News Story

With COVID emergency over, Michigan senator pushes for remote meetings

With a two-seat majority in the House and Senate, Democrats who run Lansing don’t have a vote to spare

In a May 3 letter to colleagues, Sen. Veronica Klinefelt, D-Eastpointe, seeks co-sponsors for a pending bill to allow lawmakers to participate in meetings and votes remotely, from the comfort of their own homes.

Klinefelt cites no reason for this desire to partake remotely. Not the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID emergency was terminated last month by an act of Congress, which President Joe Biden signed. Not fear of climate change spurred by 148 lawmakers and their staffs driving to Lansing three days a week. Not concern of driving over potholed roads, or through construction zones. Nothing.

Read the letter for yourself. It was obtained by the Michigan Freedom Fund, a conservative advocacy organization.

Klinfelt wrote the letter to seek co-sponsors for an amendment to section 3 of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, which requires a “physical quorum” of lawmakers for those lawmakers to take action.

The law reads that public meetings must be “attended in person by every participating member of the public body in a physical place available to the general public.”

That law, and the requirement that bills in Michigan pass with a majority of lawmakers — not just a majority of those present — is why multiple Michigan representatives, all Democrats, have voted this year after testing positive for COVID-19. With only a 56-54 majority in the Michigan House and a 20-18 majority in the Senate, Democrats don’t have a vote to spare.

Under the Klinefelt amendment, “one or more members may attend the meeting remotely and fully participate in all deliberations and decisions that may occur at the meeting.”

This means that, in the absence of any specific emergency, public meetings and even legislative sessions would no longer happen in one room, or even in Lansing. Lawmakers could log on from wherever they may be, for any reason or no reason.

The Michigan Freedom Fund sees the proposal as problematic.

“As Michiganders have returned to work in person, Democrats are finding ways for elected officials to stay home from work and vote from bed”, said spokeswoman Mary Drabik. “Those who hold public office should be held to the highest standard. Therefore, they are expected to show up to work, in person, like the rest of us, and face the public.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Klinefelt had yet to submit the bill.

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.