Michigan Lawmakers Eye Part-Time Status

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

Should Michigan lawmakers go part time? The question is again circling the Capitol, with lawmakers in both the House and Senate pushing for a more streamlined government.

Michigan is one of only four states with a true, full-time legislature. But the idea of scaling back lawmaking sessions hasn't been a popular one in Lansing.

"Our constituents have problems year round," State Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing said. "Having a legislator in their office, with their staff, working on constituent relations is really important."

Singh also worries a part-time legislature would put too much power in the hands of the governor.

On the flip side, it is not a novel idea. Only ten states have some type of full-time legislature. Michigan, California, Pennsylvania and New York are the only with true full-time sessions.

"It's a matter of making sure we're looking at best practices in other states and the fact is that if 40 other states managed to do their work in a part-time fashion, I think we can do the same," State Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph said.

Proos says the cost savings would give Michigan a more flexible budget. He has introduced a bill that would let voters decide if the legislature should move to a part-time 90 day session. Another Republican lawmaker is expected to introduce a similar legislation in the House.

In 2012, Michigan's full-time lawmakers spent 81 days working at the Capitol. Nationally, the average full-time employee clocks in 239 days a year.

Lawmakers say those numbers are deceptive, much of their work happens outside the Capitol.

"You're an ombudsman for the people, for the citizens you represent," State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge.

They also feel a part-time legislature would push good candidates out of politics.

"If you cut it back so far to say it's part time and pay them $10,000 only the wealthy are going to run for office," Jones said. "We need senators and representatives who are not Kennedys or Romneys."

Governor Snyder has also weighed in on the part-time debate. He says the demands of the job require full-time attention.

Supporters of the measure know it's a long shot, but argue it's one responsible government should take.

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