When controversial bills clear the state House and Senate, lawmakers get one opportunity to say their piece about that legislation.
Floor speeches usually run the gamut between the good, the bad, and the ugly in a bill. They can make us laugh, the can make us cry, and they can make us groan.
One thing they never do: Change the outcome of the vote.
Click on the player above to hear MichMash talk about the value of these floor speeches and share one of their all-time favorites.
“By the time it gets (to the floor), everyone more or less knows what they’re about to do, so those floor speeches really are an explanation for the vote their about to take, and also kind of an accountability measure, I think, for whoever they’re disagreeing with,” says former state Senate Democrats Press Secretary Angela Vasquez-Giroux, who wrote or helped write countless floor speeches for members from 2014 to 2016. She’s now Director of Communications & Media Relations at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan.
As members of a party in the super-minority in the state Senate at the time, Vasquez-Giroux says these speeches were especially important.
“It was really the only chance our constituents had to air their grievances or to have their point of view heard by a larger audience,” she says. “So, for me, my goal was to find the nugget of information that was being most overlooked and really amplify that. And also…a lot of times these policies can be very deliberately obtuse and obscure and difficult to navigate even if you read them every day, so finding a way for our members to communicate to their constituents in language that was plain and accessible and showed that they operated in the same world as the people they represented.”
Vasquez-Giroux also talks specifically about writing for someone like former state Sen. Coleman Young II (D-Detroit), who offered us some of these gems on the floor of the Senate:
“This is the worst idea for a bill I have seen since they decided to make Garfield and the Tale of Two Kitties. This bill is so incredibly bad that I think that it created a tear in the time-space continuum, and I blacked out, woke up in a hot tub time machine and traveled through time so I could stop it and repeal it!” - Sen. Coleman Young II, 2013
”I rise today to register my opposition to the Detroit bankruptcy bills, which would keep the city of Detroit under the rule of some un-elected cronies for lord knows how long. Mr. President, this oversight commission is like me at Buffalo Wild Wings — once you let them in, they never leave!” - Sen. Coleman Young II, 2014