LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, spoke on Thursday regarding the need for a new constitutional amendment designed to empower citizens and rein in an executive branch that often exceeds legislative intent with their regulations. The introduced measure is Senate Joint Resolution M.
“A properly functioning government is one that is accountable to the people and features a balance between three branches: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial,” Sen. Colbeck said. “But now we have an executive branch that continues to promote regulations that go well beyond expressed legislative intent. That needs to change considering the real world impacts these regulations have upon the people we serve.”
The push to rein in the powers of the executive branch has a renewed sense of urgency in light of proposals to reduce the influence of the legislative branch via a part-time legislature.
Michigan is one of only 12 states that have a full-time legislature. Sen. Colbeck is a strong and long-time supporter of a part-time legislature, but he has also indicated he wants to make sure that any power lost by the legislature goes to the people and not to the executive branch.
“Part-time legislatures work just fine in the majority of other states,” Sen. Colbeck said. “But one of the keys to success for a part-time legislature is an appreciation for limited government.
“Full-time legislatures are typically found in states known for big government policies where the people depend heavily upon government services. Our challenge in Michigan after decades of big government policies is to restore an appreciation for freedom and the empowerment of our citizens to manage their own lives.”
Sen. Colbeck specifically noted a few of what are many recent examples of administrative overreach, including actions by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) and the Department of Environmental Quality. In those instances, rules are being made that clearly run counter to legislative intent, and permitting is being required that is not warranted and has never been necessary in the past.
“In one example, the ink is barely dry on our new energy law but the MPSC is already trying to create new rules that would prohibit customers from accessing out-state energy generation when they know that is not what the legislature intended or voted for,” Sen. Colbeck said.
“No matter how clear we as legislators try to be with the letter of the law, and despite assurances from staff attorneys on what the laws that we send to the governor mean, there is all too frequently what can only be described as a willful amnesia and creative interpretation over what some of our laws were explicitly designed to do. We’re now even seeing groups specifically lobby non-elected officials to reinterpret laws, as is the case with Equality Michigan and our civil rights laws.”
Colbeck’s proposed legislation would amend Articles IV and V of the Michigan Constitution. The Article IV changes would improve regulatory oversight by the legislature. The Article V changes would also provide improved transparency regarding executive budget priorities and agency performance.
“Today, the government has more information on the people than the people have about the government and how effectively it spends your hard-earned tax dollars,” Sen. Colbeck said. “We need to right the ship and make sure it goes back to being the other way around.”
If approved by both chambers, SJR M would be subject to a vote of the people before any changes would be made to the Michigan Constitution.