Thanks to everyone who came out to our PEG Speaker Series event discussing the Michigan Lame Duck session this past Sunday! Special thanks to our panelists Representative Yousef Rabhi, Samuel Bagenstos, and Rena Basch from Voters – Not Politicians!
If you missed it, here is a summary of the event written by our own Ellen!
At the well-attended PEG talk on Sunday, January 20, the three panelists—State Rep. Yousef Rabhi, Voters Not Politician representative Rena Basch and University of Michigan Law Professor Sam Bagenstos—decried the legislation the Republican-dominated State Houses pressed forward in their Lame Duck Session.
Yousef Rabhi began the discussion, admitting there was little he could do as a Democrat when Republican leadership passed hundreds of bills behind closed doors in the final weeks of the congressional session. His main contribution, he feels, was keeping the electorate informed of these happenings through live streaming. And in the end, activist citizens and organizations did make a difference through their protests and letters, mitigating some extreme legislation.
Much of this last minute legislation is unconstitutional, says Sam Bagenstos, and will be challenged in court. Examples of such Lame Duck legislation were the gutting of the Fair Wage Act and Paid Sick Leave, which the legislature itself passed earlier in the session (so it wouldn’t go to a ballot initiative when it would have been harder to gut). Although Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette gave his blessing to such legislative malfeasance, former Attorney General Frank Kelly abhorred such activity so it will be left to the Michigan Supreme Court to side with one of them or the other.
According to Rena Basch, the new legislation (PA 608-2018) which makes citizen ballot initiatives more difficult to execute is undoubtedly unconstitutional and will be challenged in court. Sadly, in her view, it represents Republican legislators’ “animosity to citizens in their efforts to direct democracy.”
Michigan is one of only eight states that have Lame Duck sessions. Ultimately, the Michigan electorate will have to redress this situation that Rabhi calls neither “functional nor democratic” through a constitutional amendment. In the end, Rabhi even felt sorry for Republican Governor Snyder who had five days to evaluate about 400 bills.
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