December 21, 2012
There must have been a really huge Christmas markdown sale on Viagra at the Michigan Republican legislative supply store. And apparently, no one is worried about erections lasting for more than four hours.
I won’t comment, except in passing, on the issue of Right to Work itself, rammed through the legislature in this lame duck session. What is also important is the manner in which it happened.
As I’ve always said, “To the victors belong the spoils.” Republicans control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. I don’t like a lot of what they have done, especially the enactment of a Right to Work law, but they won elections.
Yet no matter how anyone feels about Right to Work, everyone should be concerned with the legislative process. Issues come and go. It’s the process—the assurance and stability of that process—that makes us Americans.
So as a former, proud member of the Michigan legislature, I can only look with sadness at what has occurred.
Lame duck sessions are always pretty crazy. That’s because at the end of every House session, all bills die. So legislators want to finish up on a lot of things so that they don’t have to start them all over again. But starting highly controversial legislation during lame duck is a whole different story.
I can’t tell you that there wouldn’t have been thousands of people protesting right to work legislation under any circumstances, but the fact that this legislation was never taken up in committee, never given full committee deliberation, never provided opponents their legitimate right to speak before their elected representatives in committee means that not only unions have lost something, the people of Michigan have too.
And please don’t tell me that since this is an issue that has been debated for decades, there was no need for legislative debate. That’s just pure hogwash.
When opposing voices are stifled, it means the legislature fears those opposing voices and it doubled down on that fear by placing a bogus appropriation on the bill to deny Michigan voters a chance at a referendum.
And please don’t tell me that closing the Capitol to the people who own it was done for security. It was done to keep out dissenting voices. We didn’t close it when a thousand bikers showed up to protest helmet laws, or a thousand doctors to protest medical malpractice laws or a thousand Right to Lifers to push for more restrictions on abortions.
And please don’t tell me we had to pass this with lightning speed because Indiana, the armpit of the Midwest, just passed a right to work law there.
No, this wasn’t about the power to enact laws because you have the numbers to do that. It was about the power to subvert and manipulate and bastardize the process because you have the numbers to do that too.
There is a difference between power and brute force.
Don’t get me wrong. Democrats controlled the Michigan House for most of my fourteen years in office and there were certainly times when we rushed bills through, in spite of protestations from House Republicans. But at least those bills had been debated already in committee. And there were times when vehicle bills were used (bills that have already been introduced and often gotten through one chamber already on the same act being considered that were substituted with entirely different language) when Democrats and Republicans had a sudden breakthrough in negotiations and we wanted to move quickly before people changed their minds. It wasn’t always sweetness and light.
But at least we respected each other enough, no matter who was in control, to allow the other side its voice. And, yes, that was even true during the one term I served when Republicans also controlled both houses and the governor’s office.
I’m sure there was a lot of “high-fiving” and end zone victory dances among legislative Republicans when the Right to Work bills passed. But I think the chest bumps were less about the issue and more about subverting the process.
It’s interesting that the National Republican State Leadership Committee praised Speaker Bolger’s handling of the issue as “courageous.”
It’s interesting because I just saw Lincoln last week, a mesmerizing tribute not just to President Lincoln, but to the many legislators who, in a deeply divided and war-torn nation, stood up to pass the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery. That was courage.
It’s a lot easier to take rights away than to give them.
I wonder who will be dancing in 2014.