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Commentary: Republican Arrogance of Power

For the last fifteen months, Republicans have controlled everything in sight in Lansing -- the House, the Senate, the governor’s office and the Supreme Court.

They have the majorities to pass essentially anything they want, and even if something is constitutionally controversial, they are secure in the knowledge that it’s almost certain that the disgracefully partisan Michigan Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

We saw a fine example of that this week, when the court voted four to three to uphold an disgraceful last-minute bill  rushed through so Oakland County Republicans could change the existing redistricting process to keep control of the county commission.

The three Democratic justices said this was unconstitutional interference with local authority, and several constitutional law professor agreed. The four Republicans on the court couldn’t have cared less, and cheerfully voted to uphold what their party had done.

Things like this have happened repeatedly, and Democrats have been so demoralized and stunned that their response has amounted to little more than incoherent whimpering.

Some weeks ago I criticized the minority party for this. I said that if they ever hoped to return to power, they needed to put forth a program and some ideas that they could rally people around.

That they couldn’t just wait for the Republicans to screw up so badly that the people would give the Democrats another chance.

Well, I still think the Democrats owe us a program. But in recent weeks, the Republicans have been so arrogantly mean-spirited that it strikes me that I could be wrong. In the legislature especially, they  seem determined to go out of their way to stomp on their opponents.

We saw a prime example of that this month. Under the state constitution, any bill passed and signed by the governor doesn’t take effect for ninety days after the end of the current legislative session. The legislature can, however vote to give it immediate effect -- but has to have a two-thirds majority in each house to do so.

Democrats still have more than a third of the seats in the House, and so can legally stop a bill from taking effect immediately if they want to.

But the Republican majority this month decided to ignore the law and ignore Democratic demands for a vote on immediate effect, most notably on the bill forbidding graduate students to unionize.

This may be a little arcane for the average voter, but other things are less so. Yesterday a house committee ignored the governor’s wishes and voted to limit Medicaid coverage for autism to children under age five.

The governor also wanted to budget five million dollars to hire at-risk youth in crime-riddled cities to work at Department of Natural Resources facilities this summer -- a sensible idea reminiscent of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. Republican legislators in both houses contemptuously rejected this plan.

Governor Snyder has usually managed to avoid coming across as mean-spirited. His legislative colleagues too often look vindictive, arrogant and nasty. If history is any guide to the future, when election time rolls around, they may well pay.

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