Part-Time Push: Proponents Say Taxpayers Will Save

By: Tony Tagliavia Email
By: Tony Tagliavia Email

Less time at the Capitol -- less money spent. That's the logic behind Rep. Jack Hoogendyk's push to cut back the hours he and other lawmakers spend in Lansing.

"Government has grown into this monster that needs to be downsized," said Hoogendyk (R-Kalamazoo).

Right now, Michigan lawmakers are considered full-time as they are in 11 states. Lawmakers in 17 states spend just about half-time on the job and are considered part-time.

The other 22 are somewhere in between.

Just how "part-time" Michigan's legislature could become isn't yet clear, but the idea appears to be gaining support -- including from Governor Granholm.

"Part time is a good thing," the governor said Tuesday.

Granholm says she'd support making the move if it includes a change in term limits, adding years onto how much time lawmakers can serve.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop appears on board as well.

"Michigan cannot afford a full-time legislature anymore," said Bishop (R-Rochester).

Lawmakers' slow action on fixing this year's budget crisis could lead to popular support for the idea. But some say their full-time status isn't to blame.

"By moving to a part-time legislature that doesn't at all guarantee that the legislature functions better," Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) said. "It may, in fact, have the opposite results."

That's because to truly cut costs, staff would have to be cut. Richard McLellan of the Michigan Law Review Commission says the move could affect how well citizens are served.

"If you go part-time, who's going to do the work?" he said.

Many larger states have full-time legislatures but Texas and Florida are part-time. Nearby Indiana is as well.

A political expert we spoke with there says part-time legislators can be more in tune with the people. But because they have other jobs, it raises the potential for conflicts of interest -- such as voting on a bill that might affect the company a lawmaker works for.

"It's ultimately a decision for the people," McLellan said.

The idea would have to be put on the ballot because it changes the constitution, meaning it could be years before a decision is made.


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