Opinion

Even for big Michigan election year, this was a do-nothing Legislature

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What would happen if you showed up to your $72,000-a-year job only five days since the 4th of July? 

You wouldn't have a job by now. Come the end of the year, mercifully, neither will the 101st session of this Legislature. 

The futility of the state House and Senate in 2022 is, to put it generously, historic. 

Unbelievably, this crew didn't report to Lansing for session more than five days since July 4. That's not hyperbole. It's a true statement. 

Since the Michigan Legislature began meeting full time in 1965-‘66, a Michigan legislative body has never passed fewer bills or met fewer times.  

Between 1951-1964, the Legislature only met part time. They usually wrapped things up for the year in late May or early June and went home. In each of those 14 years, the part-time legislatures reported a quorum more times than this 2022 Legislature.

Count it up yourself, if you like. It was 54 days in the House and 62 days in the Senate this year. In an average year between 1951 and 2020, the Legislature would report a quorum and do something 101 days. 

To find a group of lawmakers who accomplished less, my team needed to go back to 1950, a year in which the Legislature only held session because the governor called them in. 

Let's talk about public acts. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is on the verge of signing around 430 public acts this year. She may sign 450, but she could sign as few as 409. The average is 754 for a two-year cycle. 

Our MIRS team couldn't find a time fewer measures were signed since Dwight Eisenhower was president. 

Here are more sad facts: 

In those few days the Legislature did have session, missed votes skyrocketed. In the Senate, they haven’t missed this many votes since 2001. We had fewer missed votes during the height of COVID. 

Also, somehow, Whitmer vetoed more bills over her first four-year term than any governor since at least 1913. The House and Senate journals didn't index this information past that date, so I didn't check further than that. 

So, here's the recap. The Legislature in 2022 hardly met. When it did meet, fewer legislators showed up. For those who did show up, fewer bills were passed. And when they did pass bills, Whitmer vetoed 13% of them. 

It's a sad performance by any measure. 

Tired of trying to negotiate with Whitmer, the legislative leadership teams checked out and turned their summer recess into a nearly permanent vacation.  

The Senate majority leader and the House speaker were on completely different pages. Neither wanted to do the other's priorities. 

The Governor's Office was vague on what it wanted. The Legislature pushed a massive tax cut that couldn't be paid for after a few years. Everything became political. 

Instead of compromise, little got done. Nobody wanted to work with anybody. 

The Legislature passed a budget, but the Constitution requires that. That's like getting a gold star for filing your income taxes. 

They talked about creating an ethics commission, streamlining mental health services to the poor, increasing law enforcement recruitment, standardizing short-term rentals statewide, capping insulin prices, creating a water infrastructure spending plan and dozens of other things.  

Nothing. 

Nothing on safe gun storage. Little on school safety. Little for additional tutoring support for the kids who fell way behind during COVID. It's not as if they didn’t have any money, either. They left $6 billion on the balance sheet. Think about that. 

They had money! More extra money than this town has ever seen. They still didn't want to come to town and figure out how to spend it. 

This Legislature, and to some extent the governor, opted against hard bipartisan work when the route of partisan finger-pointing proved easier and politically expedient.  

When it came to doing the work of the people, they gave up.  

We can only hope this is an anomaly and not a sample of more to come. 

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