The Michigan Legislature has been tilting left recently and the conservative media have taken notice.
The reality is that Michigan legislators are no different than any other legislators -- their number one goal is to stay in power. And with the elections fast approaching, Michigan's Republican officeholders are looking for ways to remove the extremist stench they doused themselves in shortly after the 2012 election.
So while Republican legislators have shown interest recently in things like raising the minimum wage, increasing education funding, blocking an expansion of the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), increasing taxes to address crumbling roads, and using public funds to save the DIA and help pensioners, their records suggests that the sudden interest in portraying themselves as pragmatic moderates has more to do with getting re-elected than some sort of magnanimous bipartisanship.
One of the first acts of Rick Snyder and the Republican majority, when they took power in 2011, was to cut taxes for corporations and offset the loss of revenue by taxing the elderly. This was a move that the governor claimed would create jobs, yet Michigan still trails most states in growth.
This shift in taxation also came at the expense of Michigan's burgeoning film industry. Incentives that were drawing many film studios to the area were slashed to put a few bucks back in the hands of important donors.
The Legislature has made a point to increase funding to education recently, yet data shows that since 2007, inflation-adjusted education spending in Michigan is short some $1.5 billion. It also true that a portion of the money that Republicans claim they added came directly out of teachers paychecks. Cutting teacher's wages to claim spending is up does not show Republicans are as dedicated to improving education as they would like you to believe.
In December 2013, the Legislature passed a bill requiring women to buy additional insurance coverage for abortion. To make matters worse the Legislature enacted this attack on women's rights without the consent of the voters or the governor, as both were bypassed in this process.
Shortly after voters decided they didn't want the government to have the power to void local election results and force an emergency manager on struggling cities, Republicans ignored the will of the people and passed a new emergency manager law. Thanks to a legislative trick, the issue can not be put up for a vote of the people.
In retaliation for a union effort to secure the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain, the governor signed right to work legislation that allows individuals to opt out of the democratic process while restricting unions from enjoying this same freedom of choice.
When discussing legislation to restrict women right to decide what she can and cannot do with her own body, Republicans banned State Representative Lisa Brown from speaking on the House floor for using the word vagina. Apparently free speech has its limits.
Gov. Rick Snyder used Indiana as the model for reviving the Michigan economy, yet data shows the tax cutting policies the governor has championed are far less effective than the tax-and-spend policies of states like Minnesota.
The Legislature attempted to make absentee voting in Michigan more difficult to quell their unsubstantiated fears of voter fraud.
Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette is fighting to keep same sex couples from their dream of marriage equality, even though the courts have determined his position to be unconstitutional.
So while Republicans have spent the last few months putting lipstick on the pig that is their legislative priorities, it is important for voters to remember that the softened positions these individuals are taking now don't represent a true Republican agenda. If it did, the conservative media won't spend so much time pointing out how recent legislation represents a departure from core Republican values.
As George W. Bush once said, "Fool me once, shame on ... shame on you. Fool me... You can't get fooled again!"
If Michigan voters forget the litany of grotesquely sectarian legislation Republicans crammed into the last lame duck session and give them another opportunity to lead, they shouldn't be surprised when many of these legislators abandon their newfound love of compromise and force their conservative agenda onto Michiganians.
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