Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Another look a the "Part-time" legislature question

You may have received a letter similar to this one back in May.  I have revised it a little and updated you with new information about the issue. I hope you find it useful.  At the bottom is an invitation for you to write back with your thoughts.

It is no secret, in fact it is a matter of public record; legislators in Michigan make $79,650 per year plus $12,000 per year in tax-free "expense reimbursement." They are the third highest compensated lawmakers in the nation.  In addition, they enjoy quality health care and retirement benefits after only six years work. Lawmakers have all year to meet and pass new laws. Michigan is one of only five states without a deadline on its Legislature to finish their work. Even though lawmakers may meet all year, over the last ten years they have averaged only 92 session days per year.
Most states have part-time legislatures.  Texas, for instance, which has a much larger population and land area, is part-time. They meet for 140 days every OTHER year and are paid about $17,000 annually including expense allowances.

Lawmakers in Michigan can be very busy and work lots of hours partly because they introduce and pass up to three times more laws than part-time states. That means more constituents who are unhappy with the ever-expanding government, and more interest groups lobbying for passage of new laws to regulate or tax others.

In spite of the fact that most cities, villages and townships and virtually all 550+ school districts need to have their budgets in place by June, the Legislature can seldom seem to get the state budget finished before August. This puts great strain on the locals as they are unable to plan until they know how much they are getting from the state.
This year, it looks like we may not get the budget done by the October 1 deadline.  We might have to pass a temporary budget to get us through the first few months of the new year. As of this writing, the House has approved a spending plan $2 billion larger than projected income.  This can only mean one thing: a tax hike.

One might ask:

  1. If most states manage with part-time legislatures, why does Michigan need a full-time legislature?

  2. If other states can find qualified individuals to serve in government for less money, why do we need to pay so much?

  3. If the Michigan legislature meets less than 100 days per year, why does it take all year to get the work done?

  4. Why do retirees get such generous benefit after only six years?

In March I introduced HJR H, a resolution to amend the state constitution that would require the legislature to finish its work in April each year. You can read the text of the resolution here:  These are the key elements of the resolution.

  • Rather than pay legislators a full-year salary for 92 days work, let's pay them only for the days they work.

  • Rather than let them take a full year to get the work done, let's put an April 1st deadline in place to be finished.

  • Rather than pay them for expenses they never incur, let's reimburse them for ACTUAL mileage to Lansing and ACTUAL lodging if necessary.

  • Give them adequate health insurance while they are in office, but no long-term insurance or retirement after they leave.

Since introducing this resolution, there has been much talk and several stories in the press but no action.  The leadership in the House has refused even to take it up. Meanwhile, the legislature is not getting its work done. In the House of Representative, we have passed spending bills $2 billion over projected income, putting us in position for a huge tax increase, while the clock ticks down to the last day of the budget year (September 30).  In spite of that, we only voted on one single bill this past week, a bill to approve a January 15th presidential primary.

We did some in-depth polling on the question of whether Michigan should have a time-limited legislature that is paid only for the days they work. The results were encouraging. But the only way Michigan will ever change the constitution to limit the legislature is through the petition process. That is something which requires tremendous grass-roots effort and extensive financial resources.
If this proposal makes sense to you, if you would be willing to support the effort with your time and resources, please send me a note at: You can also get more information at

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