A posthumous legacy of Michigan’s 96th Legislature — some ugly unfinished business the state can expect to see lead the parade of bills introduced in the new session:
Neophyte Republican Party hard-liner, Lisa Posthumus-Lyons rode the coat-tails of her daddy, Dick Posthumus, into the Michigan House in 2010. After his failed gubernatorial race and loss to Jennifer Granholm, Dick worked his backroom corporate affiliations, and the father-daughter team surfed their well-greased skids into power positions within the Snyder Administration.
Lyons, a 32 year old freshman lawmaker, fresh out of dabbling in the real estate business, was appointed Chair of the House Education Committee when the previous occupant, Rep. Paul Scott, was recalled.
Upon election, Snyder named the elder Posthumus as his senior advisor and legislative lobbyist. The appointment of Posthumus, a Michigan farmer with extensive legislative experience (having been the longest serving Senate Majority Leader in Michigan’s history) should have been the first clue that the Snyder administration would be nothing like the one painted in the campaign.
A look in the rear-view mirror leading up to the 2010 Snyder victory exposes just how well-laid the groundwork was for the legislative assault on democratic home rule and labor in Michigan. Many months prior to the election, Snyder set the putsch in motion when he quietly approached Andy Dillon to develop the enhanced Emergency Manager legislation. Dillon contacted MSU Economics Professor Eric Scorsone to devise an Emergency Manager Training Program. Dillon, working with Posthumus, secretly crafted a law that was all but bullet-proof — aside from the obvious constitutional and civil rights violations, and the fact that it was repealed by popular vote — they otherwise just loved their new law. So much so that they gave it reproductive rights.
Yes, PA-4 brought forth the evil spawn known as the Education Achievement Authority. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This idea was cooked-up hastily by the Snyder team when it was becoming increasingly clear that the Emergency Manager plan was not working out so well for the Detroit Public School system. The scheme was to round-up as many schools as they could and put them under the authority of a new statewide district to be run by an appointed official –“Chancellor” — with all the powers of an Emergency Manager, serving at the governor’s pleasure.
It was an ad hoc scheme at first, but we know how much Snyder likes his petty dictators…. he wished the plan to go viral across the state — so they slap-dash crafted a law, and tagged a clueless lawmaker to sponsor it.
It seems the apple also falls close to the tree on the Posthumus farm. Lisa Posthumus-Lyons, an admitted country music lover, took a break from her toe-tapping to George Straight, to two-step up and introduce one of the most egregious pieces of legislation in the history of Michigan — it was nothing less than a bald-faced attack on the democratic process, public education, and on both the civil rights and voting rights acts.
House Bill 6004 was introduced by the farmer’s daughter on November 8th of 2012, mere hours after its big daddy, the Emergency Manager law, had been repealed. A look at the specifics of HB 6004 clearly illustrates its gene pool.
The impetus behind the legislation is to codify into Michigan Compiled Law the Education Achievement Authority. In addition to the state seizure of local control of financially struggling schools, it suspends collective bargaining in the bottom 5 percent of schools — an ugly provision reminiscent of the failed federal law, No Child Left Behind, in which schools that did not meet AYP (adequate yearly progress) were summarily punished regardless of important contributing factors.
Just as with the Emergency Manager law, a racial component emerged again…
The law was crafted to continually punish the bottom 5 percent, no matter how much progress they made, and history shows that the lowest performing schools tend to be located in poor urban areas. HB 6004, like its Emergency Manager parent, facially-speaking, did not have a racial component, but in practice — well, that’s another matter.
It was surprising that lawmakers did not rush this bill out of committee to enact in the lame-duck frenzy of legislative sausage-making last month, but they made a conscious decision to hold-back until the 97th Legislature was in session.
By that time, Lawmakers had already stung the political powerhouse, AFSCME, over the last minute ALEC-based Right-to-Work law, and re-animating the Emergency Manager law immediately after it was repealed inflamed voters along with union workers. Perhaps they pulled their one-two-three punch out of political fear. Or, the more plausible explanation was a desire to tweak it for its own protection. They remembered who orchestrated and bank-rolled the recall of Rep. Paul Scott — the MEA — an organization that isn’t afraid to pull-out all the stops –including ending the political careers of foolish lawmakers that introduce bills that attack public education.
Labor unions are not afraid of the new restrictions Michigan lawmakers have placed on recalls.
Term limits have a deleterious effect on the ability of elected officials to perform optimally, including banding together in a crisis — Lansing lacks a mature power structure and stumbles about with its myopic institutional memory. In short, they can’t get their shit together.
But, everyone knows….there’s a reason they call it “organized labor”.
Amy Kerr Hardin This article also appears in Voters Legislative Transparency Project