Monday, August 31, 2009

Senator Hansen Clarke Brings the Heat on HAL

A little back story first: As you may remember, in an effort to streamline government and save some money, Governor Granholm issued an executive order to split up the Dept. Of History, Arts and Libraries and move those services to state departments where their respective needs could be better serviced. When you look at the breakdown, it makes sense to have, for example, libraries come under education, or arts as a part of economic development, etc and so on. It eliminates the duplication that occurs in paperwork and personnel, and seeing as how the big call to "reform" has taken hold of everyone's vocabulary, this is one way to "reform" and slim down the government.

Certain groups were upset and have protested loudly, of course, no one is really thrilled with the idea - but the question always comes down to, "where do we get the money to pay for this department?" And that is always met with silence. Anyway...

Protests aside, the governor has this authority, and she used it. The Senate Republicans, sensing a publicity stunt in the making, voted last week to ignore the executive order and move HAL to the Sect. of State. Yes, the same Senate Republicans, who run around crying for "reform", who are insisting that we make devastating cuts to almost everything that we hold near and dear in this state, somehow are finding the will to save this department alone - which is funny because "the arts" are usually something that the right wing wants eliminated from government spending. Ask the Mac Center.

What the Senate Republicans won't tell you about is how deeply they cut funding for the libraries as well, even as they cry their crocodile tears about this department. Senator Hansen Clarke did tell us in this must-see video. What I would give to have every Democrat have this kind of passion...

Text from the journals, and he is yelling at this point. Clarke is an artist, so he knows the value of "the arts", and his visits to the library are what encouraged him to go back to school, and got him where he is today. He calls out the Republican hypocrisy in no uncertain terms.

But yet, this is what pissed me off, and you know I respect everyone in this chamber, but to have the majority leadership of this Senate talk about the benefits of the synergies of keeping all these entities together, let me tell you, the people of Michigan, what these synergies have gotten us. The arts, which are so important to so many of us, the funding has been decimated because of this body. The largest library system in this state that benefited all of southeastern Michigan had all of its state funding—all of it—stripped by this body. How dare you say that the synergies of this current department are here to help preserve the libraries when you destroyed all of the state funding for the Detroit Public Library—how dare you. You know why the Detroit Public Library was allowed to be defunded—because the people who were hurt by it were poor, ghetto kids. They did not have family members who come up here on buses. They were not able to hire multiclient lobbyists to come here and say, “Let’s keep our library system.” Why is the library system important to Detroit? At the time, this body cut the funding for the Detroit Public Library.

Gretchen Whitmer also expressed dismay at the Republican behavior on this issue, and, in light of Mike Bishop's statement last week that the governor "needs to read the Constitution", it's worth a mention that this stunt Republicans pulled is unconstitutional.

I have three final thoughts. First, the law is pretty clear. The constitutional authority of the executive is clear. Governor Granholm has this authority. It is legal. As a conclusion, we must uphold the action even if we don’t personally agree with it. And for the record, I don’t. I totally disagree with the Governor on this, but I take my oath to uphold the Constitution seriously, and so I am going to vote “no” on these bills.

Second, pursuant to my oath of office as well as my duty as an officer of the court, I’m just appalled to see politics cavalierly trumping the law today.

And, third, I would like my comments printed in the Journal as my “no” vote explanation on each and every bill in this impressive, unconstitutional, bipartisan package.

And Senator Clark-Coleman also speaks to Republican funding cuts.

It has been presented to us that moving this department intact to the Secretary of State would somehow be in the best interests of the History, Arts, and Libraries communities. I am sorry I cannot be as eloquent in my words as my colleague from the 1st District. However, I must say, this body can better demonstrate its commitment to those communities through its funding actions. For example, the Governor recommended funding state aid to libraries at $10 million for ’10. This body reduced that funding by 25 percent. As the HAL budget was being debated, I offered an amendment to restore funding to the Governor’s recommendation of $10 million, which was defeated by many of the very same people who are proponents—so-called—of rejecting the Governor’s executive order today, under the guise that this is somehow best for Michigan’s History, Arts, and Libraries interests.

Moving the pieces of HAL to the Secretary of the State, or anywhere else in state government, is an empty gesture without adequate funding. To say that you are acting in the best interests of these communities is disingenuous given your recent budgetary actions.

If the Senate Republicans really cared about libraries and "Michigan's heritage", they would find a way to maintain it. Instead, they make these cuts to the arts and libraries, and then turn around and waste all of our time and taxpayer money with frivolous and hypocritical actions such as this. It's very obvious they have no intention of "reforming government" at all, they simply want to obstruct any kind of progress that they can, before they run out the door to take yet another week off.