It’s been a bad week for democracy in Michigan, with Republican lawmakers running rough-shod over the state constitution by enacting a law that by-passes judicial due process in those cases that dare to question the legality of their legislation. In fact, SB-652 actually inoculated itself. Yes, Section 6419(1)(d) of the law that transfers the Court of Claims to the Court of Appeals gives the COA the authority to judge its own authority — how very fascist of them. Mussolini would most certainly have approved.
The story of the stealthy demise of democracy in Michigan was barely a blip on the mainstream media radar, with most newspapers picking-up a short AP recap of the event — stuffing it in, with all the utility of styrofoam packing peanuts, as a side-bar brief along with stories like a report about the possible threat of salmonella being linked to pet turtles.
A key ingredient to the success of a fascist regime is a flaccidly docile, if not complicit, media. Here’s some of what didn’t get reported:
The Putsch in Motion
As is typical, all of the amendments offered to address the more troubling aspects of this law were summarily rejected. A half-dozen were proposed by Representatives Singh, Irwin, Greimel and Cavanagh, with no serious consideration given as to their merits. Move along gentlemen, nothing to see here. The putsch was well underway.
GOP leaders added insult to injury by giving SB-652 “immediate effect” ignoring the constitutionally required two-thirds approval rule. The law passed by 57-52, with two Republicans voting against it, so it clearly would not have earned two-thirds support for immediate implementation. When a visibly flummoxed Rep. David Rutledge (D-54) questioned the motion, he was rudely gaveled-away by the Speaker. In the absence of competent Fourth Estate scrutiny, GOP leadership brazenly continues with this practice, knowing full-well it will go largely unreported. And under the provisions of this new law, any challenge to the now routine unconstitutional practice will be quietly tossed out of court.
The most troubling aspect of what occurred last week was the rapidity of the process –the “putsch” descriptor is truly accurate. This was a calculated and timed coup.
Rep. Phil Cavanagh (D-10) rose to offer an amendment, citing Article 3, Section 8 of Michigan’s Constitution, requesting an opinion be rendered as to the constitutionality of this law prior to enactment. The GOP was in too much of a rush and simply declared it all perfectly constitutional and immediately gaveled it through without any discussion permitted on the topic.
Cavanagh, reminding his fellow lawmakers that they belong to a “deliberative body”, demanded to know what the rush was all about, and more importantly, inquired why they referred the bill to the House Government Operations Committee instead of the Judiciary Committee, expressing irritation that “It was rerouted and heard in one day.” The lawmaker related his conversations with members of the judiciary on the lack of deliberation:
“I have talked to many judges on the Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court Justices, and they have not had time to weigh-in on this. They’re very upset, and they believe there should be a deliberative process. I think the process was rushed so people couldn’t come to the committee, couldn’t have their voice heard in Lansing.”
“The over-arching question, and this has been posed to me by judges and justices, — ‘Is it constitutional?’.”
Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-53) expressed similar concerns. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, he too was mystified as to the real reason why they were so by-passed, initially speculating that the fast-track process couldn’t wait for their scheduled Thursday committee meeting — a suspicion borne-out when they passed the law on the Wednesday before. Irwin said this of the bill itself:
“This idea is fraught with challenges. Aside from the logistical challenges, the Constitution states that the Court of Appeals is formed to hear “appeals.” Converting the court to a fact-finding body likely runs afoul of the plain language of the word “appeal.” Perhaps the Supreme Court will employ some creative interpretation, but the Michigan Constitution is straightforward on this point.”
Rep. Sam Singh (D-69) didn’t mince words. He accused GOP leadership of plotting to “jam it through”, calling it “blatantly unconstitutional”, and declaring “this is unacceptable.”
Democracy Tree must say it’s more than merely unacceptable, it’s fascism.
(Note: The primary sponsor of SB-652, Sen. Rick Jones (R-24), has now embarked on a new crusade. He subsequently introduced a bill (SB-669) which says “a person shall not own or possess a nonhuman primate in the state.” Two things of note — first, a somewhat rhetorical question: Shouldn’t it just read “primate” in general? The “nonhuman” qualifier is well, creepy. And second, it will be interesting to see what kind of coverage and placement this AP story gets in the media. Maybe something like that of the typhoid-mary turtles.)
Amy Kerr Hardin