Use of Immediate Effect in Michigan
Memorandum 1133, March 2015
While Michigan lawmakers have lived within the written word of the 1963 Constitution, they have ignored the spirit of a certain provision for almost as long as the Constitution has been in effect. The provision states that laws do not take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session, unless the legislature, by a super-majority vote, grants immediate effect. Under the immediate effect mechanism, a law takes effect immediately upon being signed by the governor. The original intent behind this provision, based on the higher vote requirement, was for immediate effect to be the exception, as opposed to the standard practice for the effective date of laws. However, legislative practice has made immediate effect more of the rule than the exception.
Lawmakers from both parties have opted to forgo the 90-day provision and instead have chosen to give almost all laws immediate effect. In 2014, 93 percent of the 406 laws enacted by the legislature were given immediate effect. The high percentage of laws granted immediate effect last year is not a recent phenomenon. Over the past 50 years, 90 percent of all enacted legislation has been given immediate effect, while only 10 percent has taken effect 90 days following the expiration of the legislative session.
Citizens should be able to understand the basic operations of their government from reading their state constitution. In the case of the provisions dealing with the effective date of Michigan laws, many would be surprised to find out that lawmakers have routinely bypassed what is understood to be the standard method and have opted instead for the alternative method. Lawmakers should consider either proposing a constitutional amendment so that the effective date provisions reflect longstanding legislative practice or honor the spirit of the Constitution by treating immediate effect as an exception rather than the rule in the law making process.