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Rachel Maddow makes a hash out of the Immediate Effect kerfluffle

by: Eric B.

Sat Apr 07, 2012 at 14:44:09 PM EDT


Well, I wasn't going to watch the below-embedded video from the Rachel Maddow Show about the Immediate Effect kerfluffle, but I read Chad Livengood's reporting on it in the Detroit News, and felt that while commenting on that I had to watch the video because it was mentioned. It was, well, terrible reporting, but we've come to expect that from Rachel Maddow. A couple of points while remembering that, to her, this is all some sort of dark, nefarious plot.

1. Lending Immediate Effect to a bill is no new thing. House Republicans are correct in that. They didn't just dream it up one night to take away the voting rights of House Democrats. In fact, the whole point in the GOP winning a supermajority in the Senate was that they could enact Immediate Effect without bargaining with Democrats. Remember the Senate before two years ago? The tag on the Democratic caucus was that while they were mostly irrelevant, they were at least still large enough to deny legislation Immediate Effect. No one would have been talking about that had it not be used before. So, the idea that this was some radical new concept dreamt up to subvert democracy is ... well, it's poppycock. By the way, th real story here isn't that Immediate Effect is being used. It's that House Democrats have asked for the requisite roll call votes to get it enacted properly and that House Republicans have refused it ... hence the lawsuit (more on the lawsuit in a few minutes).

2. She repeated most of her worst assertions about Public Act 4, including the nonsense where she tried to make it out that Benton Harbor's emergency manager wasn't an appointee of benevolent overlord Rick Michigan's predecessor and fellow Tee Vee talking head Jennifer Granholm. About the only thing she didn't get wrong all over again here was that the state GOP wants to sell Roscommon County to Amway. You are entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. And, you're certainly not entitled to whip up conspiracy theories based on your own facts.

That said, I think Chad Livengood got played badly by the House Republicans, and it's a shame but let's hope that's because he's just new back in the state, having done a couple of statehouse reporting stints in Missourit and Delaware.

Lansing — House Democrats have sued the Republican majority over a procedural move to make bills become laws faster — a maneuver the Dems regularly used when they were in power.

In 2009, the Democratic majority got all but two of the 242 laws it passed to go immediately into effect after then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed them.

The next year, Granholm signed 383 laws passed by the House, 365 of which had an immediate-effect clause, Republicans said Friday.

There's probably a reason why for all this, and it's where Livengood got played and why Maddow's reporting is such a terrible disservice to us all.   It's true that Democrats passed a bunch of laws with Immediate Effect, but that's because they had to negotiate with a Republican-dominated Senate. Because they had to compromise with Senate Republicans, and because neither chamber was going to pass legislation with a two-thirds straight party-line supermajority, there had to be work put in to make sure the bills could attract members of both parties.  So, there might have been a lot of bills passed with immediate effect, but there were a much higher percentage of bills probably passed by a supermajority in both chambers.  In other words, Immediate Effect wasn't uncommon, but neither was legislation that met the criteria for granting it.

What's the percentage in 2009-2010 that had supermajorities? This would have been something Livengood should have looked up. Unfortunately, he probably watched Rachel Maddow's spot, which improperly framed the story and which makes the Democrats look like they're just complaining about something they did when they were in charge. The truth is that they aren't meeting that same standard today because of the 2010 election.

Now, onto the meat of the Republican defense that they get to do it because it's always been done that way. Well, no, that's not an excuse for violating the constitution, and this is pretty clearly that. Even if we get past the point that their argument isn't entirely valid, you simply can't just skip the parts of the constitution that are inconvenient to you when called out. And, speaking of that, the House Democrats should have raised this last year when it was starting (probably they didn't because Immediate Effect was previously no big deal because legislation had to have a bipartisan stamp on it in the first place). They didn't.

There isn't much that can be done about the laws passed last year, when the House Democrats should have complained loudly and bitterly about the misuse of Immediate Effect. They didn't, and there's not much to be done about it since the official record makes it look like a proper tally was taken. Now, however, they're doing the right thing and pressing for actual vote tallies, which is what I frankly thought this was all about in the first place (Democrats denied the right to roll call votes, not some new and breathless conspiracy).

Anyway, to sum up ... the House Democrats should have bitched last year, Chad Livengood should have probed deeper into what the issues really are, and Rachel Maddow continues to be a giant disappointment from a journalistic standpoint.

Eric B. :: Rachel Maddow makes a hash out of the Immediate Effect kerfluffle
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tl;dr (3.50 / 2)
Let me see if I can summarize this:

1. Democrats have been spineless wimps.
2. Maddow is a ranting loose cannon.
3. Republicans are sleazy.

Did I miss anything important?



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