Lapeer County’s State Rep. Gary Howell deserves praise for working to reform Michigan’s “lame duck” session in the legislature.
Last month, the House passed a Joint Resolution that would require a two-thirds majority for the passage of any bills voted on during that nearly two-month time period between November elections and the end of the legislative term on December 31 that happens every two years. As it stands currently, officials who are close to the end of their service—whether due to term limits or an election loss—are casting votes on important matters that they can’t be held accountable for. It’s during that point that lobbyists and bill sponsors push through any remaining legislation before it “dies” with the end of the term.
The newly-adopted resolution differs from the plan Howell proposed in 2019 that would have essentially eliminated the two-month limbo and had the legislature’s term wrap up in early November. Although the measure now headed to the Senate isn’t as stringent as his original plan, the Republican is pleased reform is at least being discussed in Lansing. Others have praised the progress too saying the lame duck limitations will increase transparency and allow for better public discourse. Howell worked with Terry Sabo, a Democrat from Muskegon, to champion this bipartisan reform.
Howell’s accounts of lame duck marathon sessions featuring “gargantuan proposals” and bills “still wet with ink” were troubling and should make constituents take a hard look at how—or, in this instance, when—their elected officials conduct their business.
If the Senate approves the resolution by a two-thirds majority, then the matter would become a question on the 2022 ballot and voters would decide if the state’s constitution should be amended to reflect the stricter voting requirements for lame duck sessions.