May 06, 2009 Due to term limits, nearly half of the 110 lawmakers in the Michigan House of Representatives are freshmen, myself included.
Freshmen normally rank relatively low on the totem pole, but because of our large numbers this class has the potential to wield an enormous amount of influence if we stick together— and that is exactly what we've decided to do. All 46 newly elected lawmakers have joined together to form a bipartisan freshman caucus, with the goal of finding ways to make the Legislature work better. This kind of cooperation is desperately needed.
Relations between Republicans and Democrats in Lansing right now are a lot like those between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War—there is a lot of suspicion and distrust on both sides. This was most evident two years ago when instead of working together to solve the state budget crisis, lawmakers spent the summer months locked in a bitter, partisan stalemate that eventually led to a government shutdown and massive tax hike.
From the outside looking in, the way our elected leaders handled that situation was simply appalling. Since our state is again facing severe budget problems, it is important that we find a way to prevent something like that from happening again. Part of the solution, I think, is to simply have better communication between the two sides, which is where the bipartisan freshman caucus comes in.
Michigan has the high-est unemployment rate in the nation and we are losing half our college graduates to other states - we can't afford to spend time needlessly arguing with one another if we want to get our state back on track. Having this new dynamic in the Legislature will hopefully make a positive change to the way things are done in Lansing.
I look forward to hearing your comments on these important issues. Please feel free to contact me by calling 517-373-1800 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.