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Monday, June 25, 2012

WE SHOULD HAVE KNOWN



“I honestly had no idea it would become such an issue.”
                                                            Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamos

That was Michigan’s Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamos’ response to the fury he  and Speaker Jase Bolger faced when they denied two lawmakers their right to free speech on the floor of the House of Representatives.  The silenced lawmakers were given no explanation why their free speech was denied nor for how long. This is  particularly egregious  in light of extra constitutional measures granted lawmakers so they can speak freely in the chamber during floor debate. (Article 4, Section 11, Speech and Debate Clause).

Floor Leader Jim Stamos took an oath of office to defend the constitution.  Yet he was stunned to realize the citizens expect him to honor his oath.

I was surprised by his comment until I looked at the goings-on in Michigan over the past two years.  This abuse of power is a pattern with these two and should have come as no surprise to me or anyone else.

First, there is the matter of Immediate Effect.  Michigan’s constitution is clear:  laws only take immediate effect if granted so by a super majority.   Yet Michigan’s House Republican leadership illegally disregards this part of our constitution every day.  Even as Michigan receives national attention about this illegal action, they continue.   Their excuse is “everyone else does it, so we can do it, too.”  We don’t buy that malarkey from third graders.  Why in the world should we accept it from paid lawmakers? The truth is this.  They got caught and have been publicly asked to stop this practice and have refused.

If Speaker Bolger and Floor Leader Stamos are willing to ignore the constitution in the face of national attention, of course they would be willing to ban free speech.  We should have known.

Secondly, almost immediately after taking office, and with scant discussion, these two leaders pushed through a bill to deny large parts of our population their right to self-governance.  Sadly, it was passed into law. (PA 4)

With actions like these, we should not be surprised by further erosion of our rights.

And finally, these legislators see our State Board of Canvassers get away with completely disrespecting the constitution and instead of defending it, as they promised to do, they are further emboldened to disregard it.  

Recently a petition that needed a 14 pt. bold font heading and had a 14 pt. bold font heading got denied its certification, supposedly when it had the wrong size font.  Yes, you read that correctly. Every i was dotted,   every t crossed,  yet still the State Board of Canvassers failed to certify the petition, thereby silencing the voices of over 200,000 citizens.  And our legislative leaders stood silently by.

We should have known.
  
Citizens everywhere expressed their outrage at this latest incident.  But Speaker Bolger and Floor Leader Stamos  have shown by their actions they will continue to  trample on our constitution.   Who will be their next victim?  If they deny one person his or her rights, they would do it to any one of us.

Please join me in asking our lawmakers to admit wrong-doing, apologize to the silenced law-makers, and immediately remove the ban on their free speech.   

I hope the citizens of this great state and country will continue to raise their voices – and raise them louder still.  Maybe then our law-makers will be shamed into defending our constitution.

(To sign a petition asking for the speaker and floor leader to apologize, go to Democracy for America, then click on Stand With the Women of Michigan.)