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It's much, much worse in Michigan than we even realized

Last night, Rachel Maddow broke a huge story that has been happening since Republicans took over in Michigan in 2011 and has gone completely under the radar. Since January 2011, 566 bills have been signed into law. Of those, 546 of them, 96.5% were passed under "immediate effect". Here's the video from last night's show that will blow your mind. Pay particular attention to around 12:30 where they show it in action. It's astonishing.

This is new in Michigan governance. This is not the way that Michigan was set up. This is not the way it was supposed to be...Michigan Republicans are using what is supposed to be an emergency provision for everything, even for the most contentious and partisan and divisive things that they want to do.

Republicans, for example, used immediate effect to take away health benefits for domestic partners of public employees. They jammed it through, Governor Snyder signed it, and then three days before Christmas (awww), it was, "Hey, gay folks, good luck finding health insurance for your families. We just stripped your benefits on the basis of your sexual orientation starting now, starting today, effective immediately, Merry Christmas." [...]

Republicans passed their souped-up Emergency Manager law, naturally, under immediate effect. They passed it on March 15th last year, the governor signed it, and it took effect right then -- immediate effect. And then, less than a month later, Benton Harbor's Emergency Manager seized all power in Benton Harbor. Took power from the town's elected mayor and elected commission. In the span of one month, starting with a bill sponsored by Benton Harbor's own representative, Michigan Republicans routed the democracy of that mostly-poor, mostly-African American Michigan town and they were just getting started.

As Rachel Maddow points out, if Public Act 4 had not been passed in this way, it would only have gone into effect in the past few weeks, 90 days after the last legislative session. Think about that for minute. Think about how much has been done to, using Maddow's phrase, "rout democracy" in our state under that law in the year that it has been on the books. Think about how it could have been different if they hadn't used immediate effect.

Maddow then went on to show just how illegal this is. It's something that I pointed out in my piece yesterday titled "Michigan GOP appeals ruling preventing them from violating the state constitution". It's the fact that immediate effect can only happen if 2/3 of the members of the House vote for it. But Republicans do not HAVE 2/3 of the House. The entire reason that they have been avoiding using roll call votes is because they did not have the votes to make the laws immediate effect. In other words, over 96% of the laws passed by the Republicans since January 2011 have been illegal in their implementation.

Here is the crazy thing. This the thing we've been digging for since we first got wind of this story last week. It is is astounding enough that I almost can't believe it, I have to tell you. My mind almost cannot compute what I am about to tell you but we reported this out carefully so we can tell you this with confidence. Under the Michigan constitution, remember again, you can only make a law take effect immediately if you have a 2/3 majority, if you have a super-majority. Michigan Republicans don't have that, in the House, they don't have that. In order to get 2/3 on any vote, House Republicans would need the help of almost a dozen Democrats. You need 73 lawmakers on your side before you get what the state constitution says you can have if you want that immediate effect, right? You need 73 votes to take effect right away...[F]or the Emergency Manager law...they just attached immediate effect to it anyway. [...]

If you look at the numbers that you need for immediate effect in Michigan and then you look at the numbers that the Republicans actually have, it does not seem possible that the Emergency Manager law, or maybe ANY of these laws, passed in the way Republicans are saying that they did. It didn't happen that way.

For the past year, we have been reporting on Republican governance in Michigan. For the past year, we have called Michigan's Emergency Manager law THE most radical Republican legislation in the country. And if that radical, radical law had passed under regular rules, if it hadn't been put into immediate effect, if they couldn't get a 2/3 super-majority to put it into effect that day when Governor Snyder signed it, then that radical law would only just now be taking effect. [...]

What Governor Snyder and Michigan Republicans have done is radical beyond radical. And if it is true that the law should not have even been in effect all of this time, if it is true that Republicans have circumvented democracy and the legislature, too, then what do you call that? That's radical beyond radical beyond radical. It's revolutionary even. [...]

The 2010 elections ushered in a lot of radicalized legislatures and governors across the country and they have done a lot of radical things...But what has happened in Michigan, I believe, is THE most radical thing that Republicans have done anywhere in the country. They have eliminated democracy. They have eliminated voting rights at the local level in their state. They have tried to eliminate Democrats' voting rights in the state legislature. Whether you're on the left or on the right or in the center or if you don't particularly care about politics, if all you care about is that we have a form of government in this country called democracy, we vote, if you care about the idea that we still use voting here, we still use democracy, if you care about the constitution, frankly Michigan ought to have a flashing red light siren on it right now.

While my most white-hot ire at this is aimed at Michigan Republicans, I have to ask where the hell Michigan Democrats have been on this? What percentage of bills passed with immediate effect without a roll call vote was enough that they finally took action? How many laws passed this way were enough? 5? 6? A dozen? Why on earth are we just now hearing about this when 96.5% of the laws were passed this way? Why did it take 546 before this became a screaming headline?

It's bad enough that we're contending with an anti-democratic bunch of Republican zealots but when the only thing that stands between us and them is a House Democratic caucus that didn't start making a fuss until this late in the game, our chances of prevailing look bleak. We count on them to tell us about these things. Our news media certainly isn't doing it. Bloggers like me with day jobs can't sit in the legislature day after day to monitor things. We rely on our Democratic legislators for this. And, in this case, they waited far too long to pull the emergency stop cable.

I'm thrilled that this is finally get the attention it deserves to get. Rachel Maddow and her staff (major shout out to her producer Laura Conaway who I know worked hard on this segment) are doing our state and the country as a whole a huge favor by reporting on this. If you are a Democrat, a liberal, a progressive in Michigan and you can't find something to motivate you get to the polls in November and to go out and make sure OTHERS get to the polls, then you need to start paying attention NOW. What Republicans are doing here is beyond egregious. It's illegal. It's undemocratic. And it's unconstitutional.

Cross-posted from Eclectablog.

Originally posted to Eclectablog - eclectic blogging for a better tomorrow on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 09:08 AM PDT.

Also republished by Michigan, My Michigan and Your Government at Work.

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