On the passage of the law, Democrats are in bed with the
Republicans in-so-far as supporting neoliberal policies, their squabbling is a
Republicans Blowing Up Yet Another Norm of Politics
—By Kevin Drum| Sat Apr. 7, 2012 10:05 AM PDT
A couple of days
ago Rachel Maddow highlighted an outrageous abuse of power from Michigan
Republicans. Normally, it takes several months for new state laws to take
effect, but a two-thirds "immediate effect" vote can cause laws to
take effect right away. Lately, however, Republicans
have been jamming through every law this way without bothering to actually get
a two-thirds majority. They
pass the bill, then do a voice vote on immediate effect and quickly announce
that it's been approved. Voila. The bill is law as soon as the governor signs
When I first heard
this, my BS
meter tingled pretty hard. Maddow characterized her story as a scoop, but that
made no sense. I mean, Michigan still has a Democratic Party. If this were a
huge abuse of power, they'd be yelling about it, right? So what's really going
Well, Democrats are yelling about it.
They've filed suit
to halt the practice and demand roll call votes on immediate effect. But that
was just recently, and Republicans have been doing this for over a year. Why
weren't Democrats screaming about this a year ago?
I'm not sure what's
going on here, and what we really need is for some longtime Michigan reporter
to weigh in. None of them seem to have done that yet, though, so here's a crack
at figuring this out. It's not definitive by any stretch, and it's long. Sorry
about that. But here goes.
First off, here's
a paragraph from a Detroit Free Press article
Over the years,
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.
Hmmm. Let's keep
going back in
time. Here's the Michigan Citizen last
May, back when Michigan
Republicans passed a controversial emergency manager bill. It suggests that
Democrats opposed immediate effect, but
didn't really oppose it all that hard:
own rules say they
have a chance, they didn’t try hard enough,” said Henry Teusch, a member of
Hood Research....House Democrats say, however, they didn’t have a chance
against the Republican-led House and Senate.
to House legislators,
there is no written rule mandating a roll call vote on immediate effect of
bills. The Speaker chairing the session can “gavel through” immediate effect,
ignoring a roll call vote. “We
yelled against immediate effect and the Republicans put it through,” said Rep.
Harvey Santana, District 10. “House rule is the decision of the Speaker to
grant or give the vote ... if you control the gavel you control the outcome.”
Let's keep going.
This is from
an editorial in the Michigan Citizen a few months after the vote:
It is time to kick
donkey. ....Earlier this year, Rep.
[John] Olumba recorded his vote against Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager
law, in the House Journal. He also opposed the immediate effect of the EM law
and requested a roll call vote. Although Democrats voted "no" on PA4, they
did not at that time support Olumba's roll call request nor his suggestion to
place their "no" vote in the House Journal. They were saving their
political might to oppose an issue that would, so far, affect Black cities and
This makes it sound
increasingly like this really is a tradition and Democrats simply didn't object
to it very strongly. But wait! Here are a couple of articles from 2007. (From
ProQuest, so no links.) The first is a Detroit News piece
about a difficult tax bill that
passed only because of a deal that required several Democrats and Republicans
in swing districts to vote for it:
And then there's
Anderson of Westland, one of two Senate Democrats voting against both tax
proposals — the other was Dennis Olshove of Warren. Republicans insisted
he vote to give the service tax immediate effect — a motion separate from
the actual tax increase itself. That took 90 extra minutes early Monday.
Anderson, who said
opposes tax increases because his constituents loath them, finally
voted immediate effect for the tax, but only after Republican Sen. Roger Kahn
of Saginaw had done the same. Both
are in Senate districts where the split between political parties is narrow and
an unpopular vote on a big issue could be costly — "vulnerable for
vulnerable," he said Tuesday of his vote strategy.
In this case there
was no quick
gaveling of the question. Several legislators had to be arm-twisted into voting
for immediate effect. Here's another Detroit News piece
about Democratic efforts to move
up their primary date:
With a dozen members
an unusual Monday session day — the first work day after the Thanksgiving
holiday and deer-hunting break — the
House could muster just 61 votes to give the bill immediate effect. That's
13 votes shy of the two-thirds
majority needed...."I think we'll get that (immediate effect) when the
bill comes back to us again from the Senate," said House Speaker Andy
Dillon, D-Redford Township, who decided over the weekend to hold Monday's vote.
Again, no quick
gaveling of the
immediate effect vote.
So what's the story
here? If I
had to guess, I'd say that gaveling through immediate effect is hardly
unprecedented, and Democrats obviously didn't scream very loudly about this
when the emergency manager law was passed last year. At the same time, it's
also not automatic. Big, controversial bills often require a roll call vote for
immediate effect, but Michigan Republicans, imbued with tea party spirit, have
decided to ignore this and use it for every bill they pass.
So in some sense
similar to Republican abuse of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. It's not
outrageous in the sense that Republicans are doing something unprecedented and
anti-democratic. It's outrageous in the sense that they're playing Calvinball:
breaking a norm of governance by taking a tradition that was used occasionally
in the past and turning it into a routine part of party politics. That's something they're pretty good at.
UPDATE: Here's another take from
Eric Baerren of Michigan Liberal, a blog about politics "from a vaguely
leftish point of view." If I'm reading him correctly, he says that (a)
"immediate effect" is nothing new; (b) Democrats used it a lot in the
previous session; (c) but that was because they negotiated compromise bills
with Republicans and actually had two-thirds majorities to gavel them through.
There isn't much
that can be
done about the laws passed last year, when the House Democrats should have
complained loudly and bitterly about the misuse of Immediate Effect. They
didn't, and there's not much to be done about it since the official record
makes it look like a proper tally was taken. Now, however, they're doing the
right thing and pressing for actual vote tallies, which is what I frankly
thought this was all about in the first place (Democrats denied the right to roll
call votes, not some new and breathless conspiracy).
If this is correct,
gaveling through approval of immediate effect is no new thing, but roll call
votes have always been taken if the minority party demands it. That's not
happening this time, and that's what Democrats are complaining about.
2: Jeff Irwin, a Democratic representative
from Michigan's 53rd district, responds to a question about whether Democrats
did this back when they controlled the legislature:
Has this been done
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.
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.