This weekend, organizers will begin the hunt for more than 320,000 signatures necessary to put their proposal for a part-time legislature on a statewide ballot.

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature launched a petition to bring the question of a part-time legislature before voters on the Nov. 4 election ballot. The petition was approved Feb. 6 by the Board of State Canvassers.

This petition is the first attempt by this eight-member committee to bring the proposal before voters.

If the petition is approved, it would not be the first time the state has operated under a part-time legislature. Though Michigan has had a full-time legislature since 1963, it is only one of four states — along with California, New York and Pennsylvania — that still have a full-time legislature.

By enacting a part-time legislature, lawmakers would be paid less and would work on a part-time basis. Additionally, the legislature would only meet during a limited number of days.

Committee Chairman Norm Kammeraad said a part-time legislature would help lawmakers prioritize their work in Lansing.

“(The proposal) will make government more efficient by taking the legislature that we have … and placing it in a part-time role,” he said.

The petition would establish 60 days as the maximum annual number of legislative sessions, and would reduce legislators’ salaries from roughly $75,000 to $35,000 annually. The plan would also reduce the total number of legislative staff members to 250.

Kammeraad also wants to see full disclosure of payments of legislators’ expenses.

He added that one of the main issues behind the proposal is that the cost of producing, adopting and enforcing each legislative bill is too high. By shortening the time legislators spend in their roles, they will be forced to prioritize the bills they work on.

“They are not going to have the time to sit there and try to make a name for themselves,” he said.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D–Ann Arbor) said he views the effort as an unproductive reaction of dismay toward the government.

“Part time legislature is going to guarantee that we have less capable, less qualified and less well-informed legislators,” he said.

The pay cuts will also negatively affect legislators, Irwin said. People will be less effective as legislators because they will be more focused on doing other jobs to generate income.

“It will also mean that the types of people who can run for office are going to be either retired folks or extremely wealthy folks because (those) who have to work for a living and have to pay for their mortgage — those people aren’t going to be able to be public servants,” he said.

Another component of the proposal will require the disclosure of all bills five days before a vote of the legislature. This change will allow the public time to examine the content of the bill, Kammeraad said. Under the current system, legislators do not know the content of all the bills they pass.

“What we’ve got right now is it comes out of the committee and it goes for vote, instantly,” Kammeraad said. “And there’s no disclosure, nobody is given the chance to absorb it. Not even the legislators themselves know what they are voting on half the time.”

Though Irwin said he recognizes the volume of bills can pose a challenge, he said a part-time legislature would only increase the extent of the problem.

“There will still be a flood of complicated issues; legislators will just have far less time and it will be far more likely that legislators will be voting on issues that they don’t really understand,” he said.

LSA sophomore Derek Magill, president of the University’s chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, said he fully supports the idea of a part-time legislature, as well as the reduction in pay.

He added that though some members of his organization have been working closely with those involved in the part-time legislature committee, there has been no formal alliance between the two groups.

“My organization hasn’t thought about doing that yet, but that may be something coming down the pipeline depending on whether it gets enough attention on campus,” Magill said. “It’s something my organization definitely supports.”

As the committee begins to gather signatures, Kammeraad said the petition drive will be conducted on a grassroots basis.

“Right now we have already allocated captains in just about every county in the state who will be leading the petition drive in their counties,” he said.

The committee needs to gather the signatures before July 7 for the proposal to appear on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The committee will end the petition drive on July 1 so it can prepare to submit the results to the Michigan Secretary of State. Kammeraad also said the group has set a 400,000-signature target to ensure its goal is met.

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