Hundreds flock to capitol to tell lame ducks not to tamper with the will of the people

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– PHOTOS BY CYNTHIA PRICE EXCEPT WHERE NOTED

By Cynthia Price

Close to a thousand people showed up in Lansing this past Tuesday to let lawmakers know what they thought of their actions during the lame duck session 2018.

Last week’s Examiner detailed the deliberate gutting of provisions on minimum wage, including for tipped workers, and on paid sick leave, that had qualified to be on the ballot, but instead were kept off by legislators approving them specifically so they could be gutted. Since then, the legislature has gotten bolder.

They have attempted to weaken all three ballot proposals passed by the people, cagily making minor changes that fall short of the threshold for requiring a three quarters supermajority vote. What has passed as a result (but are not yet signed) are called “shell” bills, which legislators will be able to amend in the next legislative session to further dilute the will of the people.

But that is not all. The legislature has proposed or passed bills that greatly reduce wetlands protections; attack reproductive rights; eliminate bottle returns (which does require a 3/4 majority, since it was originally a ballot initiative); ensure that a tunnel will be built to protect the very risky Line 5 Enbridge tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac; revise a pet shop bill with changes opposed by animal rights activists; deny release time for teacher and government union members working on union matters; prevent local governments from enacting ordinances on tree trimming; turn back the clock on scientific knowledge about health risk standards in environmental cleanups, which would directly affect the PFAS threat in Kent County; and limiting the powers of the attorney general and secretary of state.

The protestors who showed up last week are not the only ones who are appalled, and national media outlets have roundly disapproved of what is happening in Michigan (and Wisconsin).

Says David Dempsey, an environmental historian and former policy advisor to Gov. James Blanchard who wrote Ruin and Recovery: Michigan’s Rise as a Conservation Leader, “[T]his is a week of monumental importance. If these bills become law, it could be one of the worst weeks in Michigan’s environmental history.

“I think of the people, many now departed, who worked so hard to build up the things that are being torn down. To see the wetlands and inland lakes and streams acts gutted with almost no debate and no serious consideration after 40 years of resource protection just takes my breath away.”

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