Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Senate Republicans Refuse to Fix Problems With Liquor Bill

If Republicans are going to refuse to work for the rest of the year, why should they come back at all? Seriously, why waste taxpayer dollars on staffing, heat and electricity if all they are going to do is throw their food and pout in the corner? Is there any way we can put their stuff on the curb and change the locks on the doors?

First, they refuse to fund the Pure Michigan campaign when we have the money, costing us a chance at increasing tourism jobs for the winter. Now, they tell us they won't make necessary legal changes to the liquor bill that Governor Granholm was forced to veto yesterday. Here is the story: As we were coming down to the wire on the budget at the end of September, Senate Republicans, led by Alan Sanborn, took this bill and stuffed it with special interest favors, ballooning a simple 11-page bill into a monstrosity that took weeks to get through.

When it was all sorted out, it was discovered that not only had the Senate Republicans decided to pick "winners and losers" by creating an uneven playing field that could have favored caterers over retailers - another provision has the potential to open up the state for an expensive lawsuit. Luke summed it up the best:

But she said a provision in the bill that would allow restaurants to deliver beer, wine and spirits for off-premise consumption would harm retailers who provide that service now. She said barring out-of-state restaurants from delivering alcohol is unconstitutional given that a federal court struck down a similar state law.

And she said a measure in the bill "authorizing the provision of free samples of wine totaling up to nine ounces... is too high. I could support a lower amount consistent with free sample sizes authorized in other states."

Doesn't seem like any of that would pose too much of a problem to change, right? A few simple tweaks and it's done. Certainly the Republicans wouldn't want to open us up to a lawsuit that would cost taxpayer dollars to defend. Certainly the Republicans would want to fix these problems so they could help restaurants and business create more jobs. A little cooperation would go a long way, right?

You would think, anyway, but you would be wrong. Instead of addressing these issues, once again Mike Bishop would rather hold his breath, stomp his feet, throw a hissy fit, point the finger of blame at the governor for a bill that his party stuffed with special interest favors, possible illegal ones at that.

Granholm spokeswoman Liz Boyd said, "There are many provisions in the bill that the governor supports, and she is willing to work with the legislators."

A spokesman for Bishop reacted angrily to the governor's veto.

"It's unfortunate in the waning days of her administration that she chooses to ignore a bipartisan effort," Matt Marsden said. "Everybody here made some compromises to move forward a piece of legislation that was primarily things the governor had asked for. But it's her way or the highway.

"We spent a tremendous amount of time getting this done and she chose to blow it up.

That's on her shoulders."

No, Senator, it's on yours. The governor is open to some "bipartisanship" here, Bishop and Sanborn are the ones indicating that they are not open to compromise, and they are the ones refusing to do the work. And the quote about the "tremendous amount of time" is a joke when you consider how the bill blew up in the final days.

Then, last week, the Huntington Woods Democrat got word that both changes would be included in a bill Republican senators, led by Alan Sanborn, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Small Business and Regulatory Reform, intended to substitute for the less-ambitious measure Crawford had sponsored in the House.

"I was just told it was happening," said Jacobs, who was surprised to learn the legislation would also raise millions of dollars in new revenue by levying a $160 permit fee on retailers who wish to sell booze on Sunday mornings. "I'd never attached a fee to it," she said. But Jacobs agreed to the addition on grounds it would help balance the budget.

And look at that - the Republicans "raised your taxes". Funny how it was acceptable to attach fees to this, but when it came to the proven money-maker and job-creator of Pure Michigan, they screamed their heads off about "tax increases". Then again, consistent excuses for their obstructionist behavior have never been their strong suit.

While the Republican candidate for governor is trying to sell himself as being able to rise above partisan politics and personal attacks to get things done, it's been made obvious time and time again that lawmakers on the R side of the aisle have no intention of working together to solve our problems. Voters need to remember that when they head to the polls in November. Campaign promises are only the best of intentions, the real truth lies in the way the Republicans behave as a whole - and between this bill, Pure Michigan, and the track record of the past four years of Bishop's tyranny in that chamber, you have all the evidence you need as to how the Republicans would really run the show.