So many proposals, so little time – what’s a girl to do? Next week, everyone in Michigan will feel like the belle of the ball with their dance card absolutely full of suiters wanting an answer.

“What do you think of green energy standards, darling? I must know.”

“Tell me your thoughts on emergency financial managers, my love. Your opinion is everything to me.”

What fun! Everyone wants my opinion!

Most Michiganders, I suspect, don’t feel quite that way. With ballots that are pages long, full of lengthy proposals, most of which are both confusing for voters and incredibly consequential for our state, we are feeling something closer to bewilderment than empowerment. But it’s not just our collective desire to not have to work so hard on election day that is the problem here. Something about putting this many ballots before voters feels wrong, even if it’s hard to determine why.

Last week’s City Pulse from Lansing opened an article explaining each proposal in detail like this:

The Legislature no longer represents the people of Michigan. That’s the inevitable implication of next month’s bedsheet ballot to bypass lawmakers with five proposals to change the Constitution, plus a referendum on a law jammed through the Legislature on a party-line vote.

Sounds pretty extreme, right? And also totally correct. That’s why it feels so weird to have this many detailed proposals before citizens for a direct vote. They may be disguised as constitutional amendments, but these are pieces of legislation. No matter how you feel about any one proposal individually, should we be voting on any of them? When did Michigan become a direct democracy? If we’re going to take complicated legislation to the voters, why bother having legislators at all?

The truly amazing thing is, while the City Pulse is right in saying the implication of this number of ballot proposals is that citizens are pushing back against a legislature they don’t feel represents them, it was Michigan citizens who put those legislators there. And, for the most part, they’re only doing exactly what they said they were going to do while campaigning. To me, that makes the larger implication of the onslaught of ballot proposals the fact that we are not paying close enough attention to who we are electing to the legislature. In a time when we can learn more about our candidates, more easily than ever before, that is mind-boggling.

So yes, it is important to research these proposals thoroughly and vote your conscious on all of them. My instinct is to vote no on all of them — even though I would like to see some of them be law — because this is not the method by which our laws are supposed to be made. More important than that, however, is to thoroughly research our respective legislative candidates and vote our conscious on them. Not by their marketing taglines. Not by their attacks on each other, but by what they say they’re going to do when they get to Lansing.

That should save us from having to do their job for them again in two years.

3 thoughts on “Proposals Gone Wild

  1. I’m so glad to be back in Michigan, it was a pain to follow and care about this stuff from afar.

    I’m not totally qualified to discuss the job Michigan’s congress has done lately but I have followed their work with regards to the state budget. I think they deserve some credit for turning the 1.5 billion dollar deficit into a 255 million dollar surplus. They passed the budget this year pretty quickly this summer. There was some bickering with taxing pensions and education funding but plenty of tough decisions that were made like repealing MBT, reversing the public union day care debacle, film industry incentives, etc. The auto industry resurgence can’t take all the credit for Michigan’s growth and balanced budget.

    Is there anyplace particularly that the legislature is lacking?

    1. Hey Tim,

      If you’ll re-read the post, I think you’ll see that I’m not attempting to point out any way in which I personally feel the legislature has done anything wrong or right. I’m stating that having this many proposals on the ballot is evidence of a disconnect the legislators and their constituents. It’s not an effective or smart way to create policy. It’s not a partisan discussion.

      1. I agree, its not partisan or a great way to create policy.
        I’m not sure how many props there are year to year in Michigan. I would suggest that this years props have much more to do with special interests then constituents interest. I don’t think anywhere near a majority of people are trying to cater to a bridge owning billionaire, a couple of union grabs, green power business, or the tea party’s agenda.

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