GOP-led Michigan Senate OKs bill to strip Democrat's power
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republican-led Michigan Senate voted Thursday to strip campaign finance oversight from the secretary of state and have a bipartisan commission handle the functions instead, less than a month before a Democrat leads the office for the first time in two dozen years.
The main bill was sent to the GOP-led House to be considered as early as next week, following a similar move to restrict the powers of incoming Democrats in neighboring Wisconsin . Outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has not indicated whether he supports the campaign finance legislation or other measures that opponents contend would curb top Democrats elected last month.
The Senate also approved measures to implement a voter-approved constitutional amendment that allows same-day voter registration, over criticism that the legislation could conflict with the voters' intent and should wait until after the frenetic lame-duck session.
Michigan's secretary of state is responsible for enforcing the campaign finance law and issuing binding declaratory rulings related to political spending. The measure would shift campaign finance powers to a new bipartisan Fair Political Practices Commission — modeled after the Federal Election Commission — with members appointed by the governor.
In a committee hearing Wednesday, a Republican lawyer justified the bill by saying voters support having independent panels involved in elections — pointing to voters' passage last month of an initiative empowering a commission to draw congressional and legislative lines instead of the partisan Legislature. Democrats, however, said the GOP never raised the idea until the party was about to lose control of the secretary of state's office.
The legislation to execute the voting-related ballot measure also drew objections from proponents of the initiative. Republicans said there needs to be clarification of where people could register on Election Day because local clerks expressed concerns about potentially having to register them at crowded polling places.