Could it really be possible that 96% of the legislation passed by Michigan Republicans over the last year was implemented illegally?

According to Rachel Maddow 544 laws passed by the Republicans under Snyder have likely been rushed into implementation in violation of state law.

Someone correct me if I got any of this wrong, but here’s the gist of what I heard…

Historically, there’s always been a lag in Michigan between the time when a law is passed, and when it goes into effect. At the very least, it’s three months, but, depending on when a law is passed during the legislative cycle, it could be as many as fifteen months. This is done so that opponents have an opportunity to mount challenges, and the like, before bills go into effect. There is a way around this, however. It’s called “immediate effect,” and it requires a two-thirds majority vote from the legislature. This was intended to be used in rare instances of emergency, when it was absolutely necessary for the state government to act quickly, like in order to respond to a natural disaster. Well, since Snyder took office, the “immediate effect” provision has been invoked 546 times. (A total of 566 bills have been passed by the Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, as well as the Governor’s office, and 96% of them have been immediately made law under the rules of “immediate effect”.) The only only problem is, the Republicans don’t have a 2/3 majority in the Michigan House. And, as no Democrats have been voting with them, that means these 546 bills that were passed and rushed into law shouldn’t have been. This means, among other things, that the law that stripped domestic partner benefits from state employees, shouldn’t have technically gone into effect. And, apparently, no one has figured this out until now… Assuming Maddow is right on this, the ramifications could be enormous.

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As pissed as I am at the Republicans for exploiting a loophole (illegally) to essentially invalidate one of the checks and balances that had existed for decades in Michigan law, I think I’m more pissed at the Democrats for not having caught on quicker that Republicans didn’t have the votes necessary to invoke “immediate effect.” Why did it take 544 bills to pass before someone brought up the fact that they Republicans didn’t have a two-thirds majority?

[note: No one is suggesting that the the bills passed illegally. They just went into effect illegally.]

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  1. anonymous
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Maddow updated the story tonight, and said that more will coming on Monday.

  2. anonymous
    Posted April 6, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Maddow also has links to relevant documents on her blog.

  3. Posted April 7, 2012 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    The next time I hear a Republican talk of “Democrats ramming legislation through Congress,” I’ll puke.

  4. Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    State and local governments are the most corrupt and autocratic of all.

  5. Jim
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

    According to the Free Press, over the years both parties have passed laws with immediate effect without recording a roll call vote.

    I suspect that the reason that the Democrats have objected now rather than last year is that they want to prevent the Republicans from passing any laws this session that will affect this year’s election.

  6. Posted April 7, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    From talking to a Dem House member, it sounds like they’ve been making procedural attempts to demand roll call votes on the immediate effect issue, to no avail, so the lawsuit on it is the next step. (From a legal perspective, they likely had to “exhaust all remedies” internally before going to the court for an injunction, in order to show that action by the court was appropriate and timely.)

    While Rachel Maddow apparently is calling this “the most radical thing Republicans have done anywhere in the country”, The Detroit News comments,

    Over the years, as majority control shifted back and forth, both political parties in the state House have ordered immediate effect for legislation without recording a roll call vote. Because immediate effect requires a two-thirds vote majority the practice has often frustrated efforts by the minority party to slow down legislation they oppose.

    I don’t have the data to know whether it’s happening more frequently now than in past legislative sessions.

  7. Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Mark, thanks for bringing up this important issue. As one of the plaintiffs in the suit against the Speaker, I am obviously very frustrated with the willful disregard my Republican colleagues have for our Constitution and the important limits that our Constitution put on the legislature. I know they have the votes to pass terrible legislation. I also know that they don’t have the 2/3rds majority required by the Constitution for passing terrible laws that go into effect immediately.

    The Constitution seems pretty clear and the Republican’s argument is extremely weak. Here’s a summary and I would encourage you to look at the actual language:

    – The Michigan Constitution, Article 4, S 18 says that the yeas and nays shall be recorded in the official record at the request of one-fifth of the members. We’ve requested roll call votes several times in writing and on the floor. Exhausting those reasonable means took some time and a lawsuit was our last resort.

    – Article 4, S 16 says that each chamber can set it’s own rules except as otherwise provided in the Constitution.

    Our argument is that Michigan House Republicans have ignored our requests for an accounting of the votes under the terms provided by the state’s Constitution. Their argument is that the House can set it’s own rules and that one of our rules is that the Speaker has to call on you in order to make a proper motion. Since they have never called on us at the proper time and since they are never obligated to call on us whatsoever, there has been and could be no Constitutional violations. In effect, they’re arguing that House rules can be used to subvert or nullify Constitutional provisions.

    To me, it could not be more clear that this is unjust. The people of our state voted for a Constitution that put certain limits on the power of the legislature. One of those important limitations is the 2/3rd super-majority required for immediate changes to the law. This sort of limitation on the power of the state is a core principle of American government that transcends partisanship. My hope is that the courts will recognize the fundamentals of the argument rather than the partisanship of the combatants.

  8. Posted April 7, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Has this been done before. Yes. Violating the clear terms of the Constitution has become commonplace in the Michigan House of Representatives. The big difference now is that since the Senate follows the Constitution, there was always one chamber where immediate effect votes would be counted and extremely divisive bills would not earn immediate effect in the Senate.

    Today, Michigan Republicans have a 2/3rds majority in the Senate as well as a simple majority in the House. Therefore, House procedure has a real impact on important issues and these procedural shenanigans have been used to cut children off of welfare and gay families off of health benefits, all with no meaningful time to plan a transition (for example).

    Another difference that is important to me is that I’m new to the Michigan House and I’ve always thought this practice of declaring votes successful without any actual voting is bogus.

  9. Jim
    Posted April 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Thank you, Jeff, for the explanation!

    Kevin Drum just posted this:

  10. Posted April 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Art/Assembly at the Water Street field today at 3 p.m.

  11. Edward
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    From NPR:

    LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has stayed a temporary restraining order that favored Democrats in a procedural spat with House Republicans.

    Ingham County Circuit Judge Clinton Canady III last week issued the order aimed at ensuring Republicans follow certain procedures when granting what is called “immediate effect” to bills approved by lawmakers.

    That status determines how quickly a new law kicks in once signed by the governor.

    Republicans say the ruling was an overreach and that they follow House rules. The appeals court says it will handle all further proceedings involving the lawsuit.

    The case could affect how quickly two Michigan laws take effect. One bans unionization of graduate student research assistants at public universities, and the other bans public schools from deducting union dues from employee paychecks.

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