With the news that Michigan Republicans are already writing legislation to replace the Emergency Manager law if it is stopped by the referendum petition drive being conducted by Michigan Forward, many of us are concerned that they will put an appropriation into the bill. If this is done, it will make the law “referendum-proof” because Michigan law prohibits referendums on bills with appropriations (money set aside for some particular use.)
These are worthy fears since the GOP has already done this on a number of occasions this year. For example, in the bill to “reform” Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance rules, there is a $50,000 appropriation. This has opponents suitably outraged because in two separate previous attempts to change this law, in both cases they were rebuffed by referendums voted on by Michigan residents.
In an interview yesterday, however, House Speaker Jase Bolger promised that there would be no appropriation in the interim Emergency Manager bill:
Pundits have questioned why GOP lawmakers did not include an appropriation in Public Act 4, since spending laws can’t be challenged by voter initiatives.
Bolger said there are no plans to include an appropriation in any new law to make it referendum-proof. “If enough signatures are turned in to show that it is clear citizens want to vote on the emergency law via referendum, we will not subvert their will,” he said.
This is very good news and Speaker Bolger and the rest of the Michigan Republicans can be sure that we will be holding them to that promise.
State Rep. Woodrow Stanley of Flint was outspoken about the attempt to pass an interim Emergency Manager law:
“If citizens through collection of petition signatures are able to get a measure before the public, that is a right that’s guaranteed by the state constitution,” he said. “Others who come up with some kind of scheme to undercut that, I think that’s one of the reasons some get disillusioned with the political process.”
In other Emergency Manager news, it is clear that Governor Rick Snyder and his GOP colleagues are petrified about the impending success of the referendum petition drive. Governor Snyder appeared in person at both the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday. Details of his visits to both newspapers (including video) can be found HERE and HERE.
In Flint, new Emergency Manager Michael Brown made more changes including a couple that violate the Flint City Charter:
Emergency manager Michael Brown on Thursday eliminated the Ombudsman’s Office and Flint Civil Service Commission, both mandated departments in the Flint City Charter.
Brown’s written orders also terminated the three employees left in those offices. Last week, Brown fired Ombudswoman Brenda Purifoy and Civil Service Director Edward Parker as part of his first order as emergency manager, which terminated a total of seven city employees, including the city administrator. [...]
Under normal circumstances, eliminating either office would have required voter approval of a charter amendment.
But the law governing state takeovers of cash-strapped cities grants broad powers to emergency managers, including the power to eliminate any department or make changes to the city charter.