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Michigan Taxpayers Alliance Updates: May 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

House Dems and Rep. Ball, "Constitution is too pro-citizens."

The Michigan House of Representatives concluded this week of session in a most unusual manner. While House Speaker Andy Dillon was vacationing in Mexico, the Secretary of State concluded the first phase of the process that certifies petitions forcing Dillon to face a recall election on August 5th.

House Democrats, along with some Republicans, scrambled to try to help Dillon avoid being the first Speaker in U.S. history to be recalled. When citizens target a tax-hiking politician for recall, what's a group of fellow politicians to do?

Well, an official resolution of the House - that's what they'll do! What's a House Resolution? It's a vote by the House which expresses their 'official' opinion. What is the official opinion of politicians in the House? According to House Resolution 358, introduced by Representative Dick Ball (R-Owosso), it is that the Michigan Constitution is unfair because it gives citizens too much power. These politicians also believe, according to HR 358, that elections are bad for our democracy. Oh, also, citizens having the right to fire politicians who they believe no longer represent them is "chilling" to politicians.

Lets take a look at HR 358. It starts with:

"A resolution to express the sense of the House that recalls should be based on specific misconduct, criminal activity, or abuse of office and should not be based on a single vote and to denounce the effort to recall Speaker Andy Dillon."

The problem with the first sentence of the resolution is that it contradicts the Constitution, which states very clearly that:

"The sufficiency of any statement of reasons or grounds procedurally required (for a recall election) shall be a political rather than a judicial question." Article II, Section 8.

In other words, criminal acts go to courts, recalls are for challenging the policy (political) decisions of politicians. But Representative Ball and House leaders don't like the Constitution giving citizens so much power over politicians.

HR 358 further states:

"The threat of recall for reasons other than some measure of misconduct undermines the foundation of our democratic republic."

What? Recall elections undermine democracy? A recall involves citizens collecting the highest percentage of registered voters' signatures of any petition process allowed under law, and then requires a vote of the people in a scheduled election. How the heck is that damaging to democracy?

One more gem from HR 358:

"Whereas, Michigan's experience with recall seems to be a model of the potential for abuse at all levels of government."

Really? Michigan has only two experiences with lawmakers being recalled - Senators Serotkin and Mastin back in 1983 who were recalled for raising the income tax. Their recalls did not lead to "abuse", but rather to the legislature quickly rescinding most of that tax hike. Well, perhaps having to give money back to citizens makes some politicians feel abused.

What happened to the vote on HR 358? It never happened. I'm told that some legislators were actually concerned about challenging the Constitution. The other rumor is that Democrats freaked out after hearing that a Republican legislator was planning to offer an amendment to the resolution addressing removal of another politician from office - someone named Kwame Kilpatrick. Democrats quickly removed HR 358 from the agenda.

I'll keep you posted.

Leon Drolet
Executive Director
Michigan Taxpayers Alliance

Monday, May 5, 2008

The House of Dillon


The phone call came less than two hours before our scheduled press conference in the State Capitol Building, where Rose Bogaert and I were set to announce the results of the petition drive to force a recall election of House Speaker Andy Dillon. The call was from Capitol Facilities, who awkwardly and contritely informed me that the room in the Capitol Building reserved for our press conference was, ahh, well, umm... "no longer available". In fact, I was informed that no room in the Capitol Building was available for our press conference, despite the fact that the room had been reserved for weeks.

Rose, Chair of the Wayne County Taxpayers Association, and I had to move the press conference outside the Capitol and call reporters during the lunch hour to inform them of the last-minute change. Fortunately, word spreads quickly among the tight-knit Lansing press corps and the conference was well covered.

Later, on the floor of the House of Representatives, a reporter asked Speaker Dillon why the campaign to recall him from office was not allowed to hold a press conference inside a Capitol room. Dillon's response says it all:

"They want to have a press conference in one of my rooms? Yeah, right."

His rooms. His Capitol. His government. His, and not yours.

Never mind that citizens' taxes built and restored the Capitol, and pay for its' utilities, staff and maintenance; it belongs to Andy Dillon. Dillon's arrogant sense of entitlement permeates Lansing, where lawmakers are wined and dined. These lawmakers receive tributes and awards from special interest lobbyists who laugh at their every joke and feign interest in their long-winded stories. They become seduced into believing that Lansing, and the Capitol Building, really is all about them.

Is it any wonder that these politicians, when faced with tough economic choices, choose to protect what they own? And what they own is the status-quo in Lansing. To protect their status quo, they decided to take more of what they think they are entitled to - your money. That is how the legislature and Governor Granholm ended up raising the tax on your income and on businesses by $1.4 billion, while also increasing the legislature's own budget by seven percent.

The announcement at the press conference? Over 15,000 citizens in Andy Dillon's district signed the petition to recall him from office. It seems that they want their House back.

Leon Drolet