Rachel Maddow devoted the last segment of her show Thursday to Michigan, and to the astounding lengths to which that state's Republican legislature and governor have gone to essentially overthrow democracy. If you can, watch the whole thing:
(The full transcript)
Here's the story in a nutshell: In the early 1960s, the state adopted a constitutional amendment that slowed the implementation of new laws so that they wouldn't take effect until three months after the end of the legislative session in which they were passed. They did, however, allow for passage of emergency legislation, provided the legislature could get a two-thirds majority vote on the legislation. With a two-thirds vote, a law could go into effect immediately. In an emergency.
As Maddow reported last night, that's not how it's been working lately.
The Democrats in Michigan say that since Republicans took over the Michigan house, they've passed 566 bills. We have looked into that count ourselves. It does seem accurate and the Republicans are not contesting it.
Of those 566 bills, 546, all about 20 of them, were passed under the immediate effect clause -- 96 percent of the bills they've passed have essentially been an emergency. Almost everything they've done has been done under this provision of the constitution that let's you put things into effect immediately because you've got a super majority. They've been designed to rush from the legislature to Governor Snyder for a quick signature and into full immediate effect that day, that minute, right now.
This is new in Michigan governance. This is not the way Michigan was set up. This is not the way it was supposed to be.
They have used that procedure to pass massively undemocratic legislation: the emergency manager law that lets the state take over towns, boot out the elected town or city officials, and just take over; the stripping of public employee benefits to domestic partners; blocking the expansion of the graduate students' union. They will almost certainly use it to pass pending voter suppression laws
And how they've done this is remarkable. These "immediate effect" laws are supposed to get a two-thirds majority. That's numerically impossible in the House, because Republicans don't have two-thirds majority and Democrats have remained united as a bloc against them. The House Republicans simply ignore the two-thirds part of the law. They hold a separate "immediate effect" vote after voting in a bill, and rather than doing a roll call vote, just simply eyeball the assembly and call it two-thirds.
Michigan Democrats, after a year of this, finally sued, and on Monday got a county judge to issue "a temporary injunction ordering Michigan House Republicans to follow the law, to follow the constitution, to let the minority vote even though the minority are Democrats." Why it took state Democrats so long to figure that one out is a bit of mystery, but they did, and they got the attention of the courts which is going to be critical in the next steps of the fight.
But what is remarkable here is the extent to which a democratically elected legislature and governor have overturned democracy. They have stripped the votes of all of the people living in the cities and towns who have been taken over by emergency managers by removing the officials they elected. They have stripped the votes of legislators in their very state government. They are about to prevent untold thousands from even being able to cast a ballot in November.
Undoubtedly, all in the name of freedom.
(Eclectablog has a comprehensive post detailing Maddow's full report.)