Friday, August 19, 2011

If You Don't Need Democracy, Why Do You Need Courts?

Is there any limit to the power that Rick Snyder wants to grab? If there is, we haven't reached it yet.

It was bad enough that Snyder rammed through the Legislature a bill taking away the right of people living in financially troubled areas to elect their own representatives, the Emergency Manager Law. That law is now the subject of a petition drive seeking to halt its implementation until the public has a chance to vote on it.

But it also is the subject of a court challenge brought by public employees. Ordinarily, such lawsuits are heard in circuit courts, the losing party appeals to the Court of Appeals, and then the losing party asks the Michigan Supreme Court to hear an appeal from that ruling. But all that takes time and who wants to waste time on court cases and appeals, especially when you know there will be press coverage laying out the problems with the law? On top of that, there is the chance you will lose the case or the appeal and that would look bad for the governor.

Why not just short-circuit all that and ask the Michigan Supreme Court to decide the case itself, skipping all the bad publicity which would let the public know what the law really does? Especially when the Supreme Court has a Republican majority that you know in advance will decide the case the way you want?

So for the second time in his not even eight months in office, Snyder has used a special provision in the Michigan Constitution and asked the high court to address the issues in the case.

The provision has been in the constitution since 1967 and has only been used by governors 26 times, and two of them have come under Snyder -- two dozen times in 44 years, and now twice in less than eight monnths, the first being his unpopular tax on pensions. But Snyder thinks any challenge to any law he supports is of such importance that we have to dispense with due process.

Snyder's contempt for the messy aspects of democracy -- elected government, court battles, and who knows what next -- apparently has no bounds.

Yet people who claim to be so frightened about unlimited government on the national level have no problems with Snyder, who uses the constitution to manipulate the public's ability to scrutinize the laws he supports.

The Michigan Supreme Court should reject this power grab. If it doesn't, future goverors will use the power with the same reckless abandon as Snyder to avoid bad publicity and public scrutiny of their actions.

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