On Wednesday, state legislators in Lansing enjoyed yet another day of solving nonexistent problems, passing unconstitutional legislation, introducing unnecessary bills, and generally wasting the taxpayers’ money.
The Michigan Senate passed HB 4787, which had already passed the Michigan House of Representatives in late March. The bill will now be sent to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. As I have written previously, HB 4787 would prohibit the act of coercing a woman to obtain an abortion through the commission of various criminal offenses. The problem? The bill is completely redundant and unnecessary, and would make it a crime to commit stalking, assault, battery, and other assaultive offenses that are already prohibited by law. Indeed, the bill expressly states that a person who coerces a woman to obtain an abortion by committing one of these offenses “is guilty of a crime punishable in the same manner as for the underlying offense.” In other words, the bill would add absolutely nothing new, and is merely a hollow gesture of pandering designed to appease anti-abortion constituents and organizations. Conservative legislators want their constituents to believe that they’re hard at work fighting the scourge of abortion. But in truth, they’ve done nothing more than pass a wasteful, duplicative piece of legislation that will accomplish nothing.
The Michigan House of Representatives has concurred in a Senate substitute to HB 4493, and the bill will now head to the governor. HB 4493 would require the teaching of genocide awareness, including instruction concerning the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide, in Michigan public schools. The teaching of genocide awareness is a very good idea, and I certainly have no problem with it in concept. But it is already included in Michigan’s social studies curriculum. Moreover, under the Michigan Constitution of 1963, it is not the Legislature’s role to set the curriculum for our K-12 schools—that’s the role of the State Board of Education. Quite simply, HB 4493 is unconstitutional; the Michigan Legislature lacks the power to mandate specific curricula and areas of study for pupils in Michigan public schools. The drafters of our state constitution, and the people who ratified it, vested that power in the state department of education alone. It’s just another wasteful and unnecessary bill.
A DRONE COMMISSION?
Several Republican state senators have introduced SB 992, which would create a new “unmanned aerial systems act” and preempt all local ordinances and resolutions pertaining to the use of drones and unmanned aircraft. In all, there are no fewer than 13 drone-related bills pending before the Michigan Legislature. Just last year, the Legislature passed bills to prohibit the taking of fish and game with drones, and to prohibit harassing hunters and fishermen with drones. Drones are apparently a big problem requiring lots of legislative attention.
Here’s the best part: State Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), one of the cosponsors of SB 992, has introduced a companion bill, SB 994. Casperson’s bill would establish a commission dominated by business and industry representatives, appointed directly by the governor, with the power to recommend rules and regulations concerning the use and operation of drones statewide. The bill is reminiscent of SB 827, also introduced by Casperson, which uses very similar language and would establish a commission of gubernatorially appointed business and industry representatives with the power to veto all proposed Department of Environmental Quality health and environmental-safety rules. (Incidentally, it was a busy day for Casperson. The good senator also introduced his much-anticipated anti-LGBT bathroom bill on Wednesday, SB 993.)
If Casperson wants us to believe that he’s serious about liberty, limited government, and local control, he really needs to stop sponsoring bills that would strip local decision-making authority and create new, unaccountable regulatory boards and commissions. Of course, he’s probably just following the lead of Governor Rick Snyder, who famously announced in his 2016 State of the State Address that Michigan needs more commissions. Since January, Snyder has already created four new commissions to needlessly duplicate the efforts of existing state agencies, and he has promised the creation of at least one more. I guess Casperson is just trying to keep up.