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The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 6195

December 13, 1983


Const 1963, art 4, Sec. 16--legislative rule for voting procedures


Rule for voting procedures

Senate Rule 3.33, which establishes time limitations for voting by its members and precludes an untimely vote, is a valid rule and within the authority conferred upon the Senate by Const 1963, art 4, Sec. 16.

Honorable Michael J. O'Brien

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested my opinion on the following question:

May the State Senate, pursuant to Const 1963, art 4, Sec. 16, adopt rules for the orderly conduct of business, which establish deadlines for voting by individual members?

Senate Rule 3.33 provides:

'a) After a question is stated from the Chair, the Secretary is directed to call the roll, and the first vote is given, no Senator shall be entitled to speak on the question, nor shall any motion be in order until such roll call is finished and the result is declared.

'b) When taking the years and nays, or a vote by division on any question to be voted on, the electronic voting system may be used to determine the question before the body. The electronic voting system in the Senate Chamber shall display the votes of each senator and the running total. When the Senate is ready to vote on a question and the vote is to be taken by the electronic voting system, the presiding officer shall announce, . . . 'The question before the body is (designating the matter to be voted upon) all in favor of the question shall vote 'aye', all opposed shall vote 'no'. The Senate shall now proceed to vote.' The Secretary of State shall immediately activate the electronic voting system for a record roll call vote. The electronic voting system shall be activated for 1 minute. After 1 minute has elapsed the vote shall be closed and no further votes shall be entered into the record. If all Senators present have voted before 1 minute has elapsed, the president shall state 'without objection, the vote will be closed'. If no Senator objects, the presiding officer will instruct the Secretary to immediately close and record the vote.' (Emphasis added.) Rule III, Section 5, Voting Procedure.

Const 1963, art 4, Sec. 16, provides:

'Each house, except as otherwise provided in this constitution, shall choose its own officers and determine the rules of its proceedings, but shall not adopt any rule that will prevent a majority of the members elected thereto and serving therein from discharging a committee from further consideration of any measure.'

It has been held that the power of a legislative body to make reasonable rules for its operation is an absolute power beyond the challenege of any other body or tribunal, except that the rules may not ignore constitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights. US v Ballin, 144 US 1; 12 S Ct 507; 36 L Ed 321 (1892). This authority is conferred for the orderly procedure and the expediting of legislative business. Keenen v Price, 68 Idaho 423; 195 P2d 662 (1948).

The only express restriction imposed by Const 1963, art 4, Sec. 16, is that neither house may adopt a rule which will prevent the majority of the members elected to and serving therein from discharging a committee from further consideration of a measure.

Any hardship which may result due to Senate Rule 3.33 may be obviated by Senate Rule 3.22 which provides the means whereby a vote may be timely reconsidered. A legislator who does not cast a vote on a question before the State Senate may thus avail himself or herself of the opportunity to have the vote reconsidered under Senate Rule 3.22.

It is my opinion, therefore, that the Senate may, in adopting rules for the orderly conduct of business, establish deadlines for voting by individual members and preclude the recording of an untimely vote. It is my further opinion that Senate Rule 3.33 is within the power of the Senate to promulgate.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

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