Michigan House Republicans
Tisdel Talk: Why things are slow lately in Lansing
RELEASE|March 18, 2024
Contact: Mark Tisdel

It’s been slow at the state Capitol in Lansing lately. Let me explain why. And then at the end I’ll tell you about a recent success despite the problem I’m about to share.

The Michigan House of Representatives is currently split 54 votes to 54 votes, with two seats vacant. (There are normally 110 members of the House, but two Democrat state representatives chose to run for local offices last November and both won, so they had to step down at the start of the year.) Those empty seats won’t get filled until a special election in April.

The problem is, it takes 55 votes for anything to pass, meaning both sides are now one vote shy.

Democrats still control the House, even though things are temporarily evenly split, because they had a 56-54 majority at the start of the term. That means they get to decide what bills get a hearing in committee, and which bills get a vote by the full chamber. But with only 54 votes, they don’t have enough on their side to get legislation approved without Republican support.

Republicans are in the same boat. We don’t have enough votes to take control of the gavel.

To me, this is a rare opportunity to put the usual partisan differences aside and focus only on the issues where we have common ground, because that’s the only stuff that has a chance of moving.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way things are playing out, which is a shame because there are a lot of areas where we agree, where we could be working together.

For example, expanding Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.

Michigan has some of the weakest government transparency laws in the nation. We’re one of only two states where both the governor’s office and lawmakers are exempt from public records laws.

We should fix that.

When Gov. Gretchen Whitmer first campaigned for governor, she explicitly promised that if elected, she would make the governor’s office subject to FOIA, regardless of whether lawmakers followed suit. But it’s been six years now, and the governor still hasn’t done it yet.

In fairness to the governor, I think the change should apply to lawmakers too.

Before getting elected to the state Legislature I served as president of the Rochester Hills City Council, where FOIA was a fact of life. My philosophy was simple: Our work was owned by the taxpayers. And when you own it, you deserve unrestricted access to it. The same applies to Lansing.

To try to break the impasse, I sponsored a package of bills that would expand FOIA to cover both the governor’s office and the Legislature. My plan would also streamline the process and increase penalties if the government is found to have violated the law.

I’m sad to report that the bills are stuck in committee. But I’m going to keep working at it, because sunshine laws are important for letting reporters and the public know what is happening in government.

In local news, I’m happy to announce that my Revenue Sharing Trust Fund Bill, House Bill 4275, passed the House by a vote of 106 to four. This is one of the few bills that has made it through the divided House, and the wide margin of bipartisan support shows that it is still possible to get things done. Hopefully we can build on that momentum going forward.

On a personal note, I’m also proud to share that I was named Legislator of the Year by the Michigan Municipal League.

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