Thank God the Michigan Legislature is spending time passing laws about beaver traps

Jun 12, 2014

It is not exactly true that the Michigan Legislature can’t get anything done.

For example, our lawmakers did pass a bill to allow a fur dealer to hold a license to trap beaver.

Don’t you feel better about that? The governor signed it yesterday.

On the down side, they completely failed to get done the voters' most important priority, fixing our terrible roads.

You see, fixing the roads would cost money.

It would also require making hard choices, which many elected officials seem allergic to, especially in an election year.   

Some of our lawmakers seem dead set against raising any taxes, even though polls have shown this is the one thing voters are willing to pay for. Some can’t see past their narrow ideological blinders enough to simply get the job done.

Some seem more interested in making the other side look bad, and some may have sold out to special interests.

Take State Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, for example. His district is in the Upper Peninsula. He happens to be the proud author of the beaver trapping bill. However, what he was willing to do for the fur traders, he wasn’t willing to do for Michigan roads.

Casperson helped kill a bill that would have increased registration fees on those huge overweight trucks that have been doing the most damage.

Casperson helped kill a bill that would have increased registration fees on those huge overweight trucks that have been doing the most damage.

As Sen. Morris Hood, D-Detroit, said, “our constituents are tired of big trucks tearing up their roads. Addressing this has to be part of the equation.”

But to that, Casperson made the astonishingly irrelevant comment:

“I don’t know anyone out there trying to destroy anything.”

He added:

“We are not going to fix this by singling out one single industry.”

I wonder if he feels that way about illegal drug cartels.

You do have to give some credit to Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, who does seem to have discovered that there is such a thing as the public good.

He proposed a road funding plan which, while not perfect, would have come up with most of the money the roads desperately need, mainly by increasing the tax on gasoline.

However, common sense is extremely uncommon in his caucus, and some Democrats didn’t seem to have a lot either.

In the end, after vote after vote, they accomplished nothing, and the night ended in the wee hours with Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, ranting away at the governor.

Now, the lawmakers still could accomplish something today.

Sometimes, as I was reminded by a blog post this week, everybody thinks a bill is dead, and then the corpse winks.

By the way, this is apparently the last day our lawmakers could get this done, because they need to go on vacation and campaign for the reelection so many don’t deserve.

If I was hopelessly naïve, I might suggest they stay on the job until they get the people’s business, what they are being paid to do, done. But that would be so unsophisticated.

By the way, if you don’t like the way this all works, I have worse news for you. They’ve called off the petition drive to move to a part-time legislature. For the foreseeable future, our allegedly full-time, frequently dysfunctional Legislature is here to stay.

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.