A day at the Capitol with Rep. Franz.

May 18, 2016
Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-100th District) and Rep. Ray Franz.

Rep. Jon Bumstead (R-100th District) and Rep. Ray Franz.

Franz in his 13th story office across from the Capitol.

Franz in his 13th story office across from the Capitol.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LANSING — A few weeks ago, I attended a business symposium sponsored by West Shore Bank. One of the speakers was Tim Skubick, senior capitol reporter for WKAR, Michigan State University’s public TV station. Skubick spoke about politics, particularly state politics. One of the points he made during his speech was how the American public is basically out of touch with what is going on with their elected officials, which is why the modern political climate is dominated by the far right and the far left (extreme conservatives and extreme liberals).

His words hit home. The mission of the Media Group 31 websites (MasonCountyPress.com, OceanaCountyPress.com and ManisteeCountyPress.com) are to report on topics that directly impact the people within the boundaries of each respective county. We try hard to cover local politics, even if the majority of our readers don’t seem to take much interest in that topic. But, I haven’t put a lot of emphasis on state and national politics. That’s going to change.

Rob Alway, editor-in-chief, with Rep. Franz.

Rob Alway, editor-in-chief, with Rep. Franz.

The first thing I did was meet up with Ray Franz, who serves as state representative for Michigan’s 101st House District, which includes Mason, Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau counties. Rep. Franz invited me to spend the day with him at the Capitol in Lansing so I could tell the story of what goes on in the state legislative process.

Ray Franz, a Republican from Onekama, was elected representative six years ago when he defeated Rep. Dan Scripps, a Democrat from Northport. Scripps had served one term in the house and had defeated Franz in the 2008 election. A member of the Michigan House of Representatives, like a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, serves a two year term, while a state senator serves a four year term (a U.S. senator serves a six year term). In 1992, Michigan voters approved limiting the amount of terms state elected officials can serve. The governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state senators can serve two four-year terms while a state representative can serve three two-year terms.

lansing_franz_capitol_house_05-11-16_008Franz’s term expires the end of this year ending his career in the state House. Franz has stated that he is exploring the option of running for the 35th State Senate seat in 2018. That district covers Mason, Lake, Osceola, Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Kalkaska and Crawford counties.

There are 110 members of the Michigan House of Representatives and 38 members of the Michigan Senate, each gets paid an annual salary of $71,685. Michigan is one of 10 states that has a full time legislature and its members are the fourth highest paid legislators in the country, after California, Pennsylvania and New York.

The House of Representatives meets for three weeks during the months of January, February, March, April, May, June and September. It also meets once during the months of July and August and then for two weeks in November and two weeks in December.

Rep. Franz meets with constituents David and Paula Estele of Victory Township.

Rep. Franz meets with constituents David and Paula Estele of Victory Township.

When it meets in three week increments, the House meets Tuesday through Thursday.

The Senate meets for three weeks in January, then four weeks in February and March, three weeks in April, four weeks in May and three weeks in June, again Tuesday through Thursday.

There are currently 63 Republicans and 47 Democrats in the House and 27 Republicans and 11 Democrats in the Senate.

The Speaker of the House is Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mt. Pleasant who represents the 99th District. The Speaker Pro Tempore is Tom Leonard, a Republican from DeWitt (93rd District) and Associate Speaker Pro Tempores are Rep. Franz and Laura Cox (R-Livonia, 19th District).

Rep. Franz fulfilling his duties as associate speaker pro-tem.

Rep. Franz fulfilling his duties as associate speaker pro-tem.

Franz also serves as chairman of the Regulatory Reform committee and serves on the Agricutlure Committee, Communications and Technology Committee and the Insurance Committee. He said his typical week, while in Lansing begins when he arrives Monday night. On Tuesday mornings the House leadership meets and discusses the week’s agenda items. Since Franz is Associate Speaker Pro-Tem, he belongs to the House leadership. Committee meetings are held also in the morning followed by session around 1:30 p..m. Following session are typically phone calls or meetings with constituents and “special interest” groups. Wednesday is similar with a committee meeting in the morning, one at noon and then session at 1:30 p.m. Thursday is again similar.

The remainder of the week, which basically includes the weekend and the following Monday, includes meetings in the district with groups or individual constituents. Rep. Franz spends many days driving through various parts of Mason, Manistee, Benzie and Leelanau counties.

The House in session.

The House in session.

Franz said one of the highlights of his job is when he can convene over the house. On the particular day I visited I got to witness Rep. Franz manning the gavel. “I like being up in the front and being able to control the debate and steer the agenda. It’s actually pretty enjoyable.”

Sometimes being on the House Floor isn’t enjoyable, like a few weeks ago when the House met for 16 hours straight, well past midnight.

Franz said one of the misconceptions of elected government is that the two political parties cannot work together. He said that 86% of the votes in the House are passed unanimously and that less than 5% are party-line votes.

“The general public doesn’t see it this way, but a lot really gets done here in our legislature with unanimous support.”

Franz said he takes his responsibilities as a representative of the people serious.

A view from Rep. Franz's desk on the House floor.

A view from Rep. Franz’s desk on the House floor.

“There are over 3,000 bills that are introduced each year in the House,” he said. “It’s my job to be familiar with those bills and consider what I can support, on behalf of the constituents, and what I cannot. Fewer than 300 of those 3,000 bills get passed each term.”

Franz said sometimes he doesn’t vote with the majority, such as last year when he voted against asking tax payers to increase the sales tax to pay for transportation and road issues.

The electorate should never forget that their elected officials do represent the people. We live in a republic, which means that representatives are chosen to govern on our behalf. I challenge you, our readers, to become more involved with local, state and national politics.

To become familiar with state government, a handy booklet is the Citizen’s Guide to State Government, which can be downloaded here. Your state representative or senator will also send you as many copies as you would like upon request.

You may contact your elected officials by going to the menu of this site and choosing the “Elected Officials” link. 

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