Monday, December 03, 2007

Will Michigan be a "priority" for Senate Republicans now?

Well, the budget is done. What next? A quick check of the schedules show that the House will hold session through the 20th of this month. The Senate... maybe not so much. They are still on a tentative schedule as of Dec. 1st, although I imagine after all the complaining that Bishop did last week, they will be forced to stay as long as the House stays, unless they want to look like hypocrites.

Yes, I wrote that last sentence with a straight face.

Perhaps it is time to remind everyone about all that legislation they put off all year long. As much as I liked to jump on the House for bad strategy, they have passed some good legislation, most of which has stalled in the Senate. When you wonder why things aren't moving forward in Michigan, all you need to do is take a look at where the logs are jammed up in the river.

Here is one example. The House passed a package of bills repealing drug company immunity back in February of this year. Fast forward to now- turns out that the people of Michigan might not be able to share in the recent Vioxx decision because Senate Republicans have ignored this issue, and, like most everything else, they used the budget to do it. From Nov. 20th-

Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said the drug immunity bill isn't a priority at this time because the Senate is focused on repealing an expanded tax on services before it takes effect Dec. 1.

So, it will be a priority now, right? The Senate can focus now, right? Well... when this issue first came up in February, on the 15th of that month the Free Press told us-

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Wednesday the legislation is not a priority.

Hadn't even seen the legislation yet, but already he says it isn't a priority. Fast forward to a week later- the Detroit News, Feb 23-

A spokesman said Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, was wrapped up in budget talks with Gov. Granholm on Thursday afternoon and hadn't had time to review the House legislation.

The budget excuse makes an appearance. According to MIRS, they talked for 1/2 hour that day, and it was the first time they had talked since the State of the State address given on Feb. 6th. By the 25th, the reason was he hadn't talked to anyone else...

The GR Press-

The bills now go to the Republican-controlled Senate where it's unclear what will happen. Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, said Bishop hasn't had time to talk to his members about it.

Plausible, but notice how the excuse changes all the time. More likely, this was the reason- from MIRS Feb 22, after the floor debate in the House-

"For two years, maybe four, those across the aisle have used every trick in the book to block this debate from taking place," said House Judiciary Committee Chair Paul CONDINO (D-Southfield), who spearheaded the drive on the House floor to get the legislation passed.

They have continued to do so, and now Michigan residents might lose out because of it. Will they find the time to address it now? And if not, what possible reason will they give?

The word "priority" in connection with House legislation has come up quite a bit this year, used as a frequent excuse for Senate inaction. I caught onto this gambit back in early April and dubbed it the "Norquist No". Back then, Grover was urging Republicans in Congress to resist Democratic legislation, proclaiming, "Nothing good happens in the next two years out of this Congress. Nothing good."

In other words, obstruct. Given our budget issues, Senate Republicans had a ready-made excuse. From that April post (because now all the press links are dead), a couple of "non-priority" issues. We have the auto accident damages bill-

Under the measure passed Wednesday, an injured person could sue for lost wages and noneconomic damages under broader terms than now defined in state law and through court decisions, making it easier for people injured in auto accidents to sue.


A spokesman for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop said the House-passed bill would require extensive review and added that Bishop's top priority is resolving the current budget deficit, making it unlikely the bill will come up for consideration in the Senate any time soon.

Tax breaks for home purchases-

Allowing purchasers over the next 18 months to inherit the lower, constitutionally capped property tax bills paid by the sellers could be approved by the Democrat-controlled House as early as today. The House Commerce Committee approved it Tuesday.

Republicans are wary, and some local government groups are opposed. Leaders in the Republican-run Senate say the bill is not high on their list of priorities.

The anti-bullying bills, HB 4091, 4162.

While the Democratic-led state House passed anti-bullying legislation the day Cheatham and 200 supporters visited the Capitol, it was opposed by Republicans and may die in the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP.

The smoking ban in public places, Detroit Free Press, June 13th-

"That is not a priority at the top of the Senate's lists," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester. "We're occupying our time strictly on budget matters."

See the pattern? Although the House hadn't passed the smoking bill, Bishop already had it down as "not a priority".

Here's a list of other House legislation that wasn't a "priority", and is currently sitting in committee in the Senate.

Campaign and Election Oversight-

HB 4313 - One-year moratorium on lobbying for former members
HB 4239 - Robocalls
HB 4285 - Candidate's financial disclosure
HB 4315 - Prohibit voting on issues where conflict of interest exists
HB 4472 - Prohibit legislators from applying for State grants
HB 4001 - Require reporting of legal defense fund contributions
HB 4628 - Various campaign finance and election oversight reforms
HB 4553 - Allow sending of absentee ballots to all registered electors over 60 years old
HB 4447, 4448 - Permit voter to have a different resident address on driver license from that recorded in the qualified voter file

Judicary -

HB 4167, 4168 - Increase penalties for dive-by shootings
HB 4475 - Allow commutation process for terminally ill patients
HB 4794, 4795 - Change blood alcohol content for watercraft and snowmobiles
HB 4550, 4551, 4552 - Animal cruelty
HB 5054-5057 -Create Sexual Assault Victims' Medical Forensic Intervention and Treatment Act
HB 4920, 4921, 4289 - Super drunk driving


HB 4821 - Provide health care for dependants of public safety officers killed in line of duty
HB 4854 - Sudan Divestment
HB 4903 - Terrorism and State Sponsors of Terror Divestment

Commerce and Tourism-

HB 4745 - Allow bereavement leave for relatives of servicepersons killed on active duty
HB 5046 - Require retail establishments to allow access to restrooms to customers with certain medical conditions

Development and Regulatory Reform-

HB 4328 - Increase penalties for deceptive or unfair insurance practices
HB 4869, 4870 - Allow Ultimate Fighting


HB 4507 - Require school board elections to be held on general election date
HB 4796 - Cap school superintendent salaries

Government Operations and Reform-

HB 4100 - Reporting of State goods purchased by expatriot businesses
HB 4580 - Eliminate lifetime health benefits for lawmakers
HCR 26 - Recommend 5% legislator salary reduction to SOCC

Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs -

HB 4047 - Prevent approval of new landfill construction permits
HB 4485, 4486 - Landfills/tipping fees

And there are others. One thing we have to give the Senate credit for- they did finally pass some bills that ban lead content in toys.

The House did that back in late May.

This is the pattern. This is what Republicans have been doing in an attempt to reclaim power in Michigan. Block all progress, make the Democratic leadership look bad- and they have been doing it ever since Granholm came into office. Simply run out the clock.

Mike Bishop admitted as much on To The Point, and so it was confusing to hear him say this- "We want to be part of the solution and not just an obstruction."

This came after Mike spent a good ten minutes on berating his colleagues and the governor, and espousing his "drown government" theory. This list above should tell you that they have no intention on moving Michigan forward; most of those items deal with protection for you, the consumer, the voter, the citizen. The priority for Republicans is to protect their special interests only. Nothing good comes out of this Senate because they have three years to go on the Granholm administration, and they want to get the House back next year. Things have to be bad for them to do that.

So, I have to go back to these words-

And when you elect people who believe that government won't work, you shouldn't be surprised when government stops working.

They have three weeks to get something done for the year. We will see what becomes a "priority" for the Senate now.

Bet it's not you.