Still No Bipartisan Action on House Floor…
January 23, 2024
The third day of session in 2024 marked yet another day with no action, after a bipartisan bill package making technical changes to Michigan-based trusts was not taken up.
Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek)’s HB 4863 and Rep. Douglas C. Wozniak (R-Shelby Township)’s HB 4864 were placed on Thursday’s agenda but ultimately not brought up for a vote, and the House adjourned after taking up another memorial resolution.
When asked why the bills were not taken up, House Democratic Press Secretary Jess Travers said a member had to step away, possibly due to an emergency, and Democrats wanted to make sure they had the votes to pass the bills.
But with only 54 members, and 55 votes required to pass a bill in a 108-member House, Democrats need bipartisan support regardless.
Republicans did not indicate that they were prepared to oppose the bill if it was brought forward.
But Democrats don’t appear to be taking any chances regardless.
After complaints from across the aisle about the lack of heads up on legislation, which was one reason Republicans cited when shooting down a concurrence vote on SB 227 Wednesday, Thursday’s agenda came out Wednesday afternoon at around 4:30, with an updated agenda sent out closer to 5:30. The bipartisan package was the only legislation up for a vote.
There was also some back and forth earlier last week about whether Democrats needed Republicans to check in on the board before conducting any business.
Democrats passed Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids)’s SCR 12, a memorial for former Rep. and Sen. Doug Cruce, while House Republicans were caucusing and had not yet checked in on the attendance and voting board.
As it stands, the House needs a quorum, or a majority of the members elected and serving, to do business. With a 108-person House, that means 55 members must be present before voting can begin.
House Republican spokesperson Jeremiah Ward pointed to House Rule 3, dealing with the “bar of the House” as a sign that Republican members shouldn’t have been considered present.
House Rule 3 states that, “Any Member, having answered attendance roll call at the opening of any session, or who enters after attendance roll call, shall be considered present until leave of absence is obtained from the House. Any Member having entered upon the floor of the House after the House has been called to order, shall be considered present if within the bar of the House.”
Ward said Republican members didn’t check in at their desks, and didn’t enter between the time the attendance board had closed and the resolution was brought up.
When asked if Republican members had walked through the chamber after the House was called to order, he was not sure.
House Democratic Spokesperson Amber McCann disagreed.
She said when members are present in the caucus room, they qualify as being in attendance, similar to how they would be marked present during a call of the House, or a period of mandatory attendance.
As defined under House Rule 3, the “bar of the House” means “the space occupied and used by the House or any legislative room or office under the jurisdiction of the Clerk.”
But regardless of the technicalities, House Democrats Thursday were seen in conversation with Republican Floor Leader Bryan Posthumus (R-Rockford), coordinating session action around the Republicans’ caucus. There did appear to be some urgency around getting Democratic members in and out of session.
Despite these subtle shifts, House Republican Leader Matt Hall (R-Kalamazoo) Thursday made another call for a shared power agreement.
“House Democrats are in disarray as they disregard shared power and dismiss bipartisan discussions about how to find common ground and solve the biggest problems facing the people of Michigan,” Hall said. “Today, they held no votes and abruptly ended session while House Republicans were in caucus discussing the day’s agenda. We found out they were leaving for the day on the House TV livestream.”
Article courtesy MIRS News for SBAM’s Lansing Watchdog newsletter