Is blatant grab for power going on in state capital?
The first few sentences of our Michigan state constitution declare that, we, the people, should be grateful for our “blessings of freedom;” that all political power is inherent in us, “the people;” that the government is instituted in order to provide for the well being, aid and protection equally to all the people; and that the people have certain “freedoms and rights,” like freedom of speech and a free press.
Importantly, among these rights guaranteed to us in our state constitution, is the right to directly write and enact laws and to approve or reject laws that may have been passed by our elected officials.
The current batch of politicians we now have controlling the Michigan legislative and executive branches of government seem to have forgotten that the Michigan constitution they have sworn to uphold, places special emphasis from its beginning, on the power of the people over elected politicians and the importance of direct democracy (initiatives and referendums) to insure that this proper balance of power is maintained.
There seems to be a distinct, elitist, anti-direct democracy anti-people power process of government that has developed in this state. I will just highlight three recent examples of this power grabbing behavior occurring over the past year.
The first and most recent is this tiff with city of Ann Arbor where the state banned a city from instituting a local ordinance that would ban plastic bags. The city chose to do this to address a growing plastic trash problem in their area.
Many cities in the U.S. are now successfully implementing such bans to deal with the growing problem of plastic waste. Our state government chose to obstruct Ann Arbor’s right to address this problem.
This ignores recently published studies documenting that 11 million pounds of plastic debris pollution (like plastic bags) now enter the Great Lakes waters annually, and the problem is worsening (Nature World News, 2016).
Our government should know by now that banning bad stuff that is hurting us and our environment, works not only to stop the problem and reverse it, but can include positive economic benefits.
Think DDT, leaded gas, and the fact that smoke free restaurants and bars turned out to be good for business despite predictions of the opposite outcome by the restaurant industry. Why would the State want to squash a local government’s decision making to address a local problem instead of championing it as a wise, healthy part of democracy’s laboratory? It’s because money and lobbyists are calling the shots, not us.
The second, was their changing the public referendum rules on signature collection times halfway through the process in order to defeat the regulate and tax cannabis movement.
The state government did this despite the fact that the passage of this referendum law from the people and it’s taxes could have countered some of the sharp reduction in corporate income taxes they caused and are currently dealing with, as well as create jobs and improve the economy.
The increasing momentum of this “people’s movement” in the U.S. is another example of democracy’s laboratory working as it should.
This is now producing some interesting data concerning positive economic and public health benefits of legal cannabis, including a counter intuitive decrease in traffic fatalities, as well as a decrease in opiate overdose deaths in recreational cannabis states (A J Public Health & JAMA in 2016). Why are Michigan politicians making it more difficult for the people to express our constitutional right to enact laws such as this? Here the answer is likely, ignorance and not doing their homework on the facts about legal cannabis provided by democracy’s laboratory as well as general disrespect for the referendum process.
The third, was their finding a loophole to outmaneuver the people’s constitutional right to reject the legislature’s law that made wolves a “game” animal.
Why do these politicians in power now want to play clever games to thwart the grassroots wisdom of the masses of people and their initiatives in this State? Here it seems the answer is ego, hubris, and a “we’ll show them whose in charge” attitude.
This current batch of politicians who are addicted to lobbyists and power are in charge of this government and they are doing whatever they feel they can get away with to keep we-the-people from interfering. They are breaching the contract with us that they have sworn to uphold.
I encourage each citizen to become stronger advocates and participants concerning local decision making, contribute your voices to the free press, make sure you vote against this behavior, and take back your power as the constitution intended.
Editor’s note: Scott Emerson is a well-known emergency physician who retired in 2015 from that aspect of medicine after 38 years. He has completed 2 year physician fellowship in Integrative Medicine at University of Arizona School of Medicine. In addition, he is a diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine; a member, of American College of Integrative Health and Medicine; and a fellow of the American College of Medical Toxicology.