When people think about politics, Washington, D.C., oftentimes comes to mind. But what about Lansing? The reality is, many of the policies that affect Michiganders’ daily lives the most are decided in the state legislature, particularly when it comes to energy policy.
The legislative process can be a bit wonky, so we’re breaking down the basics to help you better understand how our policies are made—and why advocating for energy policy can sometimes be such a lengthy and complex effort.
The Composition of the Government
Checks and balances exist in Michigan just like they do in Washington. Three governing entities determine which policies are enacted and how they are implemented: the legislature, the governor, and the courts.
The Term Limit Debate
One thing that is unique about the Michigan legislature is term limits. More than 20 years ago, the Michigan Constitution was amended to put term limits in place to prevent career politicians from having too much power or overreach. In 1992, Michigan residents voted in favor of the term limits, restricting a candidate to serving two four-year terms in the Senate and three two-year terms in the House. The governor, attorney general, and secretary of state are also limited to serving just two four-year terms.
Some argue term limits prevent well-intentioned public servants from developing the expertise necessary for effective change, and they can disrupt the development of policies that involve years of negotiation among many different stakeholders. Despite both positives and negatives, the bottom line is that term limits in Michigan are here to stay for the time being.
This year’s election is particularly interesting; because of term limits, 26 seats in the Senate and 25 seats in the House will be open, not to mention the 20 plus other House seats up for grabs as legislators pursue other offices. It’s anyone’s game and will likely be contentious given the current political landscape, both nationally as well as locally.
The Role of the State
Henry David Thoreau once stated: the government closest to the people governs best. Michigan’s government in Lansing makes critical decisions that impact Michigan families and individuals every day. Michigan elected representatives work hard to understand the unique challenges our state faces, whether in the energy sector or beyond.
Be sure to keep an eye out for additional blogs in this series to learn more about Michigan’s legislature and how the decisions that affect you are made.