News Story

Banning Comments Not New In Lansing

Democrats routinely kept Republicans from speaking, too

Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills

Rep. Tom McMillin never said the word "vagina" while speaking on the legislative floor. 

Instead, the Michigan Republican House of Representative member was denied by Democrats the chance to speak out in 2009 against a $100 million tax credit for a shuttered Ford plant in Wixom.

Then Gov. Jennifer Granholm said the tax credit could lead to more than 4,000 jobs. The proposed renewable energy park never materialized.

Democratic Rep. Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield, is getting international attention this week for being banned from speaking on the floor for saying: "I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina. But no means no," during a debate about abortion.

Stifling commentary on the floor of the House of Representatives has been a bipartisan effort in recent years. The Speaker Pro-Tem of the majority party has the authority to recognize a politician wanting to speak.

The Democrats denied Rep. McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, a chance to speak on more than one occasion, he said.

"I submitted a lot of amendments and asked to speak on them and would not be allowed," Rep. McMillin said. "(Democrat Majority Floor Leader) Kathy Angerer pulled me aside and made it clear that if I ever wanted to ask for a roll call vote, they wouldn’t let me speak."

Rep. McMillin said there was no other reason to stop him from speaking other than they had the power to do it. "I hadn't done anything out of order or anything like that," he said.

Republican Rep. Dave Agema of Grandville, said the Democrats had an unofficial ban on him speaking when they were in power because he was a conservative.

"I very seldom got recognized," he said. "It was a one-way street — their way or the highway. That's just the way they worked it. You kind of give up after a while. It was no use. Because I was very conservative, they didn’t want to hear what I had to say.

"We are a lot nicer to them than they were to us," Rep. Agema said.

Jack McHugh, the legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said both parties have stifled conversation.

"The side that is complaining today is the side that will be doing the exact same thing when they regain the majority tomorrow," McHugh said.