I am always wary of changes to the state Constitution. Mainly because if the changes don't produce the desired results, or if they produce some of those pesky
"unintended consequences" repairs will be difficult. Any fixes or tweaks to the Constitution have to be brought before the voters in another citizens initiative or before the legislature through a super majority vote (75%) in both the State Senate and the State House. The chances of either of these happening would be very slim.
But some changes to the legislature do need to be made. I believe that of the two citizens initiatives for a part-time legislature now before state citizens, the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce Initiative, is our best chance to improve state government. Both initiatives address the following elements:
Both eliminate lifetime benefits. No argument there. This is not the only place that we need to address when it comes to saving taxpayer money, but this is sure the right place to start.
Both cut legislator's pay at least by one-half, 80% of what the average Michigan citizen earns. Sounds pretty fair to me.
Both advocate no pay if lawmakers don't show up for work. No argument there, although we sometimes fare better when some of them don't show up. Sorry, Governor.
Both call for 100 session days max. That means a deadline. Well we all saw how deadlines worked with the 2007 budget fiasco. In the wee hours of the morning AFTER the deadline, they passed a 6% service tax on any business group that didn't have a lobbyist. Ski resorts paid it, golf courses didn't. Bowling alleys didn't need their own lobbyists, they had the governor. This was later repealed for an additional tax increase on Michigan businesses. Our continuing "one state recession" bears witness to the effectiveness of this "deadline driven" legislation.
Both include an Emergency Session Provision. I guess this part is so they can undo what they did in the 100 day part. I hope 20 days is enough.
All the above elements are contained in an initiative now being circulated. I have yet to hear anyone tell me how this one will improve state government! It will no doubt make lousy government cheaper, but will it make lousy government better? It's kinda like going to a dirty restaurant with crummy food. "Cheer up," says the waiter, "From now on it's half price!" Bet you can't wait to go back there.
The second Part Time Legislature Initiative was developed by the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce and is called "Turn Michigan Around." The final petition language was approved February 4th. And the first petitions were finally available February 15th. The Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce Initiative contains all of the above elements. The difference is the Kalamazoo Initiative addresses the elimination of term limits.
Polling indicates 86% of Michigan residents feel term limits has resulted in the lack of experience of our state lawmakers, thus an "unintended consequence." I agree! I believe that experience and trust, both necessary to good government can only be enhanced by time.
I support the Kalamazoo Part Time Legislature Initiative. I have personally signed the petition and I have petitions available. I do not have time to be the coordinator for this effort, "darn day job" but I will help when and where I can.
If you have already signed one Part Time Legislature Petition and you are now feeling a little case of "buyer's remorse," cheer up! According to the Michigan Secretary of State you can legally sign BOTH petitions and your signature will count toward adding one or both initiatives to the November 2008 ballot.