In Lansing, where potentially self-serving votes run ‘rampant’

LANSING — Eric Leutheuser is a state representative and an auto dealer, two careers that intersected in a May meeting of the House Regulatory Reform Committee. The committee was considering a bill Leutheuser sponsored to require the state to offer and pay for certain training programs for auto dealers.

Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia, the committee’s vice chair, questioned why taxpayers should have to pay for such industry-specific training. An official with the Secretary of State’s Office, which offers the training, replied that Michigan expects auto dealers to comply with rules, and the training programs would help them do it.

Yonker leaned toward his mic, smiled and joked, “Would you take my industry up so I don’t have to pay for mine, too?”

Here’s a video of the exchange.

As it happens, Yonker, whose official House biography says he owns a landscaping business, had proposed a money-saving policy for his own industry in 2013. A bill he sponsored would have dropped licensure requirements and fees for landscape architects (It died in committee without a vote).

Welcome to the Michigan Legislature, where there is no law barring lawmakers from voting on bills that could financially benefit their businesses or families. While 32 states have statutes regulating conflicts of interest — some requiring disclosure; some barring members from casting votes — Michigan relies on House and Senate rules enforced by the lawmakers themselves, with predictable results.

Related: 15 examples of lawmakers and potential conflicts of interest

An investigation by Bridge Magazine and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network (MCFN) found numerous examples of bills authored or supported by legislators that, at least on the surface, offered the potential of a benefit to the lawmakers, their businesses or their families. They include:

  • The owner of a business that installs septic systems sponsoring a bill that would give those doing emergency septic work a waiver from seasonal vehicle weight limits;
  • The president of a real estate management company sponsoring a bill that would make it more difficult to sue landlords for damages arising from a bed bug infestation;
  • A state senator telling a hometown newspaper he couldn’t vote on a bill that came to the Senate floor because it would give his daughter, a judge, a raise; then voting yes on the same bill when it returned to the Senate.

Spokespeople for state legislative leaders contend that conflicts of interest are taken seriously in Lansing and that -- with or without a conflict-of-interest law -- lawmakers are doing a good job avoiding them.

But some current lawmakers dispute that, with one calling the practice “fairly rampant” in Lansing.

The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group, ranked Michigan dead last in regulating legislative conflicts of interest. (Michigan also ranked last nationally for overall government transparency.)

“It’s an honor system without honor,” said Chad Selweski, a Michigan journalist who analyzed Michigan’s conflict of interest policies for the Center’s 2015 national report.

“It’s, basically, anything goes.”

Lawmaker, police yourself

Michigan Senate rules say that senators can’t vote on matters in which they have a “personal, private or professional interest.” But a Senate “rule” isn’t the same as a state “law”; there is no set penalty for violating a Senate rule. Moreover, it’s not clear when, if ever, a lawmaker has been sanctioned by his peers for violating the conflict-of-interest rule.

In the Michigan House, the rules hold legislators even less accountable, simply stating that House members have the option of declaring a conflict of interest as a reason they can give for not voting.

Even with these lax policies, records reviewed by the MCFN and Bridge indicate that the rate at which state lawmakers recuse themselves from voting has declined sharply in recent years. Whether that’s because lawmakers are doing a better job avoiding conflicts, or are less inclined to report them, is unclear.

citing-conflicts

From 2009 to 2012, lawmakers in the House and Senate recused themselves from voting 39 times, citing conflicts of interest, according to official legislative journals. Since then, conflict-of-interest recusals have dropped roughly 80 percent – with lawmakers citing a conflict of interest as a reason for not voting just eight times in more than 4,500 roll call votes from January 2013 through Oct. 21, 2016.

In addition, Michigan makes it difficult for residents to learn if their legislators have a financial conflict of interest on certain issues.

Michigan is one of only three states that don’t require some level of personal financial disclosure from state lawmakers. Financial disclosure forms used in other states (and in Michigan by those running for federal office) require lawmakers to reveal the source of their income and investments. Currently in Michigan, the public only knows those things about legislators if individual lawmakers voluntarily reveal them.

But a variety of legislative leaders say the public has little reason for concern.

"We expect our members to identify any potential conflicts of interest and do the right thing by stepping aside during the vote,” said Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Union Township. “It looks like House Republicans have been doing the right thing and recusing themselves when appropriate."

‘It’s fairly rampant’

Examining lawmakers’ official biographies and their sponsored bills, Bridge Magazine and the MCFN found more than a dozen instances in which lawmakers sponsored or backed bills that appeared to be related to their career fields outside of the Legislature, or to the career interests of a family member.

Readers can make their own judgment by looking at the list of potential conflicts here.

Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, said it’s common for Michigan lawmakers to vote on – and even write – bills for which there is an appearance of a conflict of interest.

Callton has done so himself, the legislator admitted.

Callton, a chiropractor, voted in 2015 in the House Health Policy Committee on a bill that would allow chiropractors to prescribe physical therapy. The bill can be viewed as a way to help chiropractors maintain ties with patients seeking physical therapy; currently, a chiropractic patient who needs physical therapy must go to a physician to get a prescription.

The bill is opposed by groups ranging from the Michigan Physical Therapy Association to the Chamber of Commerce to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The only group that testified in favor of the bill: the Michigan Chiropractic Association, which named Callton the organization’s Chiropractor of the Year in 2013.

The bill was approved by the House Health Policy Committee in June, with Callton voting yes, and is awaiting action on the floor of the House.

Callton conceded “it’s valid” for the public to view his committee vote as a possible conflict of interest, but said there “isn’t a culture” of recognition of conflict of interest among lawmakers.

“You definitely see people who work on bills that benefit their industry or benefit them personally,” Callton said. “It’s fairly rampant that people are voting on things that are a conflict of interest.”

Jane Briggs-Bunting, president of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government, a nonprofit government watchdog group, said the appearance of such conflicts damages public trust in state government.

“Frankly, it’s outrageous,” she said. “And it’s worse in Michigan because we have such short term limits.”

“We don’t know who the lobbyists are influencing these people. The learning curve is so steep - (legislators) spend the first year finding out where the bathroom is and the second year running for reelection.” (Disclosure: John Bebow, president and CEO of The Center for Michigan, the parent organization of Bridge Magazine, serves on the volunteer board of the Michigan Coalition for Open Government)

Because lawmakers in Michigan don’t have to file financial disclosures, it’s impossible to know all the potential conflicts that may arise in their legislative activities. For instance, this fall, lawmakers are crafting wide-ranging energy policies. But under the state’s lax financial disclosure laws, there’s no way to know how many lawmakers have financial investments in utility companies with stakes in the bills.

One lawmaker, Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, whose wife works for Consumers Energy, said his family has a small financial investment in the utility.

Of handling potential conflicts, Poleski said, “You have to walk a political tightrope to make sure that people feel you have integrity and are going to vote what is best for the state of Michigan, and even not necessarily what is best for your own family or your own district.”

Another House member, Gretchen Driskell, D-Saline, has investments in CMS Energy, the parent company of Consumers Energy. That information only came to light because she is currently running for Congress. Candidates for federal office are required to file the kind of financial disclosure report not required of state lawmakers.

Here’s what the federal financial disclosure form looks like.

Worst in the nation

Michigan has “full-time” legislators who earn $71,685 per year, but many also have outside jobs or professions. Some who leave their fields to work in the legislature return to their professions after they leave Lansing. That has happened at a higher pace in recent years because representatives are limited to serving six years (three two-year terms) and senators eight years. (two four-year terms).

Those professional ties, along with the professional and financial ties of spouses, can create at least the appearance of a conflict when they sponsor or vote on a bill.

But some lawmakers caution that just because a bill impacts their career fields doesn’t necessarily mean there is a conflict of interest. Multiple legislators said they view true conflicts of interest more narrowly, saying they believe their vote only raises an ethical issue when the measure could give them a direct financial advantage over others.

Rep. Edward Canfield, R-Sebewaing, who’s in his first term, said it’s natural -- and preferable -- for lawmakers to enact laws that improve their own professional fields.

“We need to bring our expertise,” said Canfield, a physician who has sponsored bills that would affect physicians.

The tension between lawmakers lending their expertise to a bill and potentially benefitting from its enactment can be seen in two recent bills Canfield sponsored. The measures would eliminate requirements that doctors maintain their national and regional certifications to get insurance reimbursements. Canfield said he sees too many doctors leaving the profession out of frustration from having to take too many certification tests.

Canfield said the measures wouldn't affect him since his certification does not expire. But the bills could impact his physician wife, who has had to take recertification testing three times. "Frankly she might retire anyway," Canfield said. "I just think it’s bad policy."

The decline in lawmakers citing conflicts as a reason not to vote comes at a time when trust in state government is low, and dropping. Just one-in-five Michigan residents say they trust state government “most of the time,” according to the 2015 Michigan State University State of the State survey. Trust levels have dropped by about 50 percent since 1995, according to the MSU survey.

There are 32 states with statutes on lawmakers and conflicts of interest. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists how each state regulates when lawmakers must refrain from voting.

Some states, such as Alaska and Florida, have ethics commissions that field complaints about legislative conflicts of interest and serve as an advisor and referee to lawmakers when they aren’t sure if they should abstain from a vote.

In Michigan, by contrast, the legislative bodies are expected to police their own members.

Only once this session has a senator cited a conflict of interest as the reason for not voting, and even that instance highlights how ineffectual the rule can be. In March of last year, Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, declined to vote on a bill that could raise salaries for judges because his daughter, Kimberly Booher, is a circuit court judge in Mecosta County.

“I abstained from voting on a bill that dealt with salaries and pensions,” Sen. Booher told the Leelanau Enterprise newspaper. “I felt there was a conflict.”

But when the bill later returned to the Senate from the House, Booher voted in support of the proposal.

When asked about the flip-flop, Sen. Booher’s office issued a statement explaining Booher decided to vote on the bill after reviewing the Senate rule on conflicts of interest.

“It was clear that the rule is intended to address those issues where the senator himself would benefit,” the statement said. “Booher decided fulfilling his duty to vote as an elected member of the Senate was the best course of action and did so rather than abstain.”

Selweski, who wrote the Center for Public Integrity report on Michigan, said he sees holes in the current rules.

“You have a system where a legislator can freely engage in a conflict of interest in terms of voting or proposing an amendment or lobbying other legislators, and nobody knows,” said Selweski, who is also a freelance contributor to Bridge Magazine. “There are very few rules about anything.”

‘You don’t think about it’

Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, is one of a handful of legislators this term who have declined to vote on a bill because of a conflict of interest. LaGrand is a licensed building contractor, and he declined to vote on a measure that would make it easier for homeowners to hire unlicensed contractors. The bill passed.

LaGrand, who joined the legislature this year, said there was “a nice orientation (for new lawmakers) on sexual harassment, but nothing on conflict of interest.

“I don’t think most legislators understand the issue,” he said. “Unless you happen to come from a background where a conflict of interest is common, then you don’t think about it.

“Bottom line, I wish legislators were held to a higher bar than they are. Not just impropriety, but appearance of impropriety.”

Callton, the Nashville representative and chiropractor, said he feels pressure to vote on every bill, whether there is a potential conflict of interest or not, to maintain a 100 percent voting record. Missed votes, Callton said, can be used against legislators in reelection bids.

Indeed, missed votes have declined sharply since 2001, when the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank, began publishing the voting records of individual legislators. In 2001, state senators missed 7 percent of votes and House members missed 6 percent. This term, which includes sessions in 2015 and 2016, senators have missed just 1 percent of votes and House members 0.6 percent, according to data compiled by the Mackinac Center.

missing-fewer-votes-002

Katie Carey, spokesperson for House Democrats, said members are advised to cite a conflict of interest “when there is a specific benefit or direct economic impact to them,” but agreed that lawmakers are feeling more pressure to cast votes from social media and constituent correspondence.

“If someone doesn’t, they are criticized for not doing their job or silencing 90,000 residents of their districts,” Carey said.

Jack McHugh, who operates MichiganVotes for the Mackinac Center, said he doubted voting record pressure explains why lawmakers appear to be less likely to refrain from voting on issues in which there is clear conflict of interest.

“I can understand a politician being a little bit sensitive about that, but they also get to look like a statesman,” McHugh said.

Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-Meridian Twp., is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Health and Human Services Subcommittee, which works on the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services. Hertel is a former employee of the Department of Community Health, which is now part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Hertel’s wife, Elizabeth, is director of policy and legislative for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Hertel said the situation isn’t a conflict of interest because he makes voting decisions independently and isn’t biased by his ties. He said his constituents wouldn’t be surprised he’s working on health care related matters because he’s passionate about them and he’s not afraid to disagree with his wife.

“I don’t mind sleeping on the couch if it means I’m right,” Hertel said.

Sen. Steven Bieda, D-Warren, is a co-sponsor SB 194 which would require legislators to file financial disclosure statements similar to reports filed by candidates for Congress, and state legislators in some other states.

Having a public record of jobs and financial entanglements would allow the public to know if their legislators have a financial interest in legislation, Bieda said.

The bill is awaiting a hearing in the Elections and Government Reform committee of the Senate.

“I’m sure the issue doesn’t poll that high," said Bieda. “I’m not sure if people don’t care, or they already have such a low regard for people here (in Lansing) that they already assume people are out for their own self-interest. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to approach public service. We shouldn’t have to ask for honest, transparent government. It should be a given.”

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Jack McHugh
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:22am
Hmm. Many of those bills can also be viewed as term limits actually fulfilling their promise: Citizen legislators who know a great deal about the industry they came from introducing relevant bills to address a problem there. A few are blatant rent-seeking but there is no need to cherchez la lobbyist because - he’s the Rep! and it’s all fully transparent. Most of these are good bills. For example, the one banning requirements that doctors maintain "board certifications" relates to a new rent-seeking scam by various private medical entities promoting administrative rules or statutes imposing new requirements that have nothing to with health or safety but will give those groups a steady revenue stream. Similar on Callton on expanding chiropractors scope-of-practice. Scope of practice restrictions are a huge part of why medical treatment is so expensive, and even a self-serving attempt to lower one of these walls is to be admired. IOW, context matters. Finally, the real corruption arises not from the industry these pols came from but the one they're all striving to remain in: Government. By the time they reach the Legislature, practically every one of these people have as their main goal never having to be subject to the "hard accountability" of employment in the for-profit private sector. The goal instead is to become the PIO for the ISD or Community College, director of the DDA, board member of the new Water Resource Authority, etc. Perhaps a nice public affairs slot at a big hospital. Or, the holy of holies - appointed to Liquor Control Commission at $80k/year. Bottom Line: No one's going to rock the boat when their next job may depend on keeping a particular government special interest sweet.
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 1:56pm
Jack, thanks for your thoughtful comments Its a thin line between adding from expertise and self benefit but one we as citizens need to understand as we go to vote
duane
Mon, 10/31/2016 - 9:48pm
Doris, I think your point about adding expertise to the legislature and preventing it from creating conflict is very important. It seems that it suggests to separate but overlapping issues, do we want career politicians or 'citizen legislators'? How do we minimize the impact of potential conflicts of interest and how are voters assured that they are not undermining the quality of legislative actions? Do you see value in legislator being experts in politics or legislators who bring a diversity of expertise from their careers to the law making process? Is it valuable to have people that has medical care experience, people that have manufacturing experience, that have first-responder experience, accounting experience, educational experience, etc. and all that they have learned gaining that experience? Or is it better to only have career legislators who have developed campaigning skills, legislative process knowledge, media interaction, etc.? Are there potential for either or both to have conflicts of interest and how could that be addressed? The diversity of perspectives readers could offer on these question could be very helpful as we try to decide how we assess candidates and make out votes.
Jack McHugh
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 11:36am
A colleague adds: “So if a teacher were elected Rep and put on the education committee he or she shouldn’t be allowed to vote on things that could make life better and even more rewarding for teachers?”
Ron French
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:16pm
Good discussion Jack. I think the answer to your hypothetical would be yes, they should vote on those things with a "but," with the but related to how you define "more rewarding." The question, which is not even hypothetical in some of the cited examples, is rather: is it a conflict of interest to vote on a bill that affects you or your family financially? In your example of a teacher being elected a legislator, the question would be, should that teacher/lawmaker vote on a bill that gives teachers a 10 percent raise? I'd say no.
Craig Mauger
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:24pm
I would also note that in many of these situations it's impossible for the public to know exactly what the impact of a law change would be on a particular business or lawmaker's career. So to dismiss them all by comparing them to a generic teacher-education policy example doesn't work for me.
George McGrath
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 11:47am
Thank you for confirming my belief that the State of Michigan has declined to a point where only 20% of the voters trust the legislators. And thank you for giving me more reasons to know why. You note in your article that: a) Michigan ranks dead last in regulating legislative conflict of interest; b) Michigan ranks dead last in overall government transparency; c) Michigan is only one of three states not requiring personal financial disclosure of its legislators; d) Only one is five Michigan residents say they trust State Government. Now let me add my thoughts: 1) The Michigan Supreme Court used to be cited by the US Supreme Court as a sign of its excellent opinions and rulings; no more. 2) Since the State "takeover" of school funding, our schools have declined to the bottom 20% of the nations schools. Teachers have not had a raise in 8 years and are making less than they did 8 years ago. (And you wonder why enrollment in teacher training schools is down 30%) This will turn out to be a disaster. 3) Our roads are some of the worst in the nation. As someone who frequently travels around the country, I can attest to it. And yet, Keven Cotter and his band of "no new taxes" couldn't raise the sales tax 25 cents to fund our roads). 4) Gerrymandering in the State guarantees one party has a great advantage when it comes to elections. 5) Flint. No more need be said. (Remember Snyder and his gang changed the priority of the State Environmental agency from protecting the public to promoting business.) 6) Snyder got rid of the business tax that everyone hated BUT, contrary to his pledge that there were not loopholes or giveaways, we now find out there are so many the State will lose perhaps a billion dollars in revenue in the next ten years! 7) Term limits ARE a disaster. The Free Press did a lengthy report on how it actually works and it is depressing. In your last term you have ' only been in office four years but you have seniority so you head committees while you, of course, know you have to find another job. Hmmm. Interesting how many of them become lobbyists for the very companies they are supposed to be regulating! And here is my absolute best argument against term limits: L. Brooks Patterson. THE best run county in the State and one of the best in the Country! You see, it is not the lack of term limits that is the problem. The problem is the uneducated, disinterested, misguided voter. And because that is a really difficult problem to solve, you go for the "easy" solution that is no solution at all. (And as our educational system goes downhill, so do the number of educated voters which only makes things worse)..... In short, Michigan has become a really messed up State and I can only be grateful it wasn't when I worked and now that I'm retired, they can't really do anything to hurt me or my family.
William Hammond
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:14pm
Excellent!! I fully concur!
Tony
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:48pm
Thank you for sussicntly outlining what is going on in our state government. This legislature is a huge disgrace. Clearly they are not looking out for the best interests of their constituents.
Rick
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 12:34pm
You forgot gerrymandering and election fraud (remember where a Democrat suddenly switch to the GOP at the last minute?). Yes, the Michigan legislature is a cesspool.
Wade Roberts
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 5:21pm
As a current candidate for State Representative MI 109th and former State Employee (MDOC) I can assure you, corruption is now and has been a serious issue in State of Michigan government and bureaucracy and that retirement is no protection.
Bernadette
Sat, 10/29/2016 - 7:30pm
I could not agree with you more George and very well said. I was born and raised in Michigan and have never seen this state in such bad shape, ranking at the bottom of the barrel on all quality of life issues and at the top of the ranks for such things as poverty. I find it interesting that so many of the comments made on this site now are from those who benefit from the likes of this current mix of legislators and the governor. There is such a lack of insight by any of those currently holding office of the reality of so many Michiganders. They ARE focused on their own agendas, are inexperienced in "governance", are blatantly self serving, AND they have the arrogance to be paid for this. Michigan could easily have a part time legislature (which it is right now anyways). The pay and benefits need to reflect the quality of performance of the last 5 years. The tragedy that has befallen Flint alone, the multi million dollar law suits should be deducted from all of their pay. It was under their watch that this happened. I have been writing to my legislators for 3 years about all of these issues and since they are so busy with their agendas, they do not even respond.
William Hammond
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:09pm
There is no excuse for not having genuine Conflict of Interest requirements with binding teeth in them. We should also have full financial disclosure requirements for our State Legislators just as we have for Federal Office applicants. This legislature has shown repeatedly that they cannot be trusted to work in the best interests of the public. It's recognized nationally as the least transparent, most corrupt Legislature in the country. It's time for major reform. And Term Limits have done to help this problem, in fact they have only made it worse.
Eric
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 12:36pm
This isn't funny, this is scary: “I don’t mind sleeping on the couch if it means I’m right,” Hertel said.
Matt
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 3:21pm
Calling anything that benefits or involves an official how ever indirectly, a conflict of interest is a big stretch and maybe this kind of report is the reason there is such a vague generalized sense of mistrust towards the generic representative and government. And yet interestingly most voters seem to be very satisfied with their own rep since they almost always re-elect them! If Michigan's legislature is indeed so corrupt why aren't we seeing more of them being dragged out in cuffs? Why aren't we seeing anymore corruption scandals than any other states? Just because some un-vetted, supposed watch dog group with it's own agenda and perspective makes some very subjective charges just doesn't make it so.
George McGrath
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 4:41pm
Matt you are missing the point. When voters put people in for 20,30,40 years people were upset and decided to put in term limits. Yet we get the same poor legislators. Why? The problem is the voters......they put these people in and "their" candidate is always "o.k.". That's why there is little hope for change until voters change. I happen to live in a very educated community that has been on the ten best places to live list and was just named the safest city in Michigan (and sixth safest in the US). We have great schools and government because we elect very, very good people. We fell for the "term limits will solve all our problems" nonsense. But guess what? When our mayor was term limited he got another term by having everyone write him in! Good legislators come from intelligent, educated, informed voters. Period. The sad state of our state rests with the voters.........they pick them.
Matt
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 8:04am
George, I think the term limits angle you refer to is irrelevant. Show me any evidence that legislative bodies without term limits lead to any better results. And instead they lead even more toward the situations that Jack refers - governmental/business/institutional entrenchment. I have a feeling you're not thrilled with the US congress? What problems that you refer to are you not seeing there? Or is it the political party in charge that is your problem? As far as the idea (dream) that the voters are going to somehow become politically and philosophically engaged and educated, You must be a lot younger than me!
Matt
Fri, 10/28/2016 - 8:19am
Craig the Gamrat?/Couser scandal is totally off topic and had nothing to do with the subject of conflict of interest or really any (financial) corruption. It really boiled down to leadership using ANYTHING to get rid of some uncooperative unpopular (and flaky) members. Had it been other members or definitely the other party nothing likely would have happened! Your second reference, corruption on the local level, besides also being off topic ... what else is new?
John Q. Public
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 7:13pm
I could take every elected official from the schools, city and legislature representing Rochester Hills and plunk them into Pontiac, Southfield or Oak Park. They could all govern in any one of those places for thirty years, and at the end of that time none would look a whole lot different than it does right now. You have a prosperous city, but it has very little to do with whom you elect and almost everything to do with who lives there--highly educated people with relatively homogeneous values.
George McGrath
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:15pm
Answer: Mike Duggan!
John Q. Public
Wed, 11/02/2016 - 7:56pm
If Mike Duggan is the answer, I've asked the wrong question.
Michigan Observer
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 8:47pm
This article is not particularly well thought out. What is important in these situations is the ratio of the legislator's personal interest to the public interest. If a bill is good public policy, that is, if it substantially promotes the general interest while incidentally benefitting the legislator, then it shouldn't trouble us. If it is wise policy to give judges a raise, then the fact that a legislator's daughter will benefit is not a big deal. And it would have been nice to know the facts concerning servicing septic tanks in the winter. How often does it occur that servicing a septic tank in the winter requires violating weight restrictions? How much damage does it do? In short, what is the ratio between the benefit of servicing the septic tank and the costs imposed on the community? And the bill related to Tesla should be judged on what arrangement benefits consumers, not whether it benefits franchised dealers. If, on the other hand, a bill confers little or no benefit to the public while conferring significant benefits to a legislator, then it should be disallowed. If an energy bill will provide no benefits to the citizens of the state, but increase the value of a legislator's shares, then that legislator should not be allowed to vote on the bill. Again, it is the ratio of the two that is important.
George McGrath
Thu, 10/27/2016 - 10:17pm
Wow! The state is awful and you come up with this! You prove my point: the problem is the voter.
Shelley Decker
Tue, 11/01/2016 - 12:33am
If Michigan had a law to prevent Legislature from engaging in conflict of interest, I'm pretty certain the Michigan Legislature would revoke it. We have no laws and no teeth, to make our lawmakers work for us.