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Lawmakers say they’ll work through the summer on a new roads plan, but what does that really mean?

In Lansing, state Senate leaders say they’re scrubbing plans for a summer break in order to work toward a road funding solution. They say they heard John Q. Public loud and clear after the massive failure of Proposal One and that, this time, they’re going to get a roads-fix done.

“If we have to work right through ‘til September, so be it,” Majority Floor Leader state Senator Mike Kowall told reporters.

So, dear lawmaker, cancel those plane tickets, reschedule the plans for Disneyland, because you are absolutely, for sure, definitely, staying in Lansing.


First of all, the summer break - commonly referred to in Lansing as the “in-district work period” - doesn’t begin until July. Typically lawmakers wrap up the state budget in June and then recess. So they do have until the end of next month to come up with a new roads plan.

But, we here at It’s Just Politics are not betting that’s going to happen. Considering there’s been public clamor to do something about the roads for years - and plenty of ideas were floated and shot down well before Prop One - it’s hard to believe legislators are going to come up with the magic solution in the next month.

Furthermore, lawmakers can certainly say publicly that they’re working through the summer without officially having to. That’s because putting session days on the calendar doesn’t actually mean there will be session days.

Senate floor leaders could quietly put out the word that there won’t be a quorum call. That’s where lawmakers basically “punch in” and make it known they’re available to vote. But, no quorum. No session.

In fact, most legislators aren’t even going to be part of the nitty-gritty negotiations on a road funding plan. It’s mostly going to be up to party leaders.

So, if lawmakers are on the floor, without some deal, and voting on things, that’s going to largely be about the optics of the situation. Simply showing up to show they’re doing something even if there’s still nothing to do.

But that won’t work if, by the end of the summer, they don’t have a new roads plan in place. And, that’s because, the optics of lawmakers being in Lansing over the summer only really matter if they have something to show for it.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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