CURTIS FINCH: Window closing on time to push political agenda

By Curt Finch

Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District Superintendent

Many articles are being written about the soon-to-be “almost” record amount of ballot proposals coming in November. Although there were a record number (11) in 1978, there is a strong possibility of seven at the next polling event – the second most in state history. Not since the early 1980s has this number of initiatives been up for voter approval. Although no one seems to be asking why, that’s the first question I ask!

If you look at most of the ballot proposals, they appear to be reactionary to the current party in power. The ballot proposal to cancel out the new international bridge is in direct response to Gov. Rick Snyder putting a deal together for the Canadians to pay for it, circumventing the legislative process. The proposal to put a “super-majority” of two-thirds of legislator votes before taxes can be raised is in response to current political climate. The removal of the emergency manager, allowing home health care workers to organize and putting bargaining rights into the state constitution are all ideas in direct response to what the legislature recently passed. Pushing “clean energy” to 25 percent of total state output by 2025 and adding eight more casinos to the Michigan landscape is a negative response to the current political climate.

With a new administration in place for the past two years, the legislature just passed the 600 mark for legislative bills since Snyder came into office. It is pretty rare that one party controls all three branches; when this happens, the controlling party has a small window to get their comprehensive partisan agenda through. Once this window closes, it may take decades to open again, and there is a strong possibility it may never open again. Because of this current alignment of the political stars, I believe there are two reasons why the ballot measures are pushing an all-time record: 1. The current legislature is “crushing” their opponents and moving too quickly with their political legislation; and 2. The climate is perfect to pass their political agenda and the party troops believe the legislature is moving too slowly, missing the window of opportunity. Each ballot initiative has the first or second point pushing it.

Although frustration and elation with our current legislature is extremely high depending what side of the fence you are on, I can see the window starting to close and here is why – re-election. What are the signs that the window may be closing? The best three indicators came about two weeks ago when Snyder vetoed bi-partisan legislation to require identification to vote; this caught EVERYONE off guard. The second was the projected $17 tax refund the legislature was going to pass along when more dollars appeared in the state coffers. The noise was so loud in response to the billions given to businesses that the legislature had to extend it to save face. The last one was the fast-moving educational retirement reform that surprisingly stalled when the Senate abruptly convened. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Here’s the good news. These three indicators are signs that you are being heard. On Nov. 6, you will have another chance to send a message that balance is best for democracy to work properly. Learn about the ballot proposals and the impact each will have on the future. Democracy works best when it is built upon cooperation and compromise; the political agenda window may be closing.

Dr. Finch can be reached at cfinch@moisd.org and followed on Twitter at CFinchMOISD.