Since the Democrats took control of all branches of government in Lansing last November, the Democrats in the legislature have been very busy. They have passed a number of major bills and worked on a number of others. Two of the bills they are working on should stimulate particular interest in Southwest Detroit!i
First, there are the DriveSAFE bills (one in the state house and one in the state Senate.) These bills, of course, would legalize driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants. The immigrant would still have to pass a written test, a driving test, and obtain insurance to drive legally, but these bills would return Michigan to its historical approach. The undocumented could drive legally in Michigan up until the time that State Representative Belda Garza left the legislature in 2002.
Currently, the State House bill is bottled up in committee. Apparently, there are five Democrats in marginal districts who are reluctant to vote for the bill because they fear vicious Republican attacks if they do. Either we have to find some sympathetic House Republicans to support the bill or we have to apply heavy pressure to the Democratic leadership. This would include Representative Tyrone Carter (who represents Southwest Detroit), the sponsor of the bill who chairs the applicable committee, and House Speaker Joe Tate who represents the lower eastside of Detroit.
In the State Senate, the companion bill has not moved out of committee yet, but does not appear to be causing as much controversy. So, calling State Senators to urge them to move the bill would make sense.
Second, there are the bills to have Michigan join the National Popular Vote (NPV) movement. This national movement is an effort to circumvent the Electoral College in the U.S. Constitution. The Electoral College makes the U.S. less democratic. The Founding Fathers created this idea because they didn’t trust U.S. citizens. That’s why the U.S. is actually a “republic,” not a “democracy.” The Founding Fathers wanted to elect a deliberative body to pick the U.S. President, not the people. The process never actually worked this way and makes no sense today.ii But small states like this system because it gives them disproportionate power. So, the chances of amending the U.S. Constitution are very slim, and the National Popular Vote is a way to get around this problem.
The NPV would create an interstate compact (agreement) where states agree to cast their Electoral College votes for the winner of the national popular vote for President. This agreement would take effect once states with a majority of Electoral College votes sign on. Currently, the Movement is roughly 75% towards its goal of states with 270 Electoral College votes. This Movement has become particularly important to Democrats because Republicans have won two of the last five elections for President with a minority of the votes. The NPV bill has been voted out of the State House Elections Committee and is currently on its way to the House floor. Calls to Democrats in the State Senate and the State House, especially, again the leadership, would be helpful.
i. The Legislature has adjourned for the summer, and it should be easier to track down and talk to your State Representative and State Senator. You can still call their offices in Lansing which are open year round and express your opinions.
ii. The Michigan Democratic Party passed a resolution at its February convention in favor of NPV. You can access it on the internet and see the principal arguments for the NPV at www.michigandems.com.
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Steve Walker has been active in politics since 1962. He is a retired Political Science professor from Wayne County Community College, a member of the state Democratic Hispanic Latino Caucus and a long-time treasurer of the Wayne County Spanish Speaking Democrats and contributing writer for EL CENTRAL.