By DARCIE MORAN
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michiganders had a lot to celebrate and remember in 2013 – things like Wrestling Month and Flower Planting Day.
In fact, during 2013 only about 23 days in December weren’t covered by a special designation from the House of Representatives or Senate.
Other special times included Autism Awareness Day, Frisbee Day, International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Pumpkin and Pumpkin Spice Season, Professional Pest Management Month and High School Radio Day.
But critics aren’t feeling festive about unique resolutions.
Advocates of a part-time legislature say it shows that lawmakers have too much time on their hands.
“It’s completely a waste of our taxpayers’ dollars,” said Randy Bishop, chief operating officer of the Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature and a steady voice against increasing government.
Bishop co-hosts a conservative talk show called “Your Defending Fathers” on the Patriot Voice Radio Network and is known to many as “Trucker Randy.” The committee recently announced a petition drive to reduce the legislative session to 60 days.
And lawmakers recently approved a rule change that limits the number of commemorative resolutions a representative can introduce.
Representatives sponsored about 170 resolutions declaring special days, weeks and months last year. Senators introduced about 51. Some days even had multiple designations and sometimes the House and Senate recognized the same causes on different days. In addition, the House and Senate frequently had resolutions for the same cause designated for the same time period.
The practice is so popular that certain months racked up 13 and 14 designations for certain causes, not including specialty weeks and days within the month.
March 2013 was designated for Athletic Trainer Month by both houses and as well as Ethnic and Cultural Heritage Month, Parenting Awareness Month, Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month, Red Cross Month, Women’s History Month, Vitamin D Awareness Month, Reading Month, Multiple System Atrophy Awareness Month, Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Month and Social Work Month.
Philanthropists and the socially active looking for a good cause to support could still keep busy in months such as October, a month with only six monthly designations, by keeping up with the 24 designations for specific days and weeks within that month.
December 2013, a month without a cause, was the only month without a specific designation. It had only one week and day to commemorate.
But the party might be winding down for some celebrations and acknowledgements, thanks to the House rule change.
The rule would allow 220 possible designations from the House, but it would limit each representative to two per year, unless a representative gives written consent for another to use his or her allotted resolutions.
The rule likely will be limiting for representatives such as Assistant Democratic Whip Dian Slavens, D-Canton, who sponsored 19 designations in 2013, and one so far in 2014.
Slavens sponsored resolutions about causes such as animal cruelty, immunization awareness, foster care awareness, post-traumatic stress disorder and Alzheimer’s awareness.
Slavens was not available for comment before press time.
Some lawmakers defend the practice for recognizing groups that have done and continue to do significant work for various causes in the state.
“They’re worthwhile for not only legislators but to make the public very aware of what these groups do,” said Rep. Phil Potvin, R-Cadillac, who had introduced a resolution to make Feb. 2-8, 2013 Boy Scouts Week.
“I think it’s very important,” Potvin said. “This is a wonderful way to say thank you to them.”
Still, the Legislature should focus on creating a budget and repealing laws instead of spending time on these resolutions, part-time legislature proponent Bishop said.
A prime example of the what he described as wasted time was the resolution acknowledging International Talk Like a Pirate Day introduced last summer by Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township.
Talk Like a Pirate Day aimed to “give Michiganders who feel a strong connection to our Great Lakes an opportunity to properly celebrate beloved maritime activities, past and present,” according to the adopted resolution.
But Potvin said it would be wrong to discriminate against funnier resolutions such as International Talk Like A Pirate Day.
“We’re a free society,” Potvin said. “Our whole purpose on this earth is to pick people up, not put them down.”
But Nick Sundquist, a Norton Shores Republican running for the Senate, saidcitizens should be furious.
“It’s sort of maddening to think that we’re paying people full-time to write resolutions like Talk Like a Pirate Day and Plant a Flower Day when you look at (our) dysfunctional schools and unemployment and people leaving the state,” he said.
While Sundquist said he recognizes the importance of issues such as Breast Cancer Awareness, other organizations make people aware of these concerns, he said. In addition, he said it’s not the government’s place to tell him to plant flowers, as he can decide that on his own.
The true issue might not be the time or the validity of the causes but the sheer volume, said Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods.
“That really hits that nail on the head in terms of overusing resolutions,” Lipton said. “I fear that if you have every single day designated as something, the concern, in my mind, is that you then water down all of them.”
Lipton already has hit her limit in special designations after sponsoring resolutions for Promise Zones Awareness Week, Go Red For Women Day and February 2014 as Heart Month. The latter two were adopted in the same resolution.
Lipton, who sponsored four health-focused resolutions in 2013, said she hopes the rule change will quiet the noise of special days, weeks and months so major issues can receive more attention.