Friday, November 11, 2011

How Tough is That Nerd Anyway?

Time to find out if Governor Snyder has a spine or if he will simply accept anything and everything the zealous hive mind of the Legislature throws his way. A set of bills to limit state authority on regulations may have big implications pertaining to the growing rift between the executive and the legislative branches. Who has the ultimate control, the Governor with a capital "G", or the power-drunk Senate Republicans, who may or may not be acting under the influence of certain out-of-state special interests? Place yer bets...

Governor Rick Snyder's veto pen might get its first use with Snyder unsupportive of a bill sent to him Thursday by the Legislature that would largely prohibit state departments from issuing rules stricter than federal regulations.

Before breaking for a two-week recess, both chambers were actively finishing a package of bills dealing with state rules and permitting in an attempt to streamline the process.

The main bill, HB 4326 , which would require state rules to be no more restrictive than federal rules, unless specified in statute or done through an emergency rule, passed the Senate along a partisan 25-11 vote. The House concurred, 59-48.

What this would do is take the power away from the executive, dangerous particularly in matters concerning the protection of the environment.

Environmental groups reacted to the votes by saying the legislation would decimate the governor's ability to protect the state's freshwater system. They pointed to the move by former Governor William Milliken in the 1970s to ban phosphorus in laundry detergent as a way to restore Lake Erie as one example of how the bills would hurt Michigan.

"Federal water quality standards are designed to be the floor below which states are not allowed to drop," said James Clift, of the Michigan Environmental Council. "This law assumes that rules written in Washington for waters in other states are good enough to protect our Great Lakes. They are not."

Why would this be necessary? Think Americans For Prosperity and how they have been a major factor in the past couple of years in stopping the new Detroit bridge. And it's probably not the campaign donations that are the main motivator in that situation (although those certainly hold sway), it's the thought of a challenge from a well-funded teabag for a legislator's seat that keeps everyone in line. Now we have a legislation proposed that can be used to thwart environmental regulations, which is a main project of the people that hope to return us to the Gilded Age. It's not too far a stretch to connect the dots here, however tenuous they may be.

Another clue: The Michigan Chamber of Commerce, representing the radical arm of the Republican Party, wants this to happen.

"HB 4326 prescribes the predictability that job providers deserve; except in cases of a state emergency, the Legislature will have final say on the outer limit of our state laws and regulations."

Not really. If it's mandated that they cannot go beyond the federal laws, how is it the Legislature would have the final say on the "outer limit"? Forethought is not one of their strong suits, apparently. But now that we have this state gerrymandered for the next ten years, the big money boys backing the MCoC are probably confident that they can keep the legislature and particularly the Senate under their thumb, whereas you never know when the electorate will throw another Democrat in the big chair. Call it obstruction in perpetuity. And as you have seen, it tends to work.

But most interesting aspect of this whole thing is that Republican majority supposedly came to an agreement with the governor - and then they turned around and hamstrung him.

The clash is something of a surprise. For several weeks, Republican lawmakers and the Snyder administration have talked about giving the legislation more flexibility. Administration officials have voiced concern that the legislation would cripple the state's ability to implement rules where no federal regulations exist.

Strangely enough, the Senate just passed the bills that will set-up health care exchanges under "Obamacare", citing the reason that they "are leery of potential federal government interference" should they decline to act. Meaning, when it comes to health care reform, they want the state to maintain control, but on other regulations, they don't. Well, consistency has never been their strong suits, either.

Just how tough is the Nerd? We may be about to find out. This may also set the stage for a potential executive end-run around the legislature for action on the bridge - which would provide for some spectacular fireworks indeed.