It is also clear a lot of this is being done now, because they know they won’t have the votes to do it next month. That also doesn’t seem right.

But that’s how the system works. By the way, in addition to all the high-profile stuff, our lawmakers have been passing a whole slew of fairly sensible bills that are being crowded out of the headlines. So in a spirit of public service, let me tell you that it looks like it is going to again be legal to hunt wolves in the state.

You will also be able to adopt an adult person without your husband or wife being involved. Just don’t ask me to explain.

But it is going to be illegal to find a dead body and not tell the police about it. Matter of fact, you could go to jail for a year.

So whatever else happens, if you are out hunting wolves next year with your adopted buddy, and stumble across a corpse. You’ll know exactly what to do.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.