Michigan Legislature debates over debating

Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 6:21 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The Michigan Senate is expected to vote on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s tax plan next week. The vote was delayed after Senate Republicans adjourned Thursday’s session while Democrats were out of the room.

The House passed the proposal with Republicans protesting in that chamber too.

Background: Chaos erupts at Michigan Capitol as Senate adjourns abruptly amid tax bill dispute

They are upset the governor’s tax plan, which she announced on Monday, is being voted on without any debate. But, political experts said they don’t need debate and we can expect to see more while Democrats hold a slim majority of both chambers.

The commotion started in the House when Republicans expressed their frustrations while voting on Whitmer’s plan to repeal the pension tax, extend working family tax credits and send taxpayers $180 for inflation relief.

The vote happened Thursday without debate on the House floor or in committee hearings.

“Have people have a voice in talking about the issues and how this is going to affect us,” said Rep. Sarah Lightner, (R) Springport.

A bill doesn’t have to go through a committee before it becomes law.

In fact, Republicans didn’t put everything through a committee when they controlled the legislature.

“It’s been very interesting to see my Republican colleagues complaining about the process and complaining about transparency when one of the first things I had to do was sit up until 3 in the morning and vote on an 800-page bill I never read,” said Rep. Julie Brixie, (D) Meridian Township.

And in 2010, Senate Republicans put Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointments up for a vote without committee hearings.

Then Senator Whitmer moved a motion to adjourn to delay the vote. A move Senate Republicans did Thursday while Democrats were out of the room.

“It’s how to use the power of the minority, which are not very many in order to try, and slow down legislation,” said Matt Grossmann, MSU Political Scientist.

Grossmann said you can expect to see these moves more often in the legislature.

“We have more partisan lawmaking now and we have close majorities and that means they have to get everyone behind a bill in order for it to move forward,” said Grossmann.

But Lightner is hoping things change soon.

“I hope we can learn from this. I hope we can actually be reasonable human beings. And try to work together because ultimately, we are here for the 90-plus- thousand people we represent,” said Lightner.

Grossman said Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks has talked about changing rules for immediate effect.

He adds that would only come with serious consideration because the majority party could change in the next election.

In order for the governor’s plan to take effect right away, six Republican Senators need to join every Democrat when they vote. That vote could come as early as Tuesday.

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