Right-To-Work--Too Fast, Too Furious?

For many the word “government” is synonymous with “slow,” so how did three complex bills get brought up and passed in a matter of hours?

The constitution requires new legislation to be introduced several days before it can be voted on.

"They had coordinated it in caucus months ago,” said Bill Ballanger, a political analyst from Inside Michigan Politics, describing republicans. “This is, right now, the biggest majority republicans have had in the house since right after World War II, and they are not going to have it anymore as of January."

Republicans passed the legislation by amending or “substituting” older bills, at least one of which was originally presented back in February of 2011.

Ballanger said the legislature moved the fastest he has seen in almost two decades.

"This is unusual. It just doesn't happen very often, but when it happens you never forget it,” said Ballanger. “There's a lot of speculation that the Governor had some kind of ‘St. Paul struck down on the road to Damascus’ moment, and he suddenly saw the light and converted. I don't think that's really true. I think frankly that the Governor was sympathetic to the idea of right-to-work all along.”

In January republicans will have five fewer seats in the House, weakening their control in the legislature.

"That means three or four republicans could take a walk or vote no on right-to-work next year and it wouldn't happen,” said Ballanger.

But republicans say this has been in the works for a long time, and would have passed regardless.

"It would have passed either way. I am convinced of that. There is just too much support out there,” said Senator Rick Jones a republican from Eaton County.

"It was political retribution for Proposal 2 and that's exactly why the Governor didn't take a position until the eleventh hour,” said Senator Gretchen Whitmer, a democrat and the Senate Minority Leader.

Senator Jones says he was torn on the issue because he has been a member of two different unions, a union steward and a union president. In the end he voted for right-to-work because he says it lets workers avoid union dues.

"Workers have told me overwhelmingly, ‘Give me the freedom not to pay. I don't want to pay. I don't want to belong. That should be my choice,’ ” said Jones.

Friday the capitol was quiet. The protesters were gone, but there was still an increased police presence and there is a feeling in the air that the opposition has not given up.

"They passed an illegal bill and they did it in an illegal fashion and so no one should be surprised when this gets challenged in the courts,” said Whitmer.

Senator Jones does not believe the bills were rushed.

"This was widely known that this was going to come up eventually for a vote. In fact there were a number of citizens that contacted us and said if you don't vote on it now, we are going to go gather the signatures required to make you vote on it by March,” said Jones.

"That's just not true,” said Whitmer. “They substituted the bill in a fundamental way yesterday and never even showed us the language until they did it. I'm a legislator. I never even got to see the bill until it was up for a vote."

Democrats may ask the courts to overturn the law because people were locked out of the capitol -- meaning everything done during the session would be a violation of the "open meetings act.”

"I think that the heavy handed police response was absolutely ridiculous,” said Whitmer. “It was called in advance by the Governor's office. They knew they weren't going to tell anyone what they were doing. They wanted to scare people off from coming down to the capitol and then they locked the capitol doors."

Democratic voters might also file to recall republicans from office for passing right-to-work. Under the state constitution, any recalls of newly-elected lawmakers would have to wait until June.

"I do expect that there will be some vindictive attempts to recall of some elected officials,” said Jones. “There will be all sorts of things like that. I hope it doesn't get to violence."

“They didn't have any public hearings, and then they locked the public out of the capitol and tried to shut down our right to even speak on the senate floor,” said Whitmer. “They ran over the constitution at every step."


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