The House and Senate convened for the first time since July this week and lawmakers are split along party lines as to how that time has best been spent.
With the Senate meeting Tuesday, Sept. 20, and the House on Wednesday, Sept. 21, it’s believed the last day of session to occur prior to the November midterms will be next week on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Should that hold true, that day will be the last chance for lawmakers to bring bills across the finish line until nearly the start of December.
The Michigan Senate had a full legislative agenda for Sept. 20 – the first session day back in Lansing since July, 1. The day ran with committee meetings from the morning until late afternoon, and a slew of bills were heard during a four-hour long session.
Dream. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, felt his week back in the legislature was productive, but that there is a lot more that he’d like to see done. He mentioned education reform legislation and a bill package on government transparency and ethics he sponsored that he would like to see pushed through.
“A lot of things that I know we won’t get done without a lot more days, but I also know that the chances of getting those things done even if I had 100 more days are pretty low as well,” McBroom said.
With such limited time in the legislature before the end of the year, Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, told reporters that he felt some issues being put forth by Republicans was an “unnecessary” use of Tuesday’s session.
He specifically pointed to a resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, to condemn the Michigan Department of Education teacher training videos on gender and sexual orientation. Ananich called the resolution damaging to LGBTQ kids and teachers alike.
After hearing arguments from Republicans and Democrats, the resolution quickly passed through the Republican majority.
“There seems to be a lot of attempt to target these kids in particular schools and try to cast out some parents minds about the quality of education,” Ananich said. “I don’t think that was a useful use of our time today.”
Shirkey was scheduled to speak with reporters after the session, but a member of his team told the waiting media that the senator went “off-sight” for a meeting with the party’s gubernatorial candidate and was unable to return in time.
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In the House, the story was similar, with lawmakers in session for the first time on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The agenda set for the day was moderate in length, though an abrupt 23-bill package – the remaining portion of a 30-bill package looking to curb the state’s emergency powers – was called to the floor around 5:30 pm leading to a near-6-hour session day.
The flurry of late-afternoon legislating lead for House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, to tell MLive on Sept. 21 that this was “not a demonstration of government with integrity.”
Much like in the Senate, the early part of the week was packed with committee meetings each devoted to taking up a handful of bills.
“We saw committees post with the minimum notice required,” Lasinski said. “We saw committee agendas change during committee, with the bills that were being considered … What concerns me is we only have one more day that’s been forecasted to us.”
That day is Sept. 28, when both the House and Senate are expected to both meet for the first time since the start of July. Lawmakers speaking on background to MLive said they are already anticipating a lengthy day – potentially made lengthier by an appropriations move.
The end of the state’s fiscal year is Sept. 30, meaning lawmakers must finish balancing the budget by or before that date.
“We have real work to do for the people in Michigan … We need to make sure we are open for business, to make sure all of our working families have jobs that ensure that they can take care of their families’ needs,” Lasinski said following House session. “And so, we’re here to do the real work. The Republicans control the agenda. And today? No real work was done. “
Republicans, however, are calling foul at the depiction of the Legislature’s work, with many saying just as important work occurs outside the chamber’s walls.
Rep. John Roth, R-Traverse City, said Democrats’ depictions of a legislature on vacation were “definitely not true” but did acknowledge that he “wished we’d been in session a little bit more.”
He took issue with Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to attach amendments to bills late Wednesday night regarding abortion – as well as moves to tie-bar legislation about the economy to other bills on the floor which had nothing to do with the topic – calling the effort political gamesmanship.
“If we’re just going to play games for the next month, I can see where leadership may not be excited to do much. … I think after the election, hopefully, partisanship will die down some and we’ll do some good work, ”Roth said.
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Rep. Carol Glanville, D-Walker, also evoked the phrase of political gamesmanship to MLive but said that it was Republicans looking to “line up legislation that they think will benefit them without giving any any of the small-D democracy process.”
She said she was ultimately frustrated with the way things have played out so far this year, attributing a lack of session to campaign season.
“It’s a disservice to the people of Michigan that we’re not meeting in committees or not in conversations and negotiations,” Glanville said. “Certainly, we’re doing all that we can in our limited space in-district. … I’m still meeting with constituents and things like that, but the work that needs to get done around think like auto no-fault and inflation relief with the MI Pocketbook Plan that we’re working on in the House – we just can ‘ t get it done. “
To the idea that only work could get done through committee or session days, Rep. Graham Filler, R-Greenbush Township, said he couldn’t disagree more. During time outside of session, Filler said he’d been “remarkably busy with policy development, stakeholder meetings, community meetings throughout mid-Michigan.”
Like Roth, he too acknowledged that there needed to be a “balance of session and non-session time,” but said he felt the legislature had been active this year, remarking: “Quantity and quality is all in the eye of the beholder. “
As for session work, Filler said sometimes he felt like the time was misused and that he could get more work done outside of the chamber.
“Whatever someone wants to say about session days – I’ve been working on non-session days… I’m busy,” Filler said. “I’m fully engaged and am busy doing all the things you’re fully expected to do as a state representative.”
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