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Chuck Moss

Chuck Moss

Part Time

June 16, 2017

“Constitutional checks and balances just get in the way; think of the money we’ll save.” Now there’s a winning slogan!

Well, actually we’ve got two guys trying to degrade the legislative branch of our state constitutional system, and both are, coincidentally, running for governor—head of the executive branch. That would be Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Governor Brian Calley and they’re both gunning for the guv spot by promising to radically cut back government power—just not their own.  Cut the executive..? Nope. They’re calling for a part time legislature.

AG Schuette set a platform in a May 24, 2017 Detroit News Op Ed. He calls for giving Michigan “a part-time legislature with a full-time, laser-like focus on policies like public safety, job creation, and education reform, all while saving taxpayers money.”

Not to be outdone, the Lieutenant Governor upped the ante with an announcement at the Mackinaw Policy Conference, allying himself with a group calling itself the Clean Michigan Committee. Calley wants to cut legislators’ pay in half, “about the same as we pay our teachers.”

Clean Michigan supports eliminating lawmaker pension benefits—which have been abolished for years, and eliminating legislative retiree health care—which was ended in the House in 2011. Even more seriously, it would limit legislative sessions to 90 days each year. This would turn the legislature into a simple pro-forma rubber stamp. For who? Take a guess.

This idea is being discussed across the airwaves and social media as an important conservative reform. It’s also being touted as something to appeal to the “Liberty” movement—i.e. libertarian-ish Republicans and straight-out Libertarians. So here’s my question. Ready? Set?

What’s conservative or libertarian about degrading the legislature to concentrate more power in the hands of the executive?

Read that again. Okay, my Conservativey McConservative pals: explain to me how taking out the government branch closest to the people upholds the wisdom of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, or William F. Buckley? Tell me, o Solons of the Starboardside, why giving even more power to the King would make Ronald Reagan sing?

And you Libertarians out there! Yeah, you! You hate all government, and the legislature is government—I get it. But if you want to get rid of government, why eliminate just the part that’s the easiest to change? To concentrate more power in the part of government that is least responsive?

“Least responsive?” What’s that, I say? Do I mean the governor? Actually, I said the executive. And that’s not quite the same thing. You see, we truly have four branches of government. Legislative, judiciary, governor, and administrative. By “administrative,” I mean the permanent, rule-making bureaucracy. The bureaucracy is theoretically subordinate to its elected CEO the governor, but in reality career, civil-service members of the administrative state outlast governor after governor. New brooms get elected, but the same folks man the desks, and real policy is the devil to change.

Term limits exacerbated this fact. Longtime, powerful lawmakers could hold bureaucrats feet to the fire. Today, a representative or senator has a goldfish life compared to the bureaucrat whose tenure lasts decades. Term limits didn’t help lobbyists, who have to build relationships and educate ephemeral electeds. It empowered and emboldened the bureaucrats and their impenetrable empires.

So now we’re supposed to eliminate what’s left of the legislative check and balance upon the administrative state? To give power to a term-limited governor who himself or herself may have limited control over folks who were there long before and will be there long after? At least you know who your reps and senators are, and you can vote ‘em out or recall them. They work for you. (Part time legislature though…who do they work for on their real job? Just askin’.)

But to tell me that the conservative ideal is an executive and it’s virtually impenetrable bureaucracy with no legislature—that’s baloney. Libertarian ideal? I’m laughing. Hey, you want a real conservative or libertarian proposal? How about we get a part-time governor? With part-time state employees in the bureaucracy? Now that’s radical, baby!

Chuck Moss teaches Political Science at Oakland University and serves on the Board of the Regional Transportation Authority. He was elected to represent the 40th District in the Michigan House and was appointed Chairman of the all-important Appropriations Committee, responsible for the entire state budget. Prior to politics, Chuck was political columnist for the DETROIT NEWS, and has hosted talk shows for radio and television.

June 15, 2017 · Filed under Chuck Moss

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Deem Boldyreff // Jun 30, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    The additional solution is to start reducing the administrative State powers. Return many items to the locals.


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