Staff editorial: It’s time for a change

NW Staff

At the beginning of the Fall 2009 semester, the North Wind published an editorial about the fate of the Michigan Promise Scholarship. Seven weeks later, students here and across the state are still waiting to hear whether or not they can count on that financial aid.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Legislature continues to deliberate on the budget over two weeks past the end of the fiscal year after approving a month-long continuation.

But there is no resolution yet, and the Promise Scholarship sadly remains a bargaining chip for the much larger game of partisan politics in this state. This brings to light a more serious issue – it’s time for the Michigan Legislature to change.

In order to make our state a better place for us as students, and for all citizens, Michigan needs a part-time, limited session legislature. And while it is not a band-aid for the state’s many financial issues, it would be a step in the right direction.

Currently, the Michigan Legislature is bicameral – consisting of two houses – and full time. Michigan is one of only a handful of states that has a full time legislature. Some of the other states that do, including Pennsylvania and California, have faced similar budget stalemates and government shutdowns. These are clear signs that the existing system might not be working like it should.

Michigan legislators are paid a base salary of $79,650 per year, plus $12,000 for expenses according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. They are the second highest paid legislature in the nation – falling only after California, who pay legislators a base salary of over $100,000 a year. Some states don’t even pay their legislators beyond travel and expense compensation.

Not only would a part-time legislature save the state money in legislator salary, but it would also cut down on basic operating expenditures and costs for central staff.

A part-time legislature would provide citizens with representatives who are more passionate about good government than they are about advancing their political careers. Currently, many state senators and representatives seem more concerned with the next election than they are with more crucial issues, like passing a budget or looking out for the needs of their constituents.

With a legislature that only meets for short time each year, representatives and senators would be forced to pass the necessary bills each time session convened. Bitter partisan battles would have to be set aside in favor of accomplishing goals in a reduced time frame.

Hopefully with a shift to a part-time legislature, our representatives and senators could pass a budget before the end of the fiscal year and not leave so many students hanging.