Why Lame Duck Sessions In Government Should Not Exist

Coby Washo, Staff Writer

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Right now in the US, the federal government and some state governments are in what is known as “Lame Duck Sessions.” This is when a legislature meets up in the period of time between an election, and the inauguration of the individuals elected on election day. The most glaring problem with Lame Duck Sessions is the conflicts that can arise from the legislature and statewide offices being held by different parties. For example, if a state elects a Democratic governor, then a Republican-controlled legislature can take steps to reduce the powers of the governor before the new governor is even sworn in. And as it turns out, this is already happening.

In Wisconsin, the Republican-controlled legislature passed bills designed to limit the powers of the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general. One bill would weaken the governor’s ability to put in place administrative rules that enact laws, and give the legislature, as opposed to the governor the power to appoint nominees to the board of the state economic development agency. Another bill would require a legislative committee, as opposed to the Attorney General, to sign off on pulling out of federal lawsuits. This comes at a time when Wisconsin is in a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government in an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Another state with a Republican-controlled legislature and an incoming Democratic governor, Michigan, is undergoing a controversial Lame Duck Session. On election day, Michigan voters approved two ballot measures that boosts the state minimum wage, and allows workers to take paid sick leave. However, the state legislature is using the Lame Duck Session to pass amendments that would weaken these new laws before the incoming Democratic governor could veto these amendments. The new amendments extend the period of time over which the minimum wage will be raised, and lowers the amount of sick days a worker can take from 1 for every 30 hours worked with a cap of 72 hours per year, to 1 for every 40 hours worked with a cap of 36 hours per year.

These moves by the Wisconsin and Michigan legislatures are only some of the examples of why Lame Duck Sessions should not exist. Armed with the knowledge of election results, legislatures are able to shoot down the will of the voters. Perhaps Lame Duck Sessions could be abolished completely, and all 50 states would inaugurate their elected officials immediately (like Florida). Another option would be to set up a Parliamentary style of government (common in Europe) whereby the leader of the executive branch would be elected by the legislature, so as to avoid conflicts between two branches of government. Whatever the solution may be, the point is that Lame Duck Sessions should not exist.

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