Michigan Rep: 102nd Legislature is off to a rocky start

Michigan lawmaker bemoans lack of debate, regular order and transparency at Capitol

Last week, the voices of nearly 5 million Michiganders were silenced and ignored as Democrats quickly and quietly voted to impose a tax increase, via House Bill 4001.

The Democratic majority used a conference committee procedure, which avoids any changes or discussion of the bill passed by the committee, to stop a guaranteed income tax cut that would have benefited every taxpayer of our state. Instead, big corporations will receive a windfall while residents will get a measly one-time $180 check, which won’t even cover a tank of gas and a trip to the grocery store for the average Michigan family.

The Democratic majority silenced all opposition and locked duly elected representatives into the House chamber.

Not allowing Republican representatives to stand up for our constituents and debate such an impactful piece of legislation is an insult to taxpayers throughout Michigan and to our legislative process.

The majority’s conduct on House Bill 4001 is easily one of the most shameful things I’ve witnessed in my four years serving in the Legislature.

Over the past four years, bills that were considered controversial were generally moved through the Government Operations Committee. This allowed for transparent review and input before moving the bills to the floor.

Once on the floor, Democrats were allowed to voice their opposition before the House cast a vote.

Over the years, I’ve sat through many a bellowed speech from the minority party. But it was important to do, because my colleagues represent a portion of Michigan’s population, just like me.

In the People’s House, debate and free speech matter. Whether you agree with the representative or not, 90,000 residents sent them to Lansing to be their voice, and those voices always deserve to be heard. In this case, they were silenced.

With the Legislative and executive branches under single-party control, no bills this term have been brought to the House floor that have moved through the committee process.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives marching orders, and Democratic leadership in the House and Senate follow them. Their message to their freshmen lawmakers is clear – we’ll help you by using the budget process to get projects in your district, or we’ll primary you out of office. Back Whitmer, regardless of what your conscience or your constituents want.

The Legislature is an equal branch of the government, not employees of the executive.

We’re off to a very rocky start to the 102nd Legislature, and a good tone is not being set for relationship-building between new representatives who will potentially serve together for the next 12 years.

Memories are long, and it’s going to take a lot of effort to undo the damage caused in these first few weeks. I can only hope that Democrats will return to their districts, hear from constituents during coffee hours, and return to Lansing with cooler heads. We can do a lot of good things if we work together, but that involves dialog, debate and decency.

State Rep. Pauline Wendzel, R-Coloma, serves Michigan’s 39th House District, which includes portions of Berrien, Van Buren, and Allegan counties.

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.