News Story

Lawmakers Demand Time to Read Bills Before Voting on Them

Two GOP state representatives say they are routinely asked to vote on bills that they haven't had a chance to read, a practice they say they want to stop.

Reps. Justin Amash, R-Cascade, and Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, co-sponsored a joint resolution requiring a 72-hour review period before any bill can be put up for a vote.

"It happens all the time," said Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, of the policy of quick votes with no time to read the legislation. "Everybody is looking at themselves and thinking, 'What in the world is this?' "

The bill requiring a three-day waiting period comes in the wake of the passing of House Bill 5872 last week, which involved allocating $312 million of the federal stimulus plan.

Amash said the Democrat-controlled House introduced the bill and then substituted a different version of it on the floor that was eight pages. The bill passed 90-14 Aug. 25. Agema, Amash and McMillin all voted "no."

"They threw it up and gave us no time to read it," Amash said.

On his Facebook page, Agema posted: "Voted NO on HB 5872 because they gave us no time to read the bill. This bill was not vetted in committee nor on the House floor. It may be a good bill but it's a NO when they dump a bill with no time to read or understand it. The Dem leadership never even made an attempt to explain the new bill."

Abby Rubley, press secretary to House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford, said Democrat Rep. Kathy Angerer told GOP Rep. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell, that the Republicans could have as much time as they needed.

But Hildenbrand said the GOP had no idea that the bill would be up for vote and many Republicans quickly cast a "no" vote in protest of the process and didn't realize they could have asked for more time.

Hildenbrand said he was told the reason for the quick vote was that the Democrats didn't want to deal with a lot of amendments regarding how the money would be spent.

But that flare up is not a rare circumstance.

Several GOP representatives estimated that at least once a week politicians are voting on bills they aren't given a chance to read.

"The legislature's habit of voting on bills with very few legislators knowing the content or consequences of those bills must end," Amash said in a press release. "Voting on legislation with little understanding of it is no way to govern, especially now during the budget process."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.