Commentary

Should bipartisanship be celebrated in Michigan?

Gov. Whitmer touts signing of 900th law. Why is this a good thing?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is pivoting into collaboration mode. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer's office leaked to the media evidence of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey's attempt to negotiate with the governor. At the time, Whitmer told Shirkey, the leader of a co-equal branch of government, "Michigan remains in a state of emergency regardless of the actions you decide to take or not take."

The seemingly absolute power granted by "emergency" status had corrupted the team spirit of a governor who won office on the promise of her Lansing experience and bipartisan sensibilities.

Two years later, with Whitmer on the ballot in November, things have changed from the autocratic days of early COVID. Working with lawmakers, even Republicans, is good again.

On Tuesday, Whitmer posted a photo from the signing of her 900th law as governor. For whatever reason, the ceremony was held outdoors. Whitmer sat at a desk and signed the bill as lawmakers gathered 'round. 

"When Republicans & Democrats commit to working across the aisle, we get things done & make real change in Michiganders’ lives - we need more of this bipartisanship nationwide," Whitmer tweeted.

Reality might explain Whitmer's change of heart. Michigan's emergency powers are not as extensive as they were before the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Legislature both sued successfully to fight them.

Emergency or no emergency, Whitmer will have to play well with others to get things done. On signing the 900th law, Whitmer said she hoped to sign "900 more."

With a complaint Republican legislature, one that's found 900 opportunities to meet in the middle with the Democratic governor, that's a possibility. 

Whitmer's tweet was an object lesson in why "bipartisan" is not a synonym for good. That a bill passed with bipartisan support simply means the blue and red wings of the ruling class have signed on. Unless your interests are aligned with theirs, which is unlikely, this doesn't help you. 

It's fair to ask what your government has done for you. Your tax dollars are funding it.

And it's fair to ask government to protect your freedoms. Consider House Bill 4667 of 2021, which would ban vaccine passports from state or local governments in Michigan. It passed in the House last June, but hasn't reached the full Senate for a vote. Seems like a no-brainer.

Meanwhile, an effort to ban the sale of fake urine passed both House and Senate by veto-proof margins, and was quickly signed by Gov. Whitmer.

When trade associations spoke up, and lawmakers acted quickly, with unity. "We, the people" perhaps don't have enough lobbyists in Lansing.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed 900 laws in 3.5 years, with a Republican legislature.

How many, dear reader, have improved your life? 

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. He writes a Sunday column on issues in Michigan government. Email him at dickson@mackinac.org.

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.