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Groups ramp up efforts to put part-time Legislature on ballot

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham
/
Michigan Radio file photo
The chamber of Michigan's House of Representatives in Lansing. Leaders in the Michigan legislature and Governor Granholm are close to an agreement on the budget.

A group behind a petition drive to return Michigan to a part-time Legislature is ramping up its efforts.

Most states have a part-time legislature. Michigan used to, but the 1963 state constitution changed that.

Norm Kammeraad thinks lawmakers now have to please lobbyists and rich people to keep their full-time jobs.

“We’re at a point where, unless you’ve got a lot of money or financial clout – which that’s probably only about 2% or 3% of Michiganders – you’re not being represented,” Kammeraad said.

Kammeraad chairs the Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature, the group that’s behind the initiative to make "state lawmaker" a part-time gig.

It hopes to collect 400,000 signatures by the first week of July. It needs more than 326,000 to make the November ballot.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and Republican Committeeman Dave Agema will appear at events in Holland and Grand Rapids on Saturday. The two former lawmakers tried unsuccessfully in the past to make the Legislature part-time.

The initiative would also require bills to be publicly disclosed at least five days before lawmakers vote on them.

He says that would stop lawmakers from ramming bills through without giving people a chance to figure out exactly what they’re voting on.

Kammeraad says part-time legislators with other jobs back in their home districts would be better connected to citizens. 

“Imagine being able to call your representative in the field and say ‘hey, I’d like to discuss an issue with you about roads.' And he’s there to answer it. That’s just the most incredible rush a person could ever have: control of your government again,” he said.

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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