Detroit's in the spotlight, but here are other things happening in the state

Dec 3, 2013

Today, virtually all eyes are on Detroit, where U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes rendered his historic decision this morning. That’s exactly as it should be. There is no more important story in the state right now, and our futures are all tied in with the Motor City. But that’s not the only thing happening.

I always feel uneasy when the media’s attention strays too far from the legislature. That’s a bad idea, for the same reason leaving a two-year-old unattended in the kitchen is a bad idea. There are sharp objects, and they can hurt themselves and others.

Legislators normally don’t like making difficult decisions, even when necessary. Our roads, for example, are falling apart, something that will cost us billions and billions.

We could lower that cost by doing something now, but that would mean raising taxes on somebody, so the lawmakers won’t do it. There are a lot of other critical issues pending.

Republicans in the House desperately want people to look away so they can complete passing a bill that will double the amount the rich can give to their campaigns. Even more importantly, they want to prevent disclosure of which special interests are spending millions secretly to try and influence our elections.

The governor wants to severely limit medical coverage for people drastically injured in car accidents. The state has to find a way to plug a hole in the budget that was created when the lawmakers spitefully refused to give Medicaid expansion immediate effect. Besides hurting a few hundred thousand poor people, that cost the state something like $600 million.

There also a bunch of bills related to the ever-controversial medical marijuana issue. All this stuff is hard and politically risky. So our lawmakers would prefer to do other things instead. For example, road kill.

Yes, you heard that right. Two state senators have a bill to make it easier for drivers to stop, pick up a dead animal, and take it home for such uses as bait, composting and/or eating. I hope you aren’t eating while reading this.

One of the pair, Darwin Booher, from northern west Michigan, noted that dead animals often stay rotting by the road for weeks. That’s true. I once passed the same dead deer every day for five months. But the thought of someone eating it after a few days unnerves me. You say that wouldn’t happen?

Common sense is an uncommon thing. Health department officials feel the same way. To me, what would make sense is giving an appropriate state agency money to pick up roadkill, and put it in a sanitary landfill. However, I suspect some would see this as creeping socialism. 

Meanwhile, another group of lawmakers are trying something even crazier: Roll back the smoking ban, to allow people to smoke in restaurants that allow open-air dining. The chief sponsor of this is Oakland County representative Tom McMillin, who has always represented himself as a crusader for moral issues. Tobacco is, of course, the one legal product which, when used as directed, is likely to kill you.

In any event, to paraphrase Plato, we clearly need to be protected from our guardians. Good luck to all of us with that.

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.