Jul 7, 2007

Legislature extends summer vacation to July 17

Michigan Legislators will be even harder to find until July 17 after the House officially canceled session that was to begin Tuesday of next week.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said late last month that lawmakers should not go on their two-week vacation that was to last until July 17 without resolving big pieces of state government's budget that starts Oct. 1. There was speculation that the governor could try to call a special session of the Legislature if legislators left without addressing a potential $1.6 billion shortfall. Although the budget year does not start until Oct. 1, there are only some 11 session days left this year, and Michigan public schools have already started their fiscal years.

As a compromise, the Legislature agreed to only a one-week break, but this latest news breaks that promise. There was no reason given for canceling next weeks sessions, but apparently Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop’s promise to meet over the break to discuss the budget situation was just more lip service and there was no budget or tax deal to vote on. Bishop’s only motivation seems to make the Governor look bad in his quest for the seat that will be open in three years.

I have not heard any word from the Senate on if they plan to cancel next week’s sessions, and they had next week marked as tentative session days. However, there did not appear to be any serious chance the Republican-controlled Senate would actually meet. Just before the break the Senate passed Senate Resolution 81 that made sure they would not have to come back before the two weeks were over.

According to the Associated Press, SR 81 changed a mechanism known as a call of the Senate, in which legislative leaders can lock lawmakers in the chamber and dispatch state troopers to arrest absent legislators.

Majority Republicans worried that Democratic senators might show up for session during the break and try to order them into session. So they enacted a change Wednesday — along a 20-17 party-line vote — requiring that a majority of all elected senators vote to issue a call of the Senate. Previously, only a majority of senators voting had to support such a move, regardless of whether a quorum of senators was present. The change effectively ensures Democrats will not have enough votes to force their GOP colleagues into session. Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, a Democrat from Battle Creek, criticized the rule change as penalizing Democrats that are "here to do the business of this body, such as balancing the state budget." Schauer says lawmakers should finish work on the budget — including raising taxes — by Saturday.

Perhaps Michigan Liberal will now extend the deadline for its “Michigan Legislature Summer Break Photo Contest.” The contest offers a $50 prize to the best photo of your local obstructionist legislator enjoying his or her vacation instead of working in Lansing to solve our state’s budget crisis. The original deadline was 5 p.m. July 10, but finding them has been harder than trying to find a Republican that cares about working people. Perhaps the deadline will be extended now.

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