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Legislators Are Making Fools Of Michigan Citizens

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We're chumps. 


Rubes who get played over and over but never learn to avoid the trick.

In the Michigan Legislature, we have endowed a group of lawmakers so craven and self-interested that they kick the most important decisions back to us while acting zealously on a series of meaningless and bizarre ideological measures.

Road funding? We'll have to decide how to do that in an expensive election held too late to get things rolling for the upcoming construction season. Better set aside more money for car repairs next spring.

Charter school reform? Improvements to make teacher evaluations based on more than test scores? Sorry, maybe next year.

Sentencing reforms that could stop Michigan's foolish overspending on prisons? Forget it.

Lawmakers, after a a marathon end to lame duck, slunk out of town for the holidays last week without making Michigan much better on any front. But take heart: They spent a lot of time wrangling over a pointless carve-out for religious bigotry in answer to a call for same-sex equality. They talked about a law to prohibit "coerced abortions," whatever the hell those are.

They debated a measure to stop cities from passing ordinances that would ensure development projects include community benefits. And, yes, they passed a law prohibiting college football players from unionizing. We can all sleep soundly knowing that scourge has been foiled.

This is all our fault, too. And by "our" I mean all of us, Democrat and Republican, rich and poor, Upper and Lower Peninsula.

It's not just that we keep selecting representatives poorly, it's that we've allowed the structure of our government to be hijacked and set up so that it doesn't really matter who we elect. The outcome will nearly always be the same.

There are two pretty big drivers of that co-optation, as I see it: term limits and the partisan redistricting exercise we allow on a decennial basis. Together, they incentivize small, short-term thinking and make it difficult to develop leaders who make tough choices that aren't about ideology.

Voters the limited ones

Term limits may be the worst of our problems. I've never been a fan of the concept. At its best, term limits are a short cut to democratic thinking and responsible voter behavior. We don't need a fail-safe to prevent lifetime, low-yield lawmakers. The vote itself is the best weapon against that.

But Michigan's iteration of term limits has been particularly obnoxious because, in addition to robbing us of the possibility of strong long-term legislators, it has handed an alarming amount of power to special-interest groups whose lobbyists are now Lansing's longest-serving tenants. They know the issues. They know the history. And legislators who come and go over a few cycles are not much match for them.

The irony of term limits is one of the things that makes us suckers, too. They were passed in a haze of populism and a heated notion of throwing the bums out. Term limits were supposed to embolden legislators to make tougher choices because they didn't fear long-term needs for re-election.

But because they're around for such a short time, they're also more in need of quick money (from lobbyists) and less likely to think long term because they won't be around for the consequences of their actions. Term limits have had the opposite intended effect, yet nearly any effort to modify or nullify them gets shouted down by the same populist cries that ushered them in. Time to learn from our mistakes, don't you think?

We have no choice

Partisan redistricting also makes our Legislature dysfunctional, because it effectively eliminates competitive seats and assures that voters have narrowly defined choices. It doesn't matter, really, that Republicans are in charge in Michigan. They've drawn Democratic seats as safely as they've drawn their own.

But the effect is horrible. It makes too many legislators more ideological, because they fear challenges from the extremist wings of their parties if they veer too close to the center. And it prevents the kind of magnanimous lawmaking we used to see from legislators who represented "swing" districts, where they could take controversial stands but still survive voter backlash.

Redistricting nearly assures that voters of all stripes have fewer real choices. And yet, when the idea of snatching this duty from the Legislature comes up, partisan self-interests dismiss it immediately. And voters never push back hard enough.

When I lived in Kentucky 20 years ago and worked for the newspaper in Lexington, I spent a lot of time out in the eastern part of the state, the coal counties where deep intergenerational poverty and isolation choke all kinds of social and cultural progress.

The political culture there was notoriously corrupt, often in spectacular ways, but the people who lived there rarely demanded that things change. They kept things the way they were, and politicians kept taking advantage, while delivering awful governance. The roads were bad. The schools were failing. The environment and human safety were sacrificial lambs to industry unrestrained by decent regulation.

Nothing got done because legislators never felt obligated to serve the people who elected them. And the people never forced anything different.

Today in Michigan, I'm hard-pressed to draw too many significant distinctions between what I saw in Kentucky and what I'm witnessing here. Can't find differences in form, substance or outcome.

As the suckers who allow this, I'm not sure we deserve any better than what we're getting.



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"republican led house and senate"

"republicans and democrats both suck"


well... if you say so newspaper man.


wait, this is a "term limits are bad" editorial?!?!?!?!#?!$$



so you want the people who couldnt get anything done this year, to be in power forever?

the same people who spent time on coerced abortions, religious freedom (an actual us constitutional right), and not fixing the roads. not to mention the same people who spend time praying before every meeting of their government meetings? cant you just pray once a week or something? i think they call it church...


yeah, lets let those guys be in power forever. whats the worst that could happen.



Edited by t-pain
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Term limits are problematic and saying lobbyists run government is no different than before term limits.


What happens is the STAFF for the parties members run government. Same people over and over again, moving from office to office, year after year,.. influencing bill after bill,  touting the party line for their revolving door representatives.


Our term limits are too short though.  I will meet people in the middle on it  and say 2 more terms for house, one more term for senate.  It would resolve a lot of issues honestly.


 But, Republicans are 100% responsible for Michigan government, and pretty much so for years now.  Ya don't like something? Blame republicans.  Democrats have zero power and can do absolutely nothing.



 Ya know, the republicans are so morally bankrupt now, they passed a law to lower standards and penalties for abusing horses.  I mean really?  They have truthfully allowed for beating a dead horse!




 Fukn republican losers.  If you vote republican at this point and time you are a moron and the problem.  :-)  That means you support Rick Jones. That means you support Bouchard. Meekof.  Etc.  STOP!!!... FFS quit voting republican.

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