Former Legislator Over-the-Top on Lobbyists Lying

Second generation politician says lobbyists can ‘trick somebody into a terrible vote’

Jeff Irwin

Former state Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor complains that under legislative term limits, lobbyists use lawmakers’ limited tenure in office to dupe them about bills. The remarks were contained in a recent edition of the Ann Arbor Observer.

Irwin said, “Lobbyists will lie to a legislator about what something does, or what the impact of it is, or what the bill really says, and trick somebody into a terrible vote.” He added that lobbyists get away with the chicanery because they know that every lawmaker will, before long, be ousted by term limits.

“It doesn’t matter, because the next year that person’s gone, and the lobbyist has a new public servant to hoodwink,” Irwin said in the article.

Irwin also complained about one bill in particular from his freshman year, 2011 House Bill 4361. This was the bill that contained a business tax cut that Gov. Rick Snyder ran on, plus a number of controversial changes to individual tax deductions and exemptions, and the cancellation of income tax cuts that would have gradually lowered the rate to 3.9 percent.

Irwin served six years in the Michigan House, the lifetime limit in that body under a 1992 constitutional amendment that voters approved by a margin of 58.7 to 41.3 percent. His father also served in the House for six terms before the era of term limits.

ForTheRecord says: Lobbyists aren’t allowed inside the House and Senate chambers, and the texts of bills can be read on the internet. Legislators have plenty of independent resources for understanding bills, in addition to input from supporters’ and members of their own caucus. The bill Irwin complained about not liking is an example.

The first version of this bill was introduced and posted online on March 1, 2011. Changes and additions to the bill adopted in legislative committee hearings were described by the House Fiscal Agency in two summaries and one detailed analysis posted online between April 15 and April 27.

The bill was brought before the House for a final vote for passage on April 28, 2011. It passed 56 to 53, with Irwin and every other Democrat voting “no.”