Republican governors in the Midwest are orchestrating a coup. Singing from the same hymnal, the GOP govs in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan moved quickly to ram through legislation that would destroy the unions, the last major source of institutional funding for the Democratic opposition, and the last bastion of anti-corporate power.
Fortunately for all of us, a brave band of Democratic senators in Wisconsin fled the state, to slow down legislation to destroy collective bargaining long enough for a few news media personalities to tell us what is happening. (Thanks, Lawrence, Rachel and Ed of MSNBC.)
Since Wednesday night, when Republican legislators in Wisconsin used tactics that may be illegal to ram through their bill to end collective bargaining, progressive groups in Wisconsin raised more than $200,000 within hours. Is it time for Michigan to make plans to follow suit?
One of the reasons that Michigan has not experienced the same democratic fervor as in Madison, WI, is that Republicans in our state hold such a large majority in both the House and the Senate here that changing the balance of power is much harder.
In Wisconsin, as long as all 14 of the state’s Democratic senators stayed away, GOP senators could not reach the quorum required to pass bills that have a budget impact. (They played fast and loose with the rules last night by splitting collective bargaining bill and ramming it through while admitting it was not done to save tax dollars.)
With newly elected Republican Governor Rick Snyder at the helm, supported by a Republican majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, there is little that can even slow the GOP freight train barreling through legislation to guy the unions and shift the tax burden to the elderly and the poor, in order to give any money saved to corporations.
In our state, the Republicans hold a two-thirds supermajority in the Michigan Senate, a whopping 26 out of 38 seats. In the Michigan legislature, the GOP is a bit slimmer; 63 of the 110 legislators are Republican.
Both the Michigan House and Senate come up for election in 2012, but our new governor is there until 2014 unless he faces a recall. A girl can dream, can’t she?
Yet memories of the successful recall of Governor Gray Davis in California highlight how much tougher it is to recall anyone here in Michigan. In California, recalling the governor goes forward to a vote if 12% of the folks who voted for governor in the last election sign a petition asking a recall. According to Ballotopedia, in Michigan, petitioners must first seek a “clarity hearing” where they submit the petition language to a court in the jurisdiction where the target lives (Ann Arbor?).
Math is not my strong suit, but that requirement is slightly more than double what it took in California. Not only is that bar much higher, I don’t see many wealthy benefactors in Michigan willing to pay what it would take for such an effort to succeed.
If you don’t remember the history, it was GOP Rep. Darrell Issa who spent $1.7 million of his own money to fund the petition drive that took down Democratic Governor Gray Davis. Mr. Issa is now famous not only for his reptilian smile but for threatening to hold endless Congressional hearings on the Obama administration now that Republicans enjoy the majority in the House. The recent profile of Rep. Issa in The New Yorker suggests that youthful indictments for grand theft related to automobiles, followed shortly thereafter by a kerfuffle where he left the scene of an auto accident, might make him think twice before casting the first stone at others. But that has not been his style.
An article in the Detroit Free Press entitled “Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s new tax plan could be immune from voter repeal” explains that Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 2001 hat laws that include language about expending as little as $1 of tax money cannot be repealed by referendum “because the state constitution prohibits referendums against state appropriations.”
Listening to Governor Snyder’s inauguration speech on January 1, it is hard to believe how quickly he and his Republican compatriots have squandered the goodwill that surrounded his installation. In less than three months, the Michigan GOP threatens to dismantle collective bargaining, chop funding for schools and higher education, kill the Earned Income Tax Credit and enshrine the undemocratic Emergency Financial Managers Law. Do you hear any of that in his rhetoric? What happened to truth in advertising?