House GOP Circumvents Constitution, Ahead of MERC Ruling

Action in Senate still in violation of state constitution
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

LANSING – Today, House Democratic Leader Richard E. Hammel (Mt. Morris Township) and the House Democratic Caucus attempted to stop Republican lawmakers from circumventing the Michigan Constitution. The Republicans tried to violate the constitution in order to get Senate Bill 971, which seeks to undermine Michigan’s judicial system by not classifying graduate research assistants as employees before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission rules next week, sent to the Governor. Today, Senate Republicans put the language from Senate Bill 971 into House Bill 4246 which was already given immediate effect by the House, but subsequently violates Article 4, Section 24 of the constitution by changing the bill’s purpose.

“House Bill 4246 is not remotely related to the classification of graduate research assistants,” said Hammel. “The constitution clearly states that ‘no bill shall be altered or amended on its passage through either house so as to change its original purpose.’ Inserting language from Senate Bill 971into an unrelated House Bill simply to get immediate effect is another unethical attempt by legislative Republicans to ignore the state’s constitution to serve their own political will.”

On March 1, Senate Bill 971 passed the House on a 62-45 vote but failed to garner the two-thirds vote needed for immediate effect. Since that time, Republican leadership in the House has left the bill suspended on the House floor. The Republican-majority in the House often gives bills immediate effect without recording the vote. After the House Democrats objected to this practice and presented proof that one-fifth of the required members wanted an official vote House Republicans backed off the bill. They are now seeking to put the language in a bill that already passed the House with immediate effect, but this action will, in turn, change the purpose of House Bill 4246.

“The state’s constitution is not merely a set of recommendations on how the state and the Legislature should run,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal (Battle Creek). “It serves as the supreme law of this state and I am disappointed in how this graduate school research assistant issue has become important enough to my colleagues across the aisle to continually invent new ways to try to ignore the laws they swore an oath to uphold when they took office. The constitution is the law, period. And no one party ever controls a chamber of government, that power belongs with the people of this state. My caucus and I will continue our due diligence in ensuring that the constitution and the residents of our state are fairly and legally represented in this chamber.”