On wings made of feathers and wax, Icarus-like Republicans in the state Legislature have flown too close to the sun with a narrowly-carved out piece of legislation that — retroactively, mind you — gives the GOP-controlled Oakland County Board of Commissioners redistricting power in a hubris-laden and blatantly political boondoggle under the guise of fiscal responsibility and limited government. And a guise it is, nothing more than a thinly veiled ruse bandied about with ridiculous talking points that no one believes are the true motives for the bill the state Senate approved last week.
It doesn’t take a MENSA-level IQ to figure that one out.
But this is where Gov. Rick Snyder needs to step up and be a leader — since apparently the state Legislature has been hoodwinked into taking action on behalf of county Republicans who can’t handle the thought of Democrats redrawing the Board of Commissioners district lines — by using his constitutionally-granted veto authority on House Bill (HB) 5187.
Politics aside, slapping down this legislation would save the state some money defending the bill in court — a likely scenario if it’s enacted into law, local Democrats say.
Shepherded through earlier this month at a speed typically only afforded resolutions applauding Little League baseball teams or Girl Scout troops, HB 5187 winnows the 25-member county board down to no more than 21 commissioners, thereby necessitating a new commissioner district map, one different from what was approved in a party-line vote by Democrats on the Oakland County Reapportionment Commission in May. A legal challenge is expected if the bill becomes law, according to county Democratic Party Chairman Frank Houston, who chaired the five-member panel responsible for rejiggering the district boundaries under state law — or at least, what should remain state law.
Proponents of the bill argue that it saves Oakland County $250,000 per year. That’s not chump change, but it’s money that, as we noted on this page last week, could be saved if the Republican majority on the county board had the guts to cut commissioners’ own $33,000 yearly salaries by one-third for part-time work. Fat chance of that happening, though.
Democrats controlled the redistricting process this time around following the 2010 U.S. Census after Andy Meisner and Jessica Cooper won 2008 elections for the county treasurer and county prosecutor posts, respectively. Under existing state law, the officials holding those jobs sit on the county Reapportionment Commission, along with the heads of the county Republican and Democratic parties and the county clerk, giving that panel a 3-2 edge this time around to the Democrats, apparently nothing short of blasphemy to the GOP. So here’s some terse advice to those Republican members of the lakes area’s delegation to the state Legislature, all of whom voted for the bill: Get over it.
This deus ex machina to an imagined problem is particularly offensive since the GOP had no qualms before with the Republicans controlling the process during past redistricting efforts, nor did the existence of a 25-member county commission ruffle the feathers of the small-government conservatives who are now, suddenly up in arms over the size of the county board. It was only when Democrats — gasp! — held the redistricting reins and put together a district map that the state Court of Appeals upheld last month that this partisan gamesmanship was dreamt up in what we imagine was not exactly a Newtonian epiphany.
And we would say that if the situation was reversed.
If Snyder wants to demonstrate that he isn’t simply a GOP marionette and prove his willingness to politically flip off those standing in the way of what’s right — as he has in other battles during his first year in office, one replete with acerbic backlash from a bevy of well-oiled and moneyed interest groups — he would be off to a good start by using the veto to neuter this bellicose power grab, something the Ann Arbor Republican hasn’t done often given that the powers that be in the state Legislature just happen to be his ideological kinsfolk.
A veto of this folly of a bill — which we’ve described privately using exponentially more abbrasive (and yes, more profane) language than you’re reading here in the pages of our family-friendly newspaper — may not make the self-described “tough nerd” many friends in the House and Senate Republican caucuses, but it would be a feather in his cap that he could point to when defending that moniker.
Let’s hope Snyder does the right thing and listens to the angel of so-called “post-partisanship” whispering in his ear, rather than the political devil. We’re crossing our fingers.