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Suit up under the dome for Lansing’s fantasy legislature


AN EMPTY PLAYING FIELD: As long as we’re playing fantasy football and baseball, why not a fantasy Michigan legislature? Points would be scored on the basis of whose team gets the most legislation passed. (Bridge photo by Nancy Derringer)

If there was a Michigan Fantasy Legislature, who would be the top draft pick?

OK, hear me out.

I was listening to an NPR radio piece about the rise of fantasy sports and related gambling last week. My ear was bent because at the moment I’m gliding on 3-0 fantasy-football glory, which – as all (make-believe) sports players know – gives you the driver’s seat to berate friends about their (make-believe) terrible (make-believe) skills.

So, the radio reporter was talking about how there is now a fantasy baseball, football, hockey and “even a fantasy Congress.”

Instantly, I felt like a whole nerd world had been kept secret from me. A fantasy Congress – trademarked – where players draft 16 members of the U.S. House and Senate and earn points based on the legislative success the members have during a given session.

But, tragedy strikes when I get home to do some Internet sleuthing.

Fantasy Congress isn’t a thing. It is an Internet relic that existed between 2006-2009, and then the website shut down.

If there were a ditch on the information superhighway, I would place flowers and cross there. I would light a candle on El Día de los Muertos.

For a couple more days, I read whatever Google put in front of me about the concept: It was primarily an educational tool, developed by students at Claremont McKenna College in California, to help people get a grasp on who the key players were in U.S. politics and what bills were on the move.

One online forum talks about the site maybe getting a relaunch. A similar Twitter account promises the website may be back up – last year. I call all the available numbers and email a couple people. Nothing.

When there was no more information to be had, a new question arose: What if there was a Michigan fantasy Legislature? Who would be the top 10 draft picks?

Like touchdowns, the most important thing in fantasy football, getting bills passed and signed into law were the most important thing in Fantasy Congress.

In the Michigan House and Senate, those highly valued lawmakers are likely going to be Republicans. The GOP controls 59 of the 110 state House seats and another 26 of the 38 seats in the state Senate.

Keep those majorities in mind. Because it means there won’t be any Democrats in the top 10 draft picks for 2013-14 session. But the 2014 mid-term elections and term limits could rewrite those placeholders for next year.

During the first six months of the 2013-14, these are the top 10 lawmakers in a Michigan fantasy legislature based on a July 2013 Legislative Service Bureau report of new public acts (or bills signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder):

Rep. Kenneth Kurtz, R-Coldwater: 7 bills signed into law
Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart: 6
Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba: 5
Rep. Frank Foster, R-Pellston: 4
Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell: 4
Rep. Eileen Kowall, R-White Lake Township: 4
Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica: 3
Sen. Mike Green, R-Mayville: 3
Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton: 3
Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton: 3

While the list might be surprising, it also points to the impact lawmakers with good committee assignments can make.

In the House, Foster chairs the House Commerce Committee; Kurtz chairs the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee.

In the Senate, Booher chairs the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and vice chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee; Casperson chairs the Senate Transportation and Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes committees; and Hildenbrand vice-chairs the Economic Development, Government Operations and Outdoor Recreation and Tourism committees.

But, like all fantasy sports, there would be other nuances to consider in a game like this. There are term-limits to consider, veteran clout among Senators who may have served in previously in the House and even unforeseen scandals or political shifts.

The original fantasy Congress factored in sponsored and co-sponsored legislation, amendments and event something called the “Maverick Score” for members willing to shuck party lines to cast against their party. Vetoed legislation would subtract points.

Of course it is all fantasy – an extinct one at that.

But, it would make a complex game, a little like Lansing. And there would be much debate about who gets the most done under the Dome with maybe, just maybe, a little more attention to what is getting passed.

Tell us who would be your top draft choices in the comments below.

Brandon Hubbard is a freelance reporter and former staff writer for the Petoskey News-Review. He served in the U.S. Army in Iraq from 2007-08, and will eat anything for brunch, as long as you are cooking. The views and assertions of guest columnists do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan.

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