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Politics & Government

Michigan House approves change to lame duck sessions

State capitol
Lester Graham
/
Michigan Radio
The legislature will vote on changes to health care benefits for public employees tomorrow.

The Michigan House backed a proposed constitutional amendment on Wednesday that would require two-thirds majority votes for bills to pass during lame duck sessions of the Legislature, if voters ultimately approve of the change.

The resolution sponsored by Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth aims to end hyperpartisanship attached to lame duck sessions and to build trust with constituents by increasing transparency.

Trust in elected officials has long been an issue in Michigan. In 2015, Michigan ranked dead last in The Center for Public Integrity's investigation into state transparency and accountability.

Lame duck sessions, which occur during even-numbered years after November elections, have been criticized for allowing legislators from the party in power to push through often-contentious legislation before their terms end. Republicans have controlled the Legislature since 2011 and currently hold majorities of 22-16 in the Senate and 58-52 in the House.

In 2018, as Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s second term was ending and before Democrat Gretchen Whitmer assumed office, the Legislature passed bills to delay a minimum wage increase and loosen up paid sick leave requirements.

Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon) said before the vote Wednesday that lame duck sessions have historically posed problems over transparency and trust, no matter which party had control.

“A two-thirds vote in lame duck to pass any bills eliminates partisan bills,” he said. “It promotes proper bill vetting and I can tell you, I’ve seen over the years some pretty terrible lame duck activity.” 

The House passed the resolution in a 102-7 vote, forwarding it to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate backs it, too, the proposed amendment would be decided by voters.