In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Stealing Our Democracy
When a column begins with, "In the good ole days", it's a good idea to dash for the sports section to see if a new Cold War has broken out over the defection of Red Wing Jiri Hudler to Moscow. Good ole day stories usually degenerate into a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Hopefully this one is different. In the good ole days lawmakers solved issues by debating them in front of God and the press corps.
There is still a democracy in the Michigan House but you'd be hard pressed to watch it because most of the deliberations are behind closed locked doors in a caucus which in the good ole days was a rare event.
Not anymore. Currently both parties go into caucus like you breath air…a lot. Caucuses are now used as a handholding exercise to clue everyone in on issues since the vast majority of members have no clue what8 0s going on. Any robust debate goes on inside and then everyone moves lock step back to the floor to ratify what was debated out of public view. It's a lousy way to run a democracy but it underscores the inexperience of term-limited lawmakers who don't want to demonstrate their "stupidity" in public. Likewise, in the good ole days most of the legislative work was done in a committee where the members were experts. Nowadays a lot of that is shifted to so-called "work groups." These are ad hoc and often bi-partisan committees, not subject to the Open Meetings law, that try to resolve this issue or that. The caucus and the work groups are insidious viruses that eat away at an open democracy designed to cover the political behinds of those who are too afraid or too incompetent to debate out in the open. It needs to change. Maybe a work group or caucus could study the notion.