Michigan's infrastructure crumbling as lawmakers work to take away your vote on wolves

Aug 13, 2014

  This story was updated at 11:04 am (8/13/14)

As you probably know, the Michigan Legislature has been unwilling to come up with the money to fix our roads.

Michigan’s roads are in bad shape, and some in metro Detroit are going to be in worse shape after Monday night’s horrendous flooding.

That devastation is bound to raise new questions about our aging and inadequate storm drain systems, but don’t look for your lawmakers to do anything about that, either.

That’s because fixing things costs money, and too many of our lawmakers are stubbornly opposed to raising revenue for ideological reasons, or just plain lack the courage to raise taxes.

No matter that doing the state’s business and taking care of legitimate public needs is what they were sent there for. About the best we can expect is that after the November election, they may be able to pass a road bill with the votes of members who are term-limited out and don’t have to face the voters.

However, there are things the Legislature is willing to do.

Among them, apparently, is to take away our right to decide whether wolves should be hunted for fun.

Michigan wolves were an endangered species a few years ago, but thanks to careful conservation and wildlife management, there are now more than six hundred.

They all live in sparsely inhabited regions of the Upper Peninsula, and there is no record of any ever attacking a human being, but some people want to shoot them anyway.

Others think this is outrageous.

Two years ago, they collected signatures for a ballot proposal that would have banned the hunting of wolves.

The Legislature then passed a law to get around that.

So the lawmakers who vote for this today really don't want you to have the right to decide about hunting wolves.

Now, the anti-wolf hunters have another ballot proposal designed to outlaw another wolf hunt like the one last fall, but pro-wolf-killing lawmakers don’t want the people to decide.

They are led by State Sen. Tom Casperson, an Escanaba Republican who had to apologize last year, after lurid stories he told about wolves menacing people turned out to be totally false.

Casperson has absolutely no problem with conservative groups spending vast sums of money, even secret dark money, to elect candidates he likes, but candidly says he wants to prevent the other side from doing the same thing.

“The U.S. Humane Society has a lot of money,” he told a reporter. “I get concerned that they could pour enough money in,” to get their point across.

So today, our lawmakers are expected to vote to sabotage efforts to get an anti-wolf hunting law on the ballot. Some pro-hunting groups also collected signatures to continue to allow wolves to be hunted. The Legislature is expected to approve it.

So the lawmakers who vote for this today really don’t want you to have the right to decide about hunting wolves.

And by the way – these are the same people who refuse to fix our roads. Officially, we have representative democracy.

I’d be curious to know what you might call it.

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.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this commentary said lawmakers could add an appropriation to this bill to make it referendum proof. The proposal already contains an appropriation.