Reform Michigan Government Now, a cryptic group with unknown sources of financing (here and here), is collecting voter signatures to put a series of constitutional amendments on the November ballot. These amendments would reduce the number of state officeholders and cut their pay. To succeed, Reform Michigan must get 371,000 signatures on its petition by July 7th. That would appear to be a hurdle the group cannot clear, and so these proposed amendments are likely a dead letter. That's just as well.
There are two reasons Michiganders should oppose the Reform Michigan amendments.
Another amendment reduces the number of state representatives from 110 to 82 and state senators from 38 to 28. These reductions would drive the creation of new legislative districts that favor the Democrats, by allowing the packing of Republican voters into a few solid "red" districts while spreading out Democratic voters across many districts in which they constitute a majority, but not overwhelmingly so. In this way, fewer districts help Democrats to hold a majority in the house and senate.
These are the ways in which the Reform Michigan amendments re-tool the state constitution to gain control of the supreme court, the senate, and the house for the Democrats at the expense of the Republicans. (And yes, it would be just as noxious if it were the other way around.) Of course, it is properly the prerogative of the voters to determine which party is in control and not behind-the-scenes operators pushing allegedly good-government constitutional amendments with convenient side effects for their cause.
And that brings us to the second reason for opposing the Reform Michigan amendments. They work against good government. Representative government should be, after all, representative. As it stands, 110 state representatives and 38 state senators are not a large number of legislators for 10 million Michiganders. The proposed amendment reducing the size of the state house would concentrate lawmaking into fewer hands necessarily less representative and more remote from their constituents. The greater the number of constituents a legislator represents, the less influence any one constituent or small group of them has with him. Thus, the legislator is even more captive to powerful constituents and special interests. While this problem can be mitigated by giving a legislator a bigger staff, it does put a bureaucratic barrier between him and the ordinary constituent.
Better that we have double the number of legislators in the house and senate than any fewer. Smaller districts are more representative of the diverse communities that make up our state. Plus we can make them part-time lawmakers, because the same amount of legislative work could be spread across more people. Also, as part-timers, our legislators receiving only part-time pay literally could not afford to isolate themselves from the real world the rest of us live in. Just the opposite happens with the Reform Michigan amendments. Even though they modestly cut the pay of officeholders, the smaller number of legislators would remain full-timers drawing a sufficiently high salary to make Lansing their source of financial well-being rather than the communities they come from.
It is a misguided notion that we need "professional" legislators in Lansing -- i.e., we need men and women drawing good salaries and benefits from the taxpayers to work full-time on making new laws. Consider that full-time lawmaking means full-time law-changing. That is not good government. The law should be limited in what it rules, and what it does and how it does should not be in doubt. That is not achieved with a continuous flow of new legislation. It is a chaos to which "professional" legislators attach themselves by our mandate that they become full-time lawmakers rather than as our occasional citizen-emissaries to Lansing to represent our communities on only the most pressing public issues.
The Reform Michigan constitutional amendments not only stink of hack partisanship but would restructure our state government to concentrate it into fewer hands more beholden to special interests than to ordinary Michiganders.