LANSING, Mich. — Dec 5, 2018, 10:53 PM ET

Michigan GOP moves to strip Democratic officeholders' power


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Republicans who control Michigan's Legislature voted Wednesday to advance a measure that strips campaign-finance oversight power from the Democratic secretary of state-elect, and they moved to give lawmakers authority to stand up for GOP-backed laws if they think the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general are not adequately defending the state's interests.

The lame-duck moves followed within hours of similar efforts in Wisconsin , where lawmakers voted earlier Wednesday to shift clout to the Republican-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing the GOP governor.

Michigan Democrats in January will jointly hold the governor, attorney general and secretary offices for the first time in 28 years, but the Legislature will continue to be controlled by Republicans.

A day after GOP lawmakers finalized an unprecedented maneuver to gut minimum wage and paid sick leave laws , a Senate panel passed legislation that would create the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the campaign-finance law rather than Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, who ran in part on a pledge to advocate for election transparency.

Democrats called the bill, which is expected to clear the full Senate on Thursday, a blatant power grab that would fly in the face of voters. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has not taken a position on the measure or others that could win final legislative approval as soon as next week.

"At no point did voters say they wanted the rules manipulated. At no point did they say they wanted bills rushed through a hasty lame-duck session," said Patrick Schuh, state director for the liberal group America Votes. He questioned the timing, saying such a commission was not proposed until a Democrat is on the verge of leading the secretary of state office for the first time in two-dozen years.

Republicans defended the legislation, saying the six-member panel of three Democrats and three Republicans would initially be appointed by Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer. Eric Doster, a former long-time lawyer for the state GOP, testified that the commission would operate similarly to those in other states and said "now the time is right."

Other critics of the bill, however, contended that the commission would be ineffectual, saying its members would deadlock and be accountable to political parties that would submit a list of possible appointees to the governor.

Also Wednesday, the House voted 58-50 for legislation that would empower the Legislature, House or Senate to intervene in any suit at any stage, a right already granted to the attorney general. A bill that won Senate approval on a 25-12 vote over Democrats' objections would influence how Benson implements a new voter-approved constitutional amendment that establishes an independent redistricting commission to draw congressional and legislative maps instead of the partisan Legislature.

The former measure is seen as a maneuver to ensure that Republicans could support laws if Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic Attorney General-elect Nessel are lukewarm about GOP-passed measures and drop appeals in cases the state loses.

Nessel, for example, has said she probably will not defend a law allowing faith-based groups to refuse to serve same-sex couples who want to adopt children. There could also be cases where legislators want to take the same side as the attorney general but make a different legal argument.

Republicans disputed criticism that the legislation would undermine the role of the attorney general. The sponsor, Rep. Rob VerHeulen of Walker, said it would simply let the Legislature intervene without the court approval that it currently needs, regardless of which party is in power.

"We're seeing more and more public policy issues being addressed in the courts, rather than solely in the legislative branch," he said. "This in an institutional bill designed to ensure that the legislative branch has a voice."

Democrats countered that the legislation is an unconstitutional overreach.

"The Legislature makes the laws, the executive branch enforces the laws and the judicial branch interprets the laws," said Rep. Robert Wittenberg of Huntington Woods. "Let's be clear: This legislation would have never been introduced, much less put on the agenda, had we seen different results in the top-of-the-ticket elections less than a month ago."

Democrats also criticized the bill that would prescribe how Benson randomly selects the four Democrats, four Republicans and five independents to sit on the redistricting panel. They said the anti-gerrymandering ballot initiative approved last month is self-executing, and the legislation is unconstitutional and is not supported by organizers of the ballot drive nor people who voted for it.

"The incoming secretary of state was elected to preside over election matters," said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint. "She's perfectly capable of figuring out who is a Democrat and who is a Republican without the help of this lame-duck Legislature."

Yet the GOP sponsor, Sen. Phil Pavlov of St. Clair, said the legislation would not in "any way" affect Proposal 2 but rather follow its goal of partisan "evenness and equity" by restricting people affiliated with a political party from providing legal and accounting services to the commission.



Senate Bill 1250:

Senate Bill 1254:

House Bill 6553:


Follow David Eggert on Twitter at . His work can be found at .

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  • Dell Q

    I'm sorry, why is it people aren't rioting? Are we just going to sit here and let outgoing republicans steal our democracy, after they just stole the 2016 election, and the 2014 mid-terms, 2012 election, & gerrymandered all the way to the voting booth under the guise of the fake 2010 census? Why are democrats such babies? DO SOMETHING! Make your voices heard! Take it to the streets!

  • John Bishop

    How did Republicans come to worship evil?

  • Matt

    That is the way to do it

  • MAGreenA

    These conservatives should be ashamed and really should be impeached.

  • David Meyer

    You get the government you deserve. Until lame-duck shenanigans like those being pulled in Wisconsin and Michigan get punished royal by voters, the GOP will keep doing them. And then, finally, observing there's no political penalty for such shenanigans, Democrats will pull shenanigans too. Voters, the ball is in your court.

  • Reply

    It's somewhere between pathetic and horrifying how so many "patriotic" Americans embrace such divisive leaders and their maniacal backers.

  • Rebecca Hancock

    Money and Power 1st
    Autocrat 2nd to keep the 1st
    There have been warnings since the 80s saying the middle class will no longer exist and that the top 1% to 5% will have 99% of the wealth and 100% control of the government.
    No one seemed to care and I believe it is too late to prevent it.
    I worked hard all my life and cannot afford to retire in the states.


    There is no limit to Republican corruption and hunger for power.

  • Cammosutra

    Well one thing we can do, and had better do Kats, is win by even bigger numbers in 2020. Everything will get re apportioned again after the 2020 census. And the Senate election map is stacked badly against the GOP next time. But state and local elections are also important in a census year.

    And all you young voters: YOU need to participate. It is YOUR future the GOP is screwing up.

  • KatsMind

    This is disgusting. What the heck happened to the will of the people?And what can we the people do about it? We just voted to get rid of these creeps.

  • Bree Zee

    I'd say the GOP should be ashamed but that would require morals and a conscience.

  • DEM-Castballot

    So this is Democracy?Republican majority just says,we take the power out of any Democratic hands and are completely Republican controlled.Voters in this state are non-patriotic and spit on all the fallen soldiers who fought for a democracy for all.

  • Cammosutra

    Somehow I don't think the President we are about to bury would approve of what is going on in Michigan and Wisconsin.

  • Ronald Bandor

    No shame.

    And to think I recently saw another poster complain the Dems cheat while "the GOP plays by Marquess of Queensberry rules". Lol. You cannot make this stuff up. I wonder what world some people live in.

  • Pro-Marx

    Desperate acts of a backwards-looking party that will ultimately hasten their own demise.

  • Chuckie M

    Good old GOP (Grand Old Perverts) are Doomed. Keep it up you bunch of dummies that can't see past the end of your own noses. You we soon be riding in the back of the buss with me. It's fun back here.

  • Arryandan

    It took a super-majority to get over the Gerrymandering in Michigan, now the same corrupt politicians are trying to save Gerrymandering by power-grabbing and lawsuits.

  • Ack

    The jerks are already trying to change the new recreational marijuana law that was voted in by the people. Republicans want to strip us of our right to grow at home so we have to buy from their rich buddies big grow ops.

  • MickC

    GOP first, country second - but only second if it agrees to dictatorial tactics of the GOP. Sad!

  • hold-the-phone

    Poor bu7t-hurt losers. Delicate fl@kes of $n0w. Elections have consequences; suck it up and do a better job next time...

  • Jen Bordon

    We got rid of a lot of corrupt Republican governors and congressmen in the election.
    But our work is not done - unfortunately they were not all up for reelection.
    We must clear them ALL out in 2020.

  • Ray Tugman

    sounds like bad losers

  • Gator Tales

    I'm getting a laugh at least.

    And y'all call us Southerners "dumb."

    Is it the cold and snow?

  • sixstrings

    what's up with the constitutions in states like WI and MI that this can even happen?

  • snake

    The GOP is corrupt to the core and will ignore the will of the voters by every means possible.

  • Not Fancy

    President promised economic growth and the voters took it hook line and sinker.
    Auto workers will suffer, farmers will suffer, and that will drag the entire economy down.

  • s DAN

    Like Wisconsin, after asking the democrats to give the Trumpet a chance after the 2016 election, they go for a anti-democracy power grab because they know their days are numbered...…….

  • Nala

    like I have been saying for the last 2 years - the gop can't win unless they CHEAT

  • Tracy

    If this goes through boycott all things produced in Michigan!

  • Peter Carson

    Politicians acting badly. Should they not do the right thing rather than the thing that gives themselves power? The problem is that these sorts of things tend to get worse as time goes on. At some point, it is likely that power shifts between the parties. When that happens, each side feels justified to do bad things because bad things were done to them. In the end, all we end up with are politicians acting badly.

  • Chuck Heston

    Good. So stupid that a few counties in MI were able to determine who sits in these offices. The vast majority of the voting districts in MI are Republican.

  • John Michael Davis

    This is how "1984" started. What's with these people. Country over Party!