Yesterday, I introduced HJR YY in Michigan along with several House colleagues, a joint resolution that would change the Michigan Constitution. Why is HJR YY so critically needed?
If enacted into law and formally approved by voters, HJR YY would create a Joint Federalism Commission within the legislative council, in essence forcing the creation of a bicameral and bipartisan commission charged with monitoring and reviewing federal laws and mandates to determine if they violate the Michigan Constitution or if they violate such areas as the 9th and 10th Amendments of the US Constitution.
The “why” behind HJR YY is two-fold:
Firstly, in cases where the Joint Federalism Commission determines a violation exists, the law will provide for an expedited process for the commission to then push appropriate legislation to the floor for voting by all members within 10 session days. In addition, any legislator who is able to successfully petition at least half of the members in their chamber can also force the Joint Federalism Commission to make a determination on an issue within 90 days. This is important, because although Michigan has a commission that is looking at the mandates it puts upon its cities, no such commission exists to examine the mandates the federal government is in turn placing upon us. Considering that it is the States who created the federal government and not the other way around there is no conceivable reason why such a commission should not exist. The states are not the counties of the federal government, even if they try to treat us as such.
The second “why” that makes this legislation necessary is because of the increasing role of so called “Memorandums of Understanding,” “Compacts,” and other agreements between Michigan and other governments, most notably at the federal level. Most voters are not aware of what a “Memorandum of Understanding” is, or that they can carry the formal force of law. In many cases such memorandums are created under dubious authority. In other cases, the legislature does vote to grant authority for a memorandum to be entered into, but then what the memorandum actually does often exceeds that authority, or delves into areas that are beyond the scope of the authorizing legislation. At this point however, it is very difficult for the legislature to act to change things. HJR YY will require that all such memorandums have their language first presented to the commission, which can then reject it before the state formally enters into a binding agreement.
While people correctly expect a high level of transparency in government, the increasing role of these formal and informal agreements between the state and the federal government are creating another level of government where increasingly important decisions are being made behind the scenes, largely out of view not only from the people but also the state legislature. Ensuring the state legislature is more involved will not only help from a transparency standpoint, it will make elected leaders more aware and accountable for the rules and agreements that unelected government employees are making outside of the normal legislative process. Taxpayers correctly want their state legislators to be able to handle the state level issues and problems that they voted them to Lansing for in the first place. The Michigan Legislature should not be content to continue to see so much of its rightful authority taken out of its hands.
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