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Big Centralized Government is a Michigan Republican Value

Timothy Kincaid

December 27th, 2011

The Michigan Republican Party claims the usual litany of principles that most state Republican Party organizations claim. Their listing of beliefs speak a great deal about equality and nearly every point uses the word “individual”. The two beliefs that stand out as defining characteristics of Republicans, those that really differentiate from Democrats, are probably the following:

I BELIEVE the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations, and that the best government is that which governs least.

I BELIEVE the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.

Reading the full eight statements of belief, one might believe that Michigan Republicans believe in small government, individual self-determination, and equality under the law. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, Michigan Republicans believe in utilization of state power to coerce compliance by counties and local governments, dictated values, and a class system based on religious dogma. And nothing illustrates that truth more effectively than House Bills 4770 and 4771.

The synopsis of HB 4770 pretty much says everything that needs to be known about its intent or the mentality of those who passed it:

A bill to prohibit public employers from providing certain benefits to public employees.

This bill prohibits local governmental employers – county, state, fire departments, etc. – from providing local governmental employees – librarians, firemen, teachers, lifeguards, etc. – with benefits under certain conditions. It removes from the ‘government closest to the people’ the ability to make decisions that reflect the values and needs of the people and puts the state in the position of dictating the terms and conditions of local employment contracts.

Specifically, the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act (yes, this really is it’s name), dictates that “a public employer shall not provide medical benefits or other fringe benefits for an individual currently
residing in the same residence as an employee of the public employer” unless they are an opposite-sex spouse or a dependent (or an intestate successor). Those gay employees of villages or towns who receive the same compensation package as their heterosexual office-mates will now be stripped of a portion of their pay.

The sole purpose is to impose the beliefs of the state legislators onto those municipalities that do not share their beliefs. Unable to convince local communities to engage in anti-gay discrimination, Republican legislators will now use the power of the state to force them to do so.

Companion bill HB 4771 adds the following language into the collective bargaining law: “(11) Health insurance or other fringe benefits for any coresident of an employee of a public employer on terms that conflict with the Public Employee Domestic Partner Benefit Restriction Act.”

I will give them this much: they are not pretending that this bill is anything other than what it is. As the bill puts it, “that group of employees” is it’s target. And while the bill would strip unmarried heterosexual couples eligible for domestic partner benefits (should any municipality provide such coverage), there’s no pretense that this is not a blatant attempt to strip gay people of equal pay.

Earlier this month, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate passed HB 4770 and 4771 on a party line vote (with the support of one Democrat) and on Thursday, Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed the bills into law.


[L]ead sponsor Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville, praised the governor’s decision, saying, “Time and again, Michigan residents have said ‘no’ to paying for the health benefits of the roommates and unmarried partners of public employees, and the governor’s signature today gives the people’s voice the rule of law.”

I don’t know of any municipalities that provide domestic partnership benefits to roommates and I don’t think Agema does either. Rather, I suspect that is just his way of demeaning gay people by pretending to think that long-term committed same-sex relationship are just “roommates”. Having imposed his religious views on those who do have different beliefs, he now is blaring his contempt for you.

And Agema is quite clear that it is truly his intention to impose his religion on the land, regardless of the beliefs or desires of others. Describing himself as a servant of “God, family, and country” (in that order) Agema runs Saboath House Ministries, a dominionist organization.

In today’s language, Sabaoth means “Taking Back God’s Property”. That is what Sabaoth Ministries is all about…going into the city and taking back God’s property.

Looking back over the past few years, it is clear that Michigan Republicans have become increasingly known for their anti-gay activism (and bizarre antics). Which is fine, I suppose. If the Michigan Republican Party truly wishes to be the political vehicle for extremist dominionists who seek to impose a talibanish form of theocracy, then they should have the right to present those views. If they want to be the party of strong centralized government and dictated social policy, that’s their right.

But I do object to them claiming to be the opposite. It’s time they give up the pretense of favoring the rights of the individual or the principle of smaller, local, less intrusive government.

Comments

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chiMaxx
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

I have to disagree with one of your theses. Yes, HBs 4770 and 4771 are bad bad bad and regressive and everything else, but as an illustration that Michigan’s GOP doesn’t believe their own “individuality” and “local government” rhetoric, they don’t hold a candle to PA 4–the bill that allows the state government to appoint Emergency Managers to usurp local governments.

Timothy Kincaid
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

chiMaxx,

With which thesis do you disagree?

chiMaxx
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

I thought that was clear from my comment: I disagree that nothing illustrates the truth that Michigan Republicans believe in utilization of state power to coerce compliance by counties and local governments, dictated values, and a class system based on religious dogma more effectively than House Bills 4770 and 4771. I think PA 4 not only “illustrates” that but is the quintessential example. Yes, 4770 and 4771 limit particular powers of local governments, but PA 4 rips those local governments out by the roots. While I disagree with 4770 and 4771, and hope the threatened mass exodus of university teaching staff materializes to combat it, it does not fundamentally undermine the entire system of local government like PA4 does.

In retrospect, I realize this wasn’t your thesis, but just an assertion that I think suffers from hyperbole, given the comparison to PA 4.

StraightGrandmother
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

This is shocking, why didn’t I hear of this earlier? I don’t see how these laws can pass Constitutional muster. This is just like Romer vs Evans which the Supreme Court struck down.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romer_v._Evans#Supreme_Court_ruling

I’ll tell you what, I am getting awfully impatient for any of the recent sexual minority court cases to make it to the Supreme Court, Prop 8, Golinski vs OPM, and all the DOMA cases. I am sick of sexual minorities being treated unequally to heterosexuals. It just makes my blood boil. And now BTB brings us another government lead attack. It just makes me mad.

StraightGrandmother
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

Timothy, you should put in an open records request and look at David Agema, R-Grandville e-mails.

Timothy Kincaid
December 27th, 2011 | LINK

chiMaxx,

I misunderstood. You are discussing HB 4214, also known as Public Act 4. I thought PA-4 referred to Pennsylvania law (and it does… another PA-4) and thus had no idea how it reflected on Michigan Republicans.

PA-4 certainly seems broader in scope, but also seems to only come into effect if there is financial collapse of the municipality and thus is avoidable (sorry if that isn’t exactly correct, I know less about that bill). So – to me – it seems like less of an absolute disregard of local control. But I’m not arguing with your interpretation as to which is worse – both stink of being a power grab.

BTW, the Governor declared (there’s really no other word for it) that 4770 and 4771 don’t cover the University system.

Priya Lynn
December 28th, 2011 | LINK

“I BELIEVE the proper role of government is to provide for the people only those critical functions that cannot be performed by individuals or private organizations, and that the best government is that which governs least.”.

So, the best government would be no government at all.

Jack
December 28th, 2011 | LINK

@Priya Lynn:

“So, the best government would be no government at all.”

Exactly, and Welcome to Somalia. A great place to live as long as you’re a large straight Muslim male with a gun.

Good piece here about nexus between Somalia and the trajectory of today’s GOP:

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/somalia-libertarian-paradise-by.html

Theo
December 28th, 2011 | LINK

It is worth noting why the MI GOP is becoming more antigay when the populace at large is becoming less so.

MI, it turns out, is the home of two of the wealthiest anti-gay families in the United States. The Prince family and the DeVos family each have vast wealth at their disposal. Both families are radically conservative evangelical and both deploy their wealth to further a conservative Christian political agenda. They fund the MI GOP. A DeVos actually was the GOP candidate for governor in 2006, and his campaign was lavishly financed and almost entirely self-funded. Dick DeVos likely would be governor today had he opted to try again in 2010. Beyond the GOP, these families support Christian Right groups, including the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family through their foundations. If and when the NOM mega-donors become publicly known, I suspect that a Prince or a DeVos or both will be among them

Like some hideous modern version of a medieval royal marriage, the two families became joined when Betsy Prince married Dick DeVos. Their family money is a major reason that you are seeing legislation like this at this time.
.

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