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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