Saturday, January 16, 2016

Audacity substitution

Before Christmas I wrote about the Michigan House and its last-minute passage of a bill that skewed the election laws of the state in favor of the GOP. Brian Dickerson's editorial in the Detroit Free Press supplied the details. Last Sunday he was back with the rest of the story.

Senate Bill 571 was approved by the state Senate and was now before the House. It was a 12 page bill that did some minor tweaking of the state's campaign finance laws. At 10 pm on the last session day before the Christmas/New Year break, Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons asked for the bill to be taken up – and she proposed the original bill be gutted and a completely new chunk of legislation be put in its place. Doing it this way meant there was no need for committee hearings, or even much floor debate. The new bill contained 53 pages of goodies for the GOP and its backers.

The method of introduction and the lateness of the hour meant Democrats didn't get a chance to read it, much less amend it, though they were uselessly united against it. It also meant most GOP members didn't have time to read it either and had no real idea what they were approving. Only later did a few regret their vote.

Tim Greimel, House Minority Leader, marveled at the audacity of Lyons' coup and said:
The bill does a lot of things, but mostly it's about increasing the volume of political contributions and making it harder for voters to learn who's contributing. I've talked to thousands of voters about the political process in Michigan, and I've never heard a singe one say we needed more money and less disclosure.
Dickerson, newspaper man that he is, tried to find out who enticed Lyons to pull off her maneuver. Current disclosure laws meant he didn't get very far.

The bill was sent back to the Senate, which quickly passed it. Since they had already passed SB 571 the rules probably limited debate and chances to amend (not that the Dems had any time to offer amendments).

It went to (GOP) Gov. Snyder's desk. He had plenty of time to review the bill. He wasn't under an end of session deadline. And he did take the time. He said there were several aspects of the bill he did not like (though those weren't named in news reports) and he wanted legislators to fix it. Then he signed the nasty thing – throwing away any leverage he might have had in making those changes happen. That was highly irresponsible.

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