Likely gubernatorial candidate Brian Calley announced Tuesday that he is leading a ballot drive to make the Michigan Legislature part-time, saying his proposal would let lawmakers conduct the state's business but leave less time for "procrastination, politics and posturing."
Calley, the Republican lieutenant governor, is expected to run for governor in 2018, when the Clean MI Government initiative would be on the statewide ballot if enough signatures are collected.
Legislators could meet no more than 90 consecutive days a year under the plan, unless the governor calls a special session. They now meet off and on throughout the year.
Their annual pay would be slashed from about $72,000 to an amount equaling about half of the average teacher's salary, if lawmakers meet the full 90 days.
Michigan is among 10 states with a full-time legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"And it really begs the question: Why? We sure don't need any more laws or regulations than other states," Calley said in prepared remarks on Mackinac Island, on the eve of the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference for business, political and civil leaders. "There will just be less time for procrastination. Less time for politics and posturing. Less time for proposing thousands of new laws each year. Sometimes, less is more," Calley said.
Sixteen states have a part-time legislature, and 24 are "hybrids" — with legislators who typically say they spend more than two-thirds of a full-time job being lawmakers.
Calley, who backed a proposed part-time legislature constitutional amendment when he was in the House, released an online ad on the ballot committee's website and said the plan would save money and allow more people to serve because they would not have to abandon their careers.
The group will need about 315,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2018 ballot.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder cannot run again due to term limits. Saginaw doctor Jim Hines is the only Republican who is actively campaigning.
But both Calley and Attorney General Bill Schuette are expected to run. An independent political action committee has been running online ads for more than a month touting Calley and building anticipation about Tuesday's announcement. He is expected to make another significant announcement on Thursday. Schuette also has supported a part-time legislature.
An anti-Calley group that re-emerged Tuesday said voters should be wary of him when it comes to ballot measures. The Coalition Against Higher Taxes and Special Interest Deals, which opposed a 2015 road-funding proposal that voters defeated by a 4-to-1 margin, noted that Calley had backed the plan.
"Brian Calley has a history of supporting special interests and higher taxes. When it comes to statewide proposals, he says one thing and does another," said Randall Thompson, the organization's president.
He said the group would be more comfortable if people such as now-U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, who led the opposition to the 2015 measure, or Schuette led conservatives' movement for a part-time legislature.
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