2016-01-07 / Life in Leelanau

Legislators combine for one missed vote

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Leelanau legislators in Lansing had nearly perfect participation in roll call votes taken in the 2015 session.

State Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) and Rep. Ray Franz (R-Onekama) combined missed just one of 1,146 votes taken.

Franz completed his fifth straight year of 100 percent voting participation in the 504 votes taken on the House floor. Booher missed one of 642 votes — but for good reason.

“My daughter (Kimberly Booher) is a judge in the 49th Circuit Court,” he explained. “I abstained from voting on a bill that dealt with salaries and pensions. I felt there was a conflict.”

Booher also missed one vote in the 2014 session for reasons most people could appreciate.

“It takes 30 seconds to get back from the bathroom to my chair and I just missed the vote,” he said.

The legislators representing Leelanau County are the exception rather than the rule in Lansing where 38 senators and 110 representatives missed a combined 1,055 recorded roll call votes in 2015. That’s an average of 14 votes per legislator.

“It’s a job I take seriously,” Booher said.

Franz concurred, “It’s what the people sent me there to do.”

The number of missed votes in 2015 in both the House and Senate was down from 1,093 missed in 2014 and an whooping 21,162 missed in the 2001-02 session.

Interestingly, the elected officials say that it’s often family obligations that cause their colleagues to miss roll call votes.

“Some are of an age where they have little kids or other family obligations that make it difficult to be there to vote,” Booher said. “They’re there to vote, but they should be there for family too.”

During the holiday break both men have been in their districts meeting with constituents helping iron out issues such as unemployment and veteran’s services, among others.

What’s on the horizon for the legislators in the next session, which begins Jan. 13?

No bills have been submitted for consideration. However, there is word of a possible bailout of Detroit Public Schools to the tune of $715 million.

Booher has already begun to hear from the superintendents of the 34 school districts in his coverage area concerned that the bailout would come at the cost of out-of-state school budgets.

“It carries a $50 per pupil funding cut for the other school districts,” he said. “They sympathize with DPS but they don’t know why their kids are going to have to pay for Detroit Public Schools which has been borrowing and spending money for years and never stopped.”

Booher also expects discussion on a trio of bills he is sponsoring to promote “aquaculture” in Michigan.

“As a state we import 90 percent of our seafood from elsewhere,” he said. “People want to buy local and buy healthy, but that can’t be done with seafood as things are now.”

There may be opposition to the legislation from environmental groups.

“I’m the vice-chair of the Great Lakes Compact that includes eight states and Canada,” he said. “I’m the last guy whose going to want to pollute the Great Lakes.”

Franz’ agenda for 2016 includes legislation that would require additional training for security guards.

There are also proposed changes in liquor control regulations that would help gas stations secure licenses for the sale of beer and wine, Franz said.

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