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Michigan GOP forced to cave on one of its most shameless power grabs

Michigan Republicans have spent the lame duck session defying the will of the voters, but trying to strip power from the incoming secretary of state was so bad, even they realized it.

By Lisa Needham - December 20, 2018
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Jocelyn Benson

The Michigan GOP has had quite the lame duck session, gaining national attention for just how poorly the Republicans have behaved. As the session nears its end, at least one measure — one that would limit the power of incoming Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson — seems to be dead.

Benson said in a statement that the “hyper-partisan” bill Republicans were pushing “would have effectively ended the enforcement of Michigan’s campaign finance law.” She added that she is “pleased the House Republicans appear to agree” and decided to drop it.

That’s not to say that the GOP hasn’t already done serious damage in the session. They severely weakened the paid sick leave and minimum wage laws even though voters overwhelmingly supported the existing laws.

And after a year where several progressive actions were taken via ballot initiative, the Michigan House just passed a bill that would make those initiatives much more difficult. Both legislative chambers passed a measure that drastically limits the ability of the state’s new Democratic attorney general, Dana Nessel, to oversee the flow of dark money and shut down fraudulent charities.

Perhaps, after being called out by local papers and having some Republicans going so far as to say they looked like sore losers, the GOP finally realized stripping power from the secretary of state was a bridge too far. But they only came to that realization after the Senate had already passed the bill.

What the GOP had proposed to do was to remove campaign finance oversight authority from the secretary of state and transfer that authority to a bipartisan commission.

In theory, that doesn’t sound bad at all — who would object to a bipartisan commission providing oversight? But the commission would have had six members, three from each party, virtually guaranteeing a deadlock on all campaign finance issues. And if the commission deadlocked, no action can be taken.

Though this particular bill is dead, the GOP is still trying to use the lame duck session to ram through a different campaign finance provision. There’s still a plan to push forward a bill that creates a five-year statute of limitations for campaign finance violations.

That bill is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Dave Robertson. Robertson has reason to be concerned, as his campaign treasurer is a suspect in an ongoing criminal embezzlement investigation.

The lame duck session ends Thursday, Dec. 20, and outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder has 10 more days to sign the flurry of bills. There’s no real chance he’ll stand up to his party and refuse to sign anything, but at least the damage of the lame duck session will be over.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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