State Legislature Considering Going Part-Time

By: Alex Goldsmith Email
By: Alex Goldsmith Email

Rep. David Agema (R - Grandville) thinks the less time he's in Lansing, the better.

That's why he introduced a bill on Wednesday that would change Michigan's full-time legislature into a part-time one. Under the bill, state legislators could only be in session a maximum of 150 days unless an emergency session was called by the governor.

"I believe you'll have less laws, you'll have less taxes and you'll have people who have to live with the laws they've put into place," said Agema.

The bill would also increase term limits to 16 years, which could be served in any combination between the House and Senate.

One of Agema's chief arguments for a part-time legislature is that lawmakers feel obligated to pass more laws because they're in session longer. His theory: less time in session, fewer laws.

But Rep. Barb Byrum (D - Lansing) disagrees and is uncomfortable with her colleague's idea.

"My concern with a part-time legislature is it puts more power in the hands of partisan appointees," said Byrum.

Byrum also takes issue with the idea that all she deals with in her job as a state representative is legislation.

"I do so much more than pass laws and make bills," said Byrum. "I help people with foreclosures, I help businesses cut through red tape. I do so much more and I think that's often forgotten outside of mid-Michigan."

Sen. Rick Jones (R - Grand Ledge) agrees with Byrum.

"A part-time legislature doesn't keep the balance between the House, the Senate and the Governor," said Jones. "If you're going to have a full-time governor you need to have a full-time legislature to keep an eye."

Jones doesn't believe that more time spent in session equates to too many laws.

"The argument that people are going to come up with more bill ideas I think is ridiculous," said Jones. "In fact many things were left undone this year."

But first-term Rep. Mike Shirkey (R - Jackson) likes the idea of a part-time legislature, provided that there are adequate balances built in to keep too much power from slipping into the hands of departmental bureaucrats and appointees.

"I believe in a concept called the student syndrome, which means by human nature all projects take as long as you allow them to take," said Shirkey. "Frankly the less time we're in session, the less things we can stick our fingers in."

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  • by Janet VandenBerg Location: Northern Michigan on Jan 29, 2011 at 03:44 AM
    i have no problem with increasing term limits, however, I do have concerns where those serving in public office receive benefits after leaving office. When we leave a job or retire, we have to find new health insurance or find ways to save money for retirement and it is not provided free to us. I believe whether in the private sector or public service, you get paid for the hours worked, benefits for the time you work and if part time then you pay to keep those benefits. You shouldn't expect to work 20 hours and get 40 hours pay with benefits. This is where a majority of the financial issues lie. Equal pay for equal work is how I was raised.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 28, 2011 at 02:04 PM
    We finally have people in the office who are willing to do the dirty work on their own salary first. This would never happen if the dems were still in control. No one in the state should complain when they start hitting other areas ni the budget that needs some pork removed.
  • by Phyllis Location: Rose City on Jan 27, 2011 at 09:27 PM
    I have attended some sessions of Michigan government, an also watched various issues covered in the minutes. I was always surprised at what a small group was present. Several times motions were made, and there was insufficient members present for a quarum. A part time legislature would be more beneficial and the roll call should be part of how much salary is paid at the end of each session. If you do not wish to work for your money, then you need to go elsewhere. Being cavalier is not considered being present.
  • by Zach on Jan 27, 2011 at 07:03 PM
    Well what do you expect... The tax and spend Democrats like Barb Byrum do not want lose their cushy job. She was not able to pass her Bar exam... what else will she do?
  • by Jim Location: Lansing on Jan 27, 2011 at 08:50 AM
    I would like to know how many days a year they are in session now. They take extended periods of time off for Christmas, Easter/Spring Break, Summer Recess, Deer Hunting/Thanksgiving. With all that time off they are already part-time with a very handsome pay and benefits package, and expense accounts.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 27, 2011 at 08:45 AM
    Lots of states have part time legislators. They seem to get on fine. But don't woory this wont happen no legislator is going to take a pay cut. If you are only working part time, you only get paid part time.
  • by DumAsMe Location: Lansing on Jan 27, 2011 at 07:40 AM
    Only 4 states have longer sessions, higher pay and a full-time legislature: California, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. See: The time is NOW to switch to a part-time legislature.
  • by Anonymous on Jan 27, 2011 at 07:38 AM
    The only ones who are complaining are the life long politicians.
  • by Time for part time Location: Lansing on Jan 27, 2011 at 06:24 AM
    If 40 other states can function on a part time legislature so can we. Rep Bynum states that she does alot of other things than just legislate, if this is the case we need to get the appropriate existing agencies to do their job or establish a universal help line. In addition a part time legislature can still "keep an eye" on the governor and if not there is always the people...In the end if this results in the hiring of just one more teacher, one more police officer, or allows the Secretary of State to be open one more day, then it should be done. A lot of small savings add up.
  • by Daniel Location: Jerome,Mi on Jan 27, 2011 at 05:37 AM
    Iam trying to figure out how it is that everyone accross the board is taking pay cuts,layoffs or even being fired but people in legislature just keep on getting and arent giving up anything.
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