Sunday, March 16, 2008

Media notices Senate Republican obstruction

Last year, the Senate Republican battle cry was, "not a priority" as they dragged their feet to a record number of days in session with the fewest number of bills passed. Yes, they had some big problems to face with budget issues, but so did the House, and they managed to find the time to move on other bills. Why not the Senate?

The House is starting to speak out, and now we have finally identified the Senate's new excuse as to why they can't walk and chew gum at the same time. Remember this next phrase; you will hear it whenever they are questioned on legislation that the House has passed and they won’t take up-

"The focus needs to be on the urgent matters. And that's the economy and jobs right now," said Matt Marsden, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.

If that is the case, one wonders why they have passed not one, but two, anti-choice abortion measures. Did that have anything to do with the economy? And then there was the time they wanted to blow up the current budget. They would probably claim the latter was an "urgent matter", but cutting up to $850 million in revenue somehow left the rhelm of realistic "focus" on "jobs". Ahem.

The AP, thanks to the House Democrats increasing the chatter, finally noticed that the Senate seems to be more than a bit obstinate on issues that matter to Michigan citizens. They won't use the word "obstruction", but if the behavior fits...

Democrats swept into power in the state House after the 2006 election for the first time in a decade with plans to scale back the importation of Canadian trash, make it easier to sue drug companies and ban workplace smoking.

But with more than half the 2007-08 legislative session already gone, House Democrats are growing increasing frustrated that many of their major proposals remain stalled in the Republican-led Senate.

Republican leaders say they won't move the bills because they do nothing to help the state's struggling economy. House Democrats, who along with House Republicans are up for re-election in November, are striking back by ramping up their criticism of the Senate GOP.

Good job, House Democrats. Time to start showing that you have moved on important issues while the Senate comes up with endless catch-phrase excuses to mouth at the media. House Dems have demanded action on the drug industry immunity which was passed last year, and this week they asked for movement on a bill that puts a moratorium on the "pop up" tax for new home buyers, also passed last year. Here's Andy -

"This plan will get those people back to work and pump more money into our local economy. My colleagues in the House and I are fighting to create jobs now and change Michigan for the better. By dragging its feet, the Republican-led Senate is dragging down Michigan. The time to act is now before the spring sales season kicks in."

There are questions about this bill reducing the amount of money to local governments - but since when has that stopped the Republicans from handing out a tax cut? Republicans are dismissing these requests as "pre-election publicity stunts" (but anti-choice bills and big business tax cuts somehow aren't), finding yet another excuse as to why they can't spare the time to do the work.

To their credit, they have managed to move some important legislation.

Not every issue has led to disagreement. Republicans have been on board with bipartisan economic proposals aimed at boosting the film industry in Michigan and helping homeowners during the ongoing foreclosure crisis. Both parties also worked together to pass legislation that banned illegal immigrants from getting driver's licenses while restoring the rights of legal, temporary residents to get behind the wheel.

They also managed to pass an organ donation bill that should help streamline and remove some of the legal obstacles that have cropped up in that area. So, we have seen some things accomplished.

And on that end, here is the rest of Marsden's quote-

"I would argue the cooperation between the House and the Senate this year in moving bills has significantly increased."

Yes, but that is to be expected, given that we aren't facing the problems that we had last year. House Democrats somehow found the time to do these things during three major crises - the '07 budget shortfall, the replacement of the SBT, and the battle over the '08 budget, which led to shutdown and subsequent clean-up time. Why is Marsden expecting applause because they are actually doing (some of) their job this year?

Big issues still remain, and the longer we wait on this, the harder it will be to get them done as we move towards the elections.

Besides the drug immunity and property tax bills, smoking bans, landfill fees and legislation allowing scholarship programs modeled after the Kalamazoo Promise have gotten an enthusiastic reception in the House, only to languish in the Senate.

Besides these issues, don't forget the most critical of all - the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and the PA 141 revision. If Republicans really are that concerned about jobs and the economy in Michigan, those energy bills need to be addressed soon. Bits and pieces have come out that point to them actually working on getting that done - keep your fingers crossed that they regard it as an "urgent matter".

If we are lucky, they will get it done after their next two-week vacation.