Part-time legislature debate in Lansing will be informative

We plan to watch, with interest, a debate that’s going to take place in Lansing on making the Michigan Legislature part time.

Backers, who plan to or already have introduced bills making the state Senate and House of Representatives part time, maintain that the state of Michigan is one of just four nationwide – Michigan plus California, Pennsylvania and New York – that have full-time legislatures, according to The Associated Press. They claim the amount of work that’s accomplished typically could be completed in less time and at a greatly reduced cost.

Gov. Rick Snyder, it’s worth noting, opposes the idea. It’s Snyder’s belief that a full-time legislature is needed to handle all of the demands of the job.

Not according to fellow Republican John Proos, a state senator from St. Joseph. He’s introduced a bill that would allow voters to decide if lawmakers should work just 90 days a year. “I know there is a difference of opinion on this and some of my colleagues will have plenty to say about it,” he said. “But this is a reform that makes good common sense. We’re having to find savings and solutions to problems on a daily basis.”

AP also reported that another backer is Rochester Hills GOP state Rep. Tom McMillin, who plans to introduce similar legislation in his chamber that includes cutting lawmakers’ annual salary of $71,685 by 75 percent. He has previously – and unsuccessfully – introduced the legislation. “I think we can get our work done in 90 days,” he said.

He might have a point. According to state records, the Legislature worked just 81 days in 2012. AP stated that from mid-June through the end of November, members logged 10 days of work in Lansing as many House members campaigned for re-election. That was followed by a three-week lame-duck marathon that included passage of 282 bills. Lawmakers were in session for 100 days in 2011.

We don’t expect any of these bills will fly through the legislature. But the debate that will likely take place because of them should provide compelling insight, and perhaps a basis to make an informed decision later on.