Michigan lawmakers get 'adult timeout' after fight breaks out on state House floor

Dec 16, 2011

A scuffle between lawmakers interrupted a session of the state House of Representatives yesterday evening. Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta was at the Capitol and reports:

Representative Harvey Santana lunged at fellow Detroit Democrat David Nathan during a heated discussion at Nathan’s desk. State Representative Roy Schmidt got between the two and was knocked about. A staffer was also accidentally pushed to the floor as House security rushed to break up the altercation. Santana was escorted out of the room by the House sergeant at arms, but was later allowed to return to his seat to vote.

"No physical contact was exchanged in the incident that occurred at about 8:45 p.m. as the chamber was winding down after passing a flurry of bills before to the Legislature's holiday break, " the Detroit News reports.

State Representative Schmidt, "had his teeth clenched around a lollipop stick that remained lodged in his mouth through the several seconds of the fracas," Pluta reports. Wood-TV has this statement from Schmidt's spokesman:

"News reports of a 'fist fight' on the House or Floor tonight are greatly over stated. (sic)

Two Democrat Representatives had a difference of opinion that got a little heated. Representative Roy Schmidt, wanting to avert any escalation of the problem, stepped in between the two gentlemen and stopped the argument.

No punches we (sic) ever thrown. The House Sergeants responded immediately and had one of the Reps step outside to cool off while Representative Schmidt returned to his seat."

It's still unclear just what, exactly, the fight was about. Pluta reports that shortly after the scuffle, everyone BUT the lawmakers was ordered off the House floor and House members were confined to their seats under Rule 32.2 of the House of Representatives. Rule 32.2 reads:

The members shall keep their seats until the Majority Floor Leader announces that no further voting will occur or the Presiding Officer announces that the House is adjourned.

This, reportedly, led to discussions in the Capitol lobby that lawmakers were in an "adult time out."

The House finished its work for the year last night.