2008-03-13 / Editorial

Petition drive okay

Citing expense and inefficiencies of a full time legislature, two groups are seeking petitions calling for an end to Michigan's full time legislature. They hope to collect enough signatures to have the measure put on the November ballot.

The Committee to Turn Michigan Around, associated with the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce, and a second group, Reform Michigan Government, spearheaded by Henry S. Woloson, J.D, of Clarkston, who is an attorney and investment advisor, have begun circulating the petitions and hope to have 600,000 names before the July deadline for having the state amendment to the constitution placed on the November ballot.

Both groups cite Michigan's legislators being the second highest paid in the nation, with California the highest. Michigan law makers are paid $79,650 a year and receive a $12,000 expense allowance. California's legislature is paid $113,098 a year.

The petitions being circulated would limit the legislature to a maximum of 100 regular session days per year which must be completed by May 31 each year. Special sessions would be limited to 15 days per year. The petition also calls for legislators' salaries to be cut "at least in half to equal 80% of the most recent median household income for Michigan residents."

The amendment also calls for the elimination of lifetime health care benefits for former legislators that served a minimum of six years; reduce legislator compensation for unexcused absences from regular sessions; eliminate term limits and require documentation for all expense reimbursement requests. Present legislators do not have to document expenses, the $12,000 is a blank check.

The Committee to Turn Michigan around cited last fall's failure of the legislature to reach a budget consensus before the Sept. 30 deadline and the necessity of the legislature to increase sales taxes on certain services to balance the budget.

On its web site "TurnMichiganAround. com" the committee stated that the legislature's failure to get the state budget completed before August puts a great strain on local units of government and schools.

As an example of efficiencies reached by part time legislatures, the group cites Texas, which has a larger population and land area and legislators meet part time 140 days every other year and receive $7,200 annually.

The petition also calls for the elimination of term limits.

Petitions are available locally from PakMail at Houghton Lake, or from West Higgins Lake Hardware.

Information may be found at both web sites, www.turnmichiganaround. com or www.reformmichigangovernment. com.

This is not the first time an attempt was made to shorten the legislative terms; an attempt was made in the late 70's or early 80's and failed. The budget debacle last fall was a sure indicator of failure to meet responsibility. The state's budget should be on a calendar basis and not a fiscal year. If the state's budget was in place by Jan. 1 each year, that would give schools and local governments time to finalize their budgets with accurate state figures.

We support the idea of a part time legislature and the elimination of term limits; both could lead to more accountability and responsiveness by state government.

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