State lawmakers have obligation to be present at votes

The recent Missed Votes Report by offered some reassuring news on state lawmakers from the Upper Peninsula.

State Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba, missed only one of 570 roll call votes. Even more impressive, Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, were present for all 511 floor votes in the state House this past year.

They were among the 15 senators and 85 representatives who missed not a single vote in 2017, according the report from, which is affiliated with the non-partisan Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Certainly there’s more to being a good legislator than perfect attendance. And lawmakers may have very good reasons for missing votes, be it a family or personal matter — they shouldn’t have to sacrifice all aspects of a life outside the office — or simply something that prevented them from being on the floor for what might have been a fairly meaningless vote.

That said, it’s good to know those elected to state office from this region, who we trust to be our voice in Lansing, appear to take that responsibility seriously.

For a handful of Michigan legislators from other parts of the state, the results were more shaky. Six senators and two representatives each missed 50 or more votes in 2017, led by Coleman Young II in the Senate and LaTanya Garrett in the House, who failed to vote 144 times and 95 times, respectively, according to the report.

It prompted the Traverse City Record-Eagle to speculate Young, D-Detroit, may be more focused on other offices than the one he has in the state Senate.

“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.”

When other pursuits make you miss one-quarter of the votes, both you — and your constituents — perhaps need to reconsider the decision on filling that post.

Being a state lawmaker isn’t the highest-paying job, though it does pay better than all but three other states at $71,685 a year, plus $10,800 for expenses. Nor is it always glamorous, despite the title. But no one forces a candidate to seek office.

And those who show up to vote on election day should have the expectation their legislators will do the same when they get to Lansing.