Michigan Republicans to take up limits on Democrats' powers

 

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans who control Michigan's Legislature were poised Wednesday to begin voting on bills that would strip campaign-finance oversight power from the Democratic secretary of state-elect and give lawmakers authority to stand up for GOP-backed laws if the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general drop the state's defense.

The lame-duck moves would be similar to efforts in Wisconsin , where lawmakers voted earlier Wednesday to shift clout to the Republican-controlled Legislature and weaken the Democrat replacing the GOP governor.

Michigan Democrats in January will jointly hold the governor, attorney general and secretary offices for the first time in 28 years, but the Legislature will continue to be controlled by Republicans.

A day after GOP lawmakers finalized an unprecedented maneuver to gut minimum wage and paid sick leave laws , a Senate panel was expected to pass legislation that would create the Fair Political Practices Commission to enforce the campaign-finance law rather than Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson, who ran in part on a pledge to advocate for election transparency. The House planned to approve a bill that would empower the Legislature to intervene in any suit at any stage, a right already granted to the attorney general. It is seen as a maneuver to ensure that Republicans could support laws if Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and Democratic Attorney General-elect Nessel are lukewarm.

Nessel, for example, has said she probably will not defend a law allowing faith-based groups to refuse to serve same-sex couples who want to adopt children.

"It seems like a lot of people are rushing to grab power after they've lost an election," said Patrick Schuh, state director for the liberal group America Votes.

But Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the legislation giving legislators the authority to get involved in suits is needed because "we've been shut out" in recent cases.

"We believe we have standing, and we want to make sure by law that we do because if somebody wants to ignore a law, we need to intervene because we made the law. It's passed and signed by the governor and it needs to be enforced," Meekhof said.