Part-time legislature?

There is a petition drive under way to change Michigan’s constitution.

Organizers of the petition drive hope to collect the necessary signatures to restore Michigan’s Constitution back to a part-time legislature as it was prior to 1963.

Leading the Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-time Legislature signature petition drive effort is Marlene Elwell of downstate Oakland County.

Elwell led the effort in 2004 to put Michigan’s “Marriage Protection Amendment” on the November ballot by gathering over 462,000 signatures in 6 1/2 weeks. The amendment was approved by state voters.

Elwell brings that experience, and other successful campaign experiences, to this effort and she is fully confident that this part-time legislature network is fully organized and will be as successful as well.

In order to get this amendment on the ballot this coming November, organizers must collect the signatures of more than 400,000 registered voters across the state before July.

Only four states – California, New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan – operate with a full-time legislature. The other 46 states, including Wisconsin, operate with some form of a part-time legislature.

Organizers believe legislature would be more responsive if lawmakers were not professional politicians.

“Michigan adopted a full-time Legislature 50 years ago,” organizers say.

“It was a political response to the economic and social problems facing our state back then (riots, strikes, soaring crime rates, growing unemployment, stagnant wages, and so on). That response was based on the assumption that a bigger and a more involved government could and would fix our problems,” they said.

“But it didn’t work out. It aggravated our problems. Look at what has happened to Detroit, Flint, and other communities. Look at our schools. Count the number of jobs and businesses that have left our state. And, making matters worse, a full-time legislature has actually diluted broad citizen involvement in framing and implementing responses to the challenges facing our state,” they said. “It is time to end that failed experiment. It is time to restore Michigan’s citizen-driven, part-time legislature.”

The amendment repeals five sections in Article IV of Michigan’s Constitution and replaces two of them. The replacement sections do the following:

– Imposes a $35,000 ceiling on the compensation for legislators beginning in 2017.

– Requires the state to post on the internet all compensation and reimbursements paid to legislators.

– Limits the legislature to one regular session per calendar year of no more than 60 consecutive days.

– Requires that before the legislature can adopt any law, it has to be posted on the internet for at least five days.

– Requires that the legislature provide by law for its operation and organization, in session and out of session.

– Requires that the legislature has no more than 250 staff to assist it in its legislative duties.

– Implements a mechanism to suspend Administrative Agency rules and regulations when the legislature is not in session.

“As warm weather is finally coming to Michigan, we are so excited to have all 50,000 petition sheets in the hands of our volunteer county leaders. I’m looking forward to holding weekly conference calls to motivate and excite the county leaders to get the petition sheets out for signature gathering,” Elwell said.

Volunteer Dickinson County coordinator is Tom Wills of Quinnesec.

For more information, visit

This proposal could be something you find on your November ballot. The more you know, the better prepared you will be to make a decision.