From staff reports
State Representative Curt VanderWall (Republican) who represents Michigan’s 101st district—which includes Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee and Mason counties—says the bills being rushed through the legislature during this month’s lame duck session are “unfortunately part of politics”.
VanderWall won election to the State Senate last month. Next year he’ll represent a 12-county area in northwest lower Michigan. Republican Jack O’Malley will represent the 101st district in VanderWall’s place after beating Democrat Kathy Wiejaczka in the election.
The lame duck activity in Michigan and Wisconsin, where Democratic governors, attorneys general and secretaries of state will replace Republicans on Jan. 1, have garnered attention around the nation. Opponents call the frenzied rush to pass bills and put them on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk “a power grab”. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will replace Snyder in 2019.
“We’ve seen lame-duck activity many times,” VanderWall told the Glen Arbor Sun last week. “It’s no different when it’s the other fashion. This time it just happens to be a Republican governor leaving.”
“I don’t think we’re necessarily trying to gut the power (of the incoming administration). It’s unfortunately part of politics. We’re always busy during the session leading up to the holidays.”
VanderWall voted in favor of bills pushed by his party last week to restrict growth in Michigan’s minimum wage and curb guaranteed sick time. Earlier this year the legislature passed minimum wage and sick time bills to prevent citizens from putting them on the ballot. Their newest bills appear to walk back those bills.
“Ultimately we’re looking out for businesses, citizens and constituents,” said VanderWall. “The bills would have done harm to small business owners and to employees in the service industry.”
VanderWall also favors fast-moving legislation that would allow Enbridge to build a tunnel under the Mackinac Straits and move the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline underground.
“On Line 5 you know my position. We need to make it the safest and most inspected pipeline in the world. I believe the tunnel is a good piece of legislation and a good opportunity because it allows infrastructure and other utilities to come through the tunnel so the UP remains a good place to do business and to live.”
VanderWall expressed concern with the ballot initiative that voters passed overwhelmingly in November that would curb partisan gerrymandering of districts.
“I believe the lines need to be drawn so they are contiguous. That’s my biggest concern. (The ballot measure) was inadvertently written so that boundaries could be noncontiguous.”
The lame duck bills also include an effort to involve the legislation in future law suits against the state that are typically handled solely by the attorney general’s office. Michigan’s incoming attorney general is Democrat Dana Nessel; Republican Bill Schuette is the outgoing attorney general.
“I’m always concerned about taking power away from the attorney general,” said VanderWall. “But if we feel we’re being sued, the legislative body should have input.”
VanderWall said he would read each bill carefully rather than automatically vote in lockstep with his party.
“We need to make sure when we’re racing legislation through, that people aren’t just voting because they are Republican or Democrat. I can’t speak for others, I can only speak for myself.”
VanderWall said that he didn’t believe the lame duck activity would necessarily hurt the ability of Democrats and Republicans to work together across party lines in the future—with divided government looming in Michigan.
“Personally on my end I don’t think it will damage relationships. I’m moving on to the state senate. We need to work on doing things that are right for the state.”