Sep 8, 2008

State Democratic chair in Howell to talk about sweeping RMGN

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer will be in downtown Howell at 7 p.m. Tuesday to speak about the ballot proposal called “Reform Michigan Government Now.”

He will be at the beautiful and historic Howell Opera House, 123 W. Grand River Ave. The event includes an appetizer and dessert buffet for a suggested donation of $15 per person.

The sweeping RMGN will amend the Michigan Constitution, and it will fundamentally change Michigan government. To name just a few of the many complex changes, it cuts the Supreme Court Justices to five members, from seven, reduces the Court of Appeals by seven members and adds 10 circuit court judges. The House would be cut to 82 members from the current 110 and the Senate to 28 from 38 and half of the Senate seats would be decided at each election.

New reapportionment requirements would be established, including the creation of at least four Senate and nine House swing districts in an attempt to produce more competitive elections; districts would be drawn by a nine-member commission, with six votes required to approve any plan; it would not be subject to change or repeal by voters, the legislative or executive branches and judicial review would be limited. Elections would be overseen by an autonomous nonpartisan.

Some of these things I support without question, like the some the things in the reapportionment process. Others, I am not so sure. But this is what I do know, each proposal should stand on its own and merit’s a separate ballot question and debate. Instead, we will have voters vote on something they do not understand.

This has been pushed by the Democrats, but apparently not all Democrats were aware of it or involved in the complex process. Supporters are using a few simple lines to sell it. According toe the front page of the web site: The Reform Michigan Government Now! proposal will:

“Reduce the salaries of executive branch officials, legislators and judges
End free lifetime health care for lawmakers and bring their retirement benefits in line with other state workers.”

Now, who can be against that? Well, me for one. If you want the best, smartest and most able people to represent you then you have to pay them an attractive salary. But that small blurb sells this complex proposal to people who are still upset over last year’s budget process.

It appears unlikely this will even make it on the ballot. Right-wingers are deadest against it, and they are pulling out all the tricks to stop it. That almost tempts me to vote for it.

It was sent to the Michigan Supreme Court, and that court is so politically biased to the right the proposal will surely lose there. The court would rule on arguments that the Board of State Canvassers should have an opportunity to decide on the ballot language for the proposal before the courts have a say on the issue. One of the arguments opponents of the proposed constitutional amendment is it is too complex to properly boil down to a 100-word summary. If have to agree with that.

The rumor in Lansing is many Democratic lawmakers are upset with the proposal, and they feel they are being hung out to dry and blamed for the some of the problems facing the state.

Now, for full disclosure, I work in a legislative office, but I have always been a strong supporter of representative government. This is not representative government. The rumor is many lawmakers are upset with Brewer, and some chose to skip the state convention on Saturday. Now, I have no idea if that is true or not.

But I was at the convention and I counted a total of 13 state lawmakers out of a total of 75 Democratic state lawmakers. Now, I could have missed a few, and some of the House members in close races took advantage of the beautiful Saturday weather to go door-to-door. But that would still give us a percentage around 20 percent.

I like and have enormous respect for Mr. Brewer, but I don’t understand the reason for this far reaching proposal.

We need a state Constitutional Convention to examine each of these complex issues. Now, as anyone who can tell from reading my blog, I think Republicans are out of touch, irrelevant and bankrupt of ideas. But the fact remains they probably represent more than 40 percent of Michigan residents.

Clearly, they were not at the table when these proposals were drafted. They need to be at the table. Generally, compromise, debate and give-and-take gives us better public policy.


Anonymous said...

"If you want the best, smartest and most able people to represent you then you have to pay them an attractive salary."

Seriously? People don't run for office because of the salary -- especially when most legislators can make more money in the private sector as it stands today.

One needs to look no further than the shutdown of last year to realize that despite having the second-highest-paid legislature in the nation, Michigan isn't exactly attracting the best and brightest to public service.

Communications guru said...

Thanks for the input, anonymous. I agree with you when you say people don't run for office because of the salary, but we want a cross section of people. A person who is making good money but has a lot to offer the state may not be able to run because he has a family to support. Take a guy like Andy Dillon, who is the president of a steel company, so he can make a lot more in the private sector. If we expect to attract high caliber people like that we have to pay them.

The situation with the two hour shutdown was because taxes had been cut for the past 15 years with no corresponding reductions in spending. After cuts in spending the governor had to make from the day she got into office, there were no more cuts other than essential services. Republicans wanted a shutdown.