War on local Communities

For as long as I can remember, Republicans have campaigned against big government, especially government controls that come from Washington.  Instead, they’ve marketed themselves as the party of small government and local control.

That sounds nice.  Most of us would rather have decisions made and money spent by local people we know and trust, rather than big bad bureaucrats in Washington. The trouble, however, is this:  Republicans are absolutely in favor of local control … except when they’re not.

And there are two bills they are trying to jam through the lame-duck session of the state legislature right now that prove this.  Actually, it is the same bill, introduced in the house by Holly Hughes and the state senate by Tom Casperson.  Both lawmakers are term-limited and will be out of office in a year, so voters have no way of holding them responsible.

What their horrible bill would do, to quote it exactly, would be to prevent any county, township, or local unit of government, from trying to “regulate or control the drilling, completion, or operation of oil and gas wells or other wells drilled for oil or gas exploration purposes, and will not have jurisdiction with reference to the issuance of permits for … such wells.”

What this means, in other words,  is that someone can decide to drill a well and dump a huge gravel mound near where you live and your local government will be powerless to do anything about it.  Now, Hughes, who is from the Muskegon area, and Casperson, who is from the UP, didn’t both have a vision that led them to introduce identical bills to do this.

No, they were presumably told to do so, and given the wording, by some special interest, which will likely reward them later.  This is, obviously, obscene, and the way in which they are doing it is more so.  If lawmakers want to have a legitimate debate on whether this would be a good idea, fine.  Reintroduce these bills in January, when a new legislature will have two years to sort this out and consider if, when and how to handle drilling permits.

But the special interests don’t want that; they want to ram in through while there is no time for careful thought and when there is also a term-limited governor who will serve as a rubber stamp for whatever his party rams through.  They are planning other outrages too.

They are destroying bills they passed earlier this year that give workers sick time, and increase the minimum wage, especially for restaurant servers. They cynically passed these bills, by the way, to prevent the voters from enacting them by a vote of the people.

They wouldn’t have been able to destroy them if that had happened. And with breathtaking arrogance, they are trying to take much of the powers of the attorney general and secretary of state away, giving the legislature, for example, the right to intervene in any legal proceeding. These are Republicans doing this, and they are doing it because the voters last month chose Democrats to run the state.

Those in power now couldn’t care less about the will of the people.  Now, trying to tamper with the duties of elected statewide officeholders is almost certainly unconstitutional.

So are some of the other things they are doing.

But sorting all this out will take time.  This is, at best, irresponsible and destructive behavior at a time when this state needs anything but.  We need, somehow to limit what happens in lame duck sessions to completing work on bills already introduced.

Because what’s happening in the Capitol now has turned democracy into disgrace.