Switch Subsidy Bill Passage Was A Senate Rules Violation
In their slobbering rush to deliver tax breaks for one very specific data center last Thursday, the Michigan Senate violated its own rules regarding the consideration of appropriations bills. The Knezek amendment to SB 616, S-1:
Enacting section 1. The legislature shall annually appropriate sufficient funds from the state general fund to the state school aid fund created in section 11 of article IX of the state constitution of 1963 to fully compensate for any loss of revenue to the state school aid fund resulting from the enactment of this amendatory act.
converted SB 616 into an appropriations bill according to the definition in Michigan’s 1963 Constitution, in its Article IV, Section 31.
Michigan Senate Rule 3.602 requires:
“Any bill requiring an appropriation to carry out its intended purpose shall be considered an appropriation bill (See Constitution Article IV, Section 31). Appropriations bills, when reported back to the Senate favorably by a committee other than the Committee on Appropriations, shall, together with amendments proposed by that committee, be referred to the Committee on Appropriations for consideration.
Senator Kowall moved a suspension of the Senate Rules after the noon recess on Thursday to bring nine bills on to Third Reading, including SB 616. From Senate Journal 106, page 1910: “be placed on their immediate passage at the head of the Third Reading of the Bills calendar.” was his motion. Senate Journal 106 indicates that his request was passed by a majority. This allowed final action and passage on SB 616 in the Senate that day.
Reading the record, it would appear that Senator Kowall was suspending Rule 3.207 to consider SB 616 and the eight other bills which had been placed on to ‘General Orders’ that morning for final passage under ‘Third Reading’, out of normal order. Senate Rule 3.207 requires a one day delay between the ‘Second Reading’ (‘General Orders’), and the ‘Third Reading’ (‘Final Action’). Suspending this prescribed one day delay is a common practice when time is of the essence.
Senator Kowall had already moved that morning, before recess, to place SB 616 and the same eight other bills then under ‘Committee Reports’ (‘First Reading’) under ‘General Orders’ (‘Second Reading’), so they could be on that day’s calendar. Also out of normal order, but again a common practice when time is of the essence.
But did either of Senator Kowall’s two suspension motions suspend Michigan Senate Rule 3.602?
Is Michigan Senate Rule 3.602 a fundamental rule as defined by Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure? Mason’s is the underlying body of rules adopted by the Michigan Senate when their own rules are mute on an issue. Fundamental rules cannot be suspended according to Mason’s and all the other accepted bodies of parliamentary rules.