After Michigan voters elected Democrats for governor, attorney general and secretary of state last month, Republican state lawmakers swiftly went about creating legislation that challenges the authority of those leaders.
State Rep. Robert VerHeulen, R-Walker, introduced a bill that would allow the state House of Representatives and Senate to intervene in any legal proceedings involving the state, which has traditionally been the purview of the state attorney general or the governor’s office.
In addition, state Sen. David Robertson, R-Grand Blanc, introduced a bill that would shift oversight of campaign finance law from the secretary of state to a six-person commission appointed by the governor. The panel members would be nominated by the state Republican and Democratic parties.
The action comes as Democrats — Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel and Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson — will claim all three statewide offices for the first time in 28 years.
Though a spokesman for Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt, said the measures are simply “good government reform” and argued there was no intent to weaken the authority of the incoming Democratic leadership.
But those leaders were unconvinced:
Nessel “is deeply concerned and troubled by the hasty legislative efforts to push through a proposal that has not been properly vetted and appears to be an intentional effort on the part of some legislators to undermine the role of the state’s attorney general,” said Kelly Rossman, spokeswoman for Nessel’s transition team. “Those legislators pushing this law should be reminded that the people elect their attorneys general and their governors and such a proposal — should it pass — would have a dramatic and disastrous impact on the state of Michigan and its residents for years to come.”
Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Benson, said the legislative effort was “shameful.”
"Less than a month ago voters elected a military spouse, who is a nationally known election and campaign finance law expert, to administer Michigan elections. They voted for a fair, transparent, accountable and accessible democracy,” she said. “Legislative Republicans are now trying to thwart the will of the voters with bills that ignore their voices, defies history and will make Michigan a national punch line by effectively ending enforcement of the campaign finance laws they are required to abide by.”