Michigan part of a growing trend of Lame Duck power grabs

By: - December 7, 2018 7:37 pm

Michigan Capitol | Michael Gerstein

Michigan isn’t alone when it comes to frenzied Lame Duck activity. As the legislative session comes to an end, Republicans in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are poised to carry out accelerated, and, in some cases, hyper-partisan and historic votes.

Gretchen Whitmer | Susan J. Demas

In a few states, GOP majorities are exercising power grabs before Democrat executive branch officials take office in January. Democrats picked up seven new governorships, which includes Gretchen Whitmer’s solid win here in Michigan. It was part of a blue wave powered by the #MeToo movement and a backlash to U.S. President Donald Trump and the GOP agenda in Washington, D.C.  

Governing, a national publication providing news and analysis about state and local government, writes this week:

“Legislatures largely controlled by Republicans have been attempting to assert their authority over other branches and aspects of the political process more aggressively in recent years. Legislators have launched attacks on judicial independence, expanding or contracting the size of courts. They’ve also moved to limit or even overturn laws approved by voters at the ballot.”

Here’s the lay of the land in other states:

Wisconsin: Republicans hurried through a set of bills this week designed to limit the power of the state’s incoming governor and attorney general, both Democrats. Meanwhile, angry protesters rallied at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison to oppose the power grab. GOP lawmakers look to reduce Democrat Gov-elect Tony Evers’ authority to change administrative rules, issue pardons or extract the state from a lawsuit challenging the federal Affordable Care Act.

North Carolina: The Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly are working on passing a voter identification law to carry out a new constitutional amendment mandating photo ID. Two years ago, GOP lawmakers in dramatic fashion stripped powers from the governor Democrat Roy Cooper.

Pennsylvania: State Senate President Pro-Tempore Joe Scarnati, a Republican, has requested that Democratic Senator-elect Lindsey Williams provide additional documentation to prove her residency.  GOP lawmakers are considering a measure to block her from being seated. A judge threw their challenge out earlier this year and Williams went on to upset her opponent. She flipped a seat, which includes parts of Pittsburgh and its northern suburbs, from red to blue. Dems gained five seats in the chamber narrowing the GOP majority to 29-21.

Other partisan power plays

Utah state capitol | Susan J. Demas

Ohio: The GOP-led Ohio Senate last week passed a bill that would limit the ways in which courts could interpret statutes.

Utah: Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican, signed a bill this week to roll back provisions of a medical marijuana initiative approved by voters last month. A group called Utah Patients Coalition collected more than 153,000 signatures to have the measure placed on the ballot in November. It passed securing 53 percent of the vote in a conservative state.

Dems have done it, too

Republicans have not been alone in these types of efforts. In 1999, for example, the Democratic-controlled Alabama legislature stripped many powers from the lieutenant governor’s office after Steve Windom, a Republican, captured the seat for the GOP.  

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.