Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville will be out of a job in less than six months, thanks to term limits.
This means his career in elected politics may be over.
And I am beginning to be sorry about that. In the last few months, Richardville, a former Monroe businessman, has evolved into a leader capable of looking beyond a narrow partisan agenda.
The roads are one example.
In past years, he virtually sneered at Governor Snyder’s call for the Legislature to appropriate billions to fix our crumbling roads. This spring, Richardville switched, came up with a creative plan to finance long-term road repair, and made a valiant, if failed effort, to get it through the Legislature.
He said this was because all he heard from his constituents was “just fix the damn roads.” That may be true, but he did see the light when other members of his caucus were bizarrely talking about trying to push through another tax cut instead.
Yesterday, while taping a public television show, Richardville demonstrated further evidence he has grown. For the first time, the Senate majority leader said he would vote to extend Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to sexual orientation.
That would apparently mean legally protecting people from being fired or being discriminated against because they are gay, lesbian or bi or trans-sexual.
“Hatred is a bad thing,” he said.
And he added, “there’s no way that a child, especially, should be bullied or taught to think they are something less than what they are.”
That doesn’t mean that Richardville is likely to achieve any awards as a champion of same-sex rights. Of sexual orientation itself, he was willing to say only “some people say it’s born within them.”
Many members of his caucus wouldn’t even go that far.
Richardville, a Roman Catholic, remains opposed to same-sex marriage, though society is rapidly moving in the other direction. He also must know this is likely to be decided by the courts.
Richardville also hinted that if Governor Snyder vetoed bills banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, he risked an override.
Perhaps most surprising, the majority leader praised the Detroit Free Press’ massive investigation into charter school abuses.
Though charter officials have stonily rejected any criticism, Richardville praised the series, saying “I have real concerns about some of the things that were found out,” and said his staff was preparing legislation to provide more checks and balances.
Richardville’s newfound empathy even extends to state prison inmates. He expressed outrage at the news that maggots had been found in food areas, and said “it doesn’t matter if they are prisoners or who they are. People don’t deserve that kind of treatment.”
My guess is that the officials of Aramark, the private company providing food service at our prisons, better plan on their contract with the state being revoked.
Randy Richardville has clearly learned and grown in office, as lawmakers from Abraham Lincoln to Ronald Reagan have before him. Now, however, he is about to be barred from the Legislature for life.
Which is one more reason that term limits are such a terrible thing.
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.