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Is Michigan ready for a part-time Legislature?

A ballot campaign to make Michigan a part-time Legislature state could be on the horizon - an effort, perhaps, to make state government more efficient, but the effort carries at least a whiff of gubernatorial politics.

It has been rumored and reported that Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley will use the gathering of business and political elites at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Island Policy Conference this week as the backdrop to an announcement that he will lead a ballot campaign. It would seek to amend the state constitution to make being a state legislator a part-time job.

If true, that would cap weeks of a Calley-controlled political action committee playing a little cat-and-mouse game with online videos of Calley touting his background, experience, and values - and the promise of a big announcement Tuesday. Calley and his team did nothing to quell the speculation that a run for governor was in the offing.

However, there were reasons to doubt that would be the case. The biggest is that the website briancalley.com, home to the Calley-extolling videos, is controlled by an independent political committee, which means a candidate announcement could run afoul of campaign finance laws.

A ballot campaign would also give Calley a platform he lacks as a loyal number two to Governor Rick Snyder, who can’t run again because of term limits. Calley’s interest in succeeding Snyder, and Snyder’s interest in Calley helping to protect his legacy, is no secret.

But Attorney General Bill Schuette is also getting ready to run for the Republican nomination. He published an op-ed last week in The Detroit News endorsing a part-time Legislature.

Calley, apparently, is ready to announce that he’ll go farther than Schuette and actually lead an effort to make that happen. Calley, by the way, is not new to this issue. As a state legislator he co-sponsored a resolution to amend the state constitution to limit legislative sessions to 90 days a year unless the governor convenes a special session.

We should note we don’t know exactly what Calley will say tomorrow. But, political strategist John Yob told us: “It is safe to say he still supports limited government…” and added Tuesday’s announcement will be “much bigger” than what’s been reported.

A part-time Legislature ballot campaign would allow Calley to step out from Snyder’s shadow, re-establish his conservative Republican bona fides, and to boost his recognition among a voting public largely unaware that he exists.

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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