As the Michigan Legislature plans to adjourn for the year, Republicans protest, call for pay cuts  ⋆

After several long sessions in the last two weeks that saw the passage of clean energy, abortion rights and transparency legislation, the Democratic-led Michigan Legislature is preparing to adjourn for the year over objections from some Republicans.

Both the House and Senate on Thursday held their final votes of the year and approved House Concurrent Resolution 10, sponsored by state Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), which sets the chambers’ adjournment, known as sine die, for Tuesday.

This year marked the first time in roughly 40 years that Democrats held a trifecta with the governor and both chambers of the Legislature. But the legislative session is ending earlier than usual in 2023.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses attendees at a Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan lobby day in Lansing on May 2, 2023. | Anna Liz Nichols

Democrats pushed for a November adjournment in order to ensure that a law goes into effect on time setting Michigan’s presidential primary election for Feb. 27. That also means that a slew of progressive legislation that passed this year, but for which Senate Republicans refused to grant immediate effect, will go into law sooner in 2024.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer praised the Legislature for setting an adjournment date. Spokesperson Stacey LaRouche said Whitmer was proud to accomplish nearly every initiative she laid out in January, and looks forward to seeing new policy be implemented in 2024.

“The Michigan Legislature’s actions today means bills will be enacted sooner, allowing Michiganders to reap the benefits of a historically productive legislative session ahead of schedule,” LaRouche said. “The governor looks forward to continuing this momentum in the next legislative session to deliver on these kitchen table issues for Michiganders.”

Another factor in the decision to adjourn before December, as the Legislature typically does, is that Democrats will temporarily lose their 56-54 majority in the House. That’s because Reps. Lori Stone (D-Warren) and Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) won their respective mayoral elections on Tuesday and will have to resign their positions soon — leaving the House with a 54-54 tie until special elections are held. 

If the session were to continue into December, Democrats’ legislative plans would likely be derailed by a deadlocked House.

House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) reiterated on Thursday that Democrats will not relinquish control of the majority before special elections are held, likely early next year. Both seats are considered safely Democratic and are not expected to flip.

Whitmer has not yet set dates for the elections. 

However, Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Twp.) said that Tate’s caucus will have to come to a compromise in the new year if they hope to salvage the body’s efficiency.

“There will be an agreement though, because there has to be an agreement, whether it’s formal or informal, because it’s 54 or 54,” Hall said. “So your options are you either make a deal and come to terms on how to do this together in a bipartisan way, or you just have gridlock.”

Over in the Senate, Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Twp.) blasted Democrats for adjourning next week.

“If I could describe this past year in a couple of words, it would be ‘missed opportunity.’ And with this Democrat majority pushing to start their Christmas break early, it seems my description will remain accurate,” he said.

House Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Marshall), Jan. 11, 2023 | Laina G. Stebbins

Several GOP House members also slammed Democrats’ sine die plans in a Thursday statement, calling for the Legislature to either continue into December or for members to take a pay cut.

Rep. Donni Steele (R-Orion Twp.) said in the statement that she hasn’t been able to adequately address her constituents’ concerns because of the Democratic majority, and that adjourning early will only make things worse.

“Adjourning nearly two months early instead of working through complex issues and oversight is a complete waste of state resources,” Steele said. “We need to stay here and do the people’s work.”

Steele also introduced HCR 9 with several GOP co-sponsors to adjourn on Dec. 28. That resolution was referred to the House Government Operations Committee, where bills traditionally go to die.

Rep. Jamie Thompson (R-Brownstown Twp.) introduced a proposal that would guarantee that if the Legislature does adjourn next week, members wouldn’t be paid a full-time salary for the rest of 2023. 

“There’s still work to get done,” Thompson said in a statement. “If legislators aren’t willing to work, they shouldn’t get paid.”

And Rep. Tom Kuhn (R-Troy) introduced HB 5321 to cut the pay of members’ legislative policy staff if the session ends early. Constituent services staff would not be affected by the proposal. Kuhn said in a statement that House Democrats are intent on a “part-time legislature with full time pay” and that they’re ignoring pressing issues. 

House Speaker Joe Tate | Laina G. Stebbins

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Michigan State Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) gives a farewell speech on the House floor on Nov. 9, 2023 after winning the mayoral race in Westland. (Photo: Anna Lix Nichols)

House Minority Leader Matt Hall, left, and Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, right, speak to reporters following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fifth State of the State address on Jan. 25, 2023. (Andrew Roth/)

Michigan State Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) gives a farewell speech on the House floor on Nov. 9, 2023 after winning the mayoral race in Westland. (Photo: Anna Lix Nichols)

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Michigan State Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) gives a farewell speech on the House floor on Nov. 9, 2023 after winning the mayoral race in Warren. (Photo: Anna Lix Nichols)

Michigan House SpeakerJoe Tate (D-Detroit), the first Black man to lead the majority in either chamber of the Michigan Legislature, talks to lobbyists and guests in the Michigan Capitol on Dec. 7, 2022. (Andrew Roth/)

House Minority Leader Matt Hall, left, and Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, right, speak to reporters following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s fifth State of the State address on Jan. 25, 2023. (Andrew Roth/)

 

“If anyone else stopped showing up to work, they wouldn’t just stop receiving pay; they would be fired,” Kuhn said.

But Tate said that in spite of the chamber’s division on when to adjourn, he’s confident that the 2024 session will be productive.

“Conversations I’ve been having with Republicans have been positive in nature in terms of what we can do when we’re coming back in the new year,” Tate said.

When asked about the 2023 session, Tate said he had “no regrets” about the ambitious legislative agenda that Democrats were able to tackle.

“I’m really proud about the work that we’ve been able to do,” Tate said. “You know, we were constrained by time and sometimes scale in terms of what we could do, but we know that we’re going to be able to come back at the top of the year and get work done.”

Advance reporter Anna Liz Nichols and Editor Susan J. Demas contributed to this story.



authored by Lily Guiney
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