Saturday, July 4, 2020

Legislative Republicans consider curbing incoming Democrats' powers

November 30, 2018
Dana Nessel takes questions from students in the MSU College of Democrats on Oct. 22, 2018 at Wells Hall. Nessel is running for Michigan attorney general in the upcoming election.
Dana Nessel takes questions from students in the MSU College of Democrats on Oct. 22, 2018 at Wells Hall. Nessel is running for Michigan attorney general in the upcoming election. —
Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

With Democrats winning control of all three state executive offices in the Nov. 6 midterm elections, legislative Republicans have introduced bills to water down Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel and Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson’s powers when they take office in January.

House Bill 6553, introduced by Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, would give both chambers of the Michigan Legislature the ability to intervene in court cases at any stage of the proceedings if they deem it necessary “to protect any right or interest of this state, or of that body.” 

During her campaign, Nessel said she would not defend laws that she viewed as unconstitutional.

Nessel opposes the legislation, according to her spokeswoman, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, who said the bill “appears to be an intentional effort on the part of some legislators to undermine the role of the state’s attorney general.” 

House Speaker Tom Leonard believes the bill is “good government reform that gives the people of Michigan and their elected representatives a bigger voice in issues and discussions that affect statewide policy,” his spokesman Gideon D’Assandro said.

Senate Bills 1250, 1251, and 1252 – introduced by Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Ledge – would create a six-person commission to oversee campaign finance law, shifting that task from the Secretary of State’s office.

The two political parties that receive the most votes in the prior gubernatorial election would each nominate candidates to be placed on the commission, while the governor would appoint three from each party.

Members would serve a maximum of two consecutive four-year terms on the commission. After that, they would be eligible to serve again after a four-year gap.

Candidates for elected office and elected officials would not be allowed on the commission, and commissioners would be banned from making contributions to or soliciting contributions from anyone under the commission’s jurisdiction.

Commissioners would be paid $75 for every day they attend a commission meeting.

Liz Boyd, a spokeswoman for Benson, said in a statement that the bill was an attempt by legislative Republicans “to thwart the will of the voters with bills that ignore their voices, defy history and will make Michigan a national punchline by effectively ending enforcement of the campaign finance laws they are required to abide by.”

Benson clarified during an interview with WJR that she was concerned the commission would end up deadlocked when making decisions, due to an even number of members from both parties.

Both bills were introduced during the Michigan Legislature’s lame-duck period. Other issues being considered during this time included amendments to the minimum wage and paid sick time initiatives they passed in September and a proposed tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac for Line 5. 

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