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Attendance isn't optional in our state government

• Jan 10, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Showing up is an important part of just about every job, but it's downright imperative for elected representatives.

It's pretty difficult to vie for constituents' interest if those who voters select for public office don't plant themselves in legislative chairs for the duration of each session. After all, don't we send them to Lansing, pay their salaries and shoulder the costs of their benefits to fight for our communities' unique interests?

Thankfully, those who occupy seats in state government elected by Grand Traverse region voters offer a bit of a silver lining in a recent attendance report compiled by MichiganVotes.org, a subsidiary of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan think tank.

The breakdown shows the lawmakers who serve on behalf of voters in the Grand Traverse region logged perfect attendance for roll-call votes in 2017.

That same report shows other lawmakers in Lansing missed a combined 1,153 roll-call votes last year. The database compiled by the organization shows eight legislators — six state senators and two representatives — each missed more than 50 votes during 2017.

The absenteeism should be infuriating to constituents in districts represented by officials who didn't weigh in as many as 25 percent of issues addressed by the state's two legislative chambers.

The organization that maintains the database — which stretches back 17 years — is careful to point out that the numbers are raw and don't account for illness or the litany of other factors that could pull a lawmaker from the floor for a vote or two.

Still, no lawmaker should, in good conscience, feel comfortable leaving an empty seat for 144 roll call votes as state Sen. Coleman Young II did in 2017, according to the report. Young likely traded time in Lansing for days running his campaign for Detroit mayor. And his constituents may be in for a similar showing in 2018 as Young vies to replace recently retired U.S. Rep. John Conyers.

The void wasn't one-sided, either. More than a handful of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle missed more than a dozen votes.

Since when is attendance at any job, particularly a well-paid elected one, optional?

Such disregard for constituents' interests should be the centerpiece of any future campaigns, no matter toward which end of the political spectrum a candidate leans. Because, as most taxpayers learned at an early age, the first step toward keeping your job is showing up.

— TRAVERSE CITY RECORD-EAGLE (AP)

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