On May 30 Lt. Gov. Brian Calley announced he will lead an initiative to amend the Michigan constitution. The proposed reforms will change the way the legislature conducts business. Instead of having a year-long session the Legislature will be limited to 90 consecutive days of business.
“Having a full-time year round lawmaking process, it has not only made us an outlier compared to other states, most other states, it led to procrastination, posturing, politics," Calley, an MSU alumnus, said. "Putting off the hard decisions until right before the long breaks that happen throughout the year and or until lame duck."
As a member of the Michigan House of Representatives from 2007-11, Calley proposed a bill that was similar to the initiative. In fact, many of this initiative have been proposed both in the Legislature and on the ballot but they have not gained much support.
For this reason, Calley said he is going straight to the people.
“As you might imagine, when I introduced it into the Legislature itself it didn’t get a lot of support,” Calley said. “The system is designed to protect itself. It will always protect itself from any kind of change. And so this is the sort of thing that has to go, really has to take it to the people to make it happen.”
The opposition believes amending the constitution and creating a part-time Legislature would strengthen the state’s executive branch and weaken checks and balances. This sentiment has been shared by officials from both parties.
Because the legislature is considered the voice of the people some argue that reducing it to part-time would equate to limiting the public’s voice.
Those in favor of this initiative see it differently.
“The executive branch still has to operate and function within the laws, the constitution and the statutory laws, and the statutory laws are passed by the legislature," Calley said. "That doesn’t change when the legislature is out of session or the legislature is in session. The executive branch still has to operate inside of those laws that have been enacted.”
Calley said he believes the checks and balances will not be disrupted due to the initiative.
“To the extent that the executive branch tries to interpret something outside of the context of those laws the check on that is actually the judiciary," Calley said. "And so I don’t think it really does anything to upset the balance of powers between the branches. It simply requires that the legislative body itself takes that 90 or so days that they are in session currently and get them all done instead of spreading it throughout the year.”
Alongside concerns expressed about checks and balances, there has been a debate over possible conflicts of interest if this initiative is passed by voters.
Part of this proposal allows those elected to the Michigan Legislature to hold a position within a private company alongside their public roles. To avoid any outstanding conflicts of interest, the Lieutenant Governor has supported the eventual implementation of rules and laws that would require legislators to disclose their finances. He stated that he is reviewing other states’ practices and will put forth a recommendation on what he thinks would be best for Michigan later this year.
According to a Michigan is one of only three states that do not require personal financial disclosures to run for elected office.
Calley said these disclosures would allow the legislative body to identify conflicts of interest, decide which committee assignments legislators receive and give the voter a more informed picture of who they are voting for.
To appear on the 2018 ballot this initiative will have to compile 315,654 valid signatures. When announcing his support for the initiative, Calley claimed he and volunteers would be knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors, if not a million.
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