Well, they did it. After years of posturing and gamesmanship, both houses of Michigan’s Legislature have finally voted on the same bill to repeal a wart that's irritated this state’s body politic at least since the 1992 term limits amendment: Extremely generous health insurance benefits for former lawmakers starting at age 55.
Passed 37 to 1 in the Senate on Oct. 5, and 96 to 11 in the House on Oct. 6, to end the post-retirement health care insurance coverage provided to legislators, but only for those who have not completed at least six years in the Legislature before Jan. 1, 2013. Reportedly, this means 36 out of 38 Senators would still get the benefit, plus 14 out of 109 currently in the House. Under current law, former legislators who have served six years get full health coverage beginning at age 55.
The most important thing is that the Legislature has finally acted: Over the past 10 years, more than 20 bills have been introduced to eliminate or scale back the benefits, and several have passed one chamber or the other, but somehow never passed both in the same form. The sticking point has been whether to apply this only to future legislators, or also to themselves.
Nevertheless, one can’t help but notice the disparity between how this bill treats current Senators vs. current Representatives: Based on time in office, all but two of the former get to keep this tasty perk, while only 14 out of 109 current House members do.
One of the Lansing insider newsletters reported that a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said this outcome represents “a compromise.” If that’s what they call “compromise,” I sure would want Randy Richardville on my side of the bargaining table in any negotiation!
According to one reliable but “inadmissible hearsay” report, at the bars the night of the vote some Senators were chortling over this very point.
But again, the important thing is that, assuming Gov. Rick Snyder signs the bill, they finally killed the thing, although the legacy costs will continue to burden taxpayers for years. RIP, and good riddance.