Emergency Manager Law, Emergency Managers, Public Act 4 — February 16, 2012 at 11:56 am

My piece in The Nation on Michigan’s Emergency Manager law


Michigan’s Emergency Managers in the national spotlight

In the current issue The Nation magazine, I have a piece titled “The Scandal of Michigan’s Emergency Managers” which is a general overview of Public Act 4, Michigan’s Emergency Manager law. For regular Eclectablog readers, there isn’t much new there but for those who haven’t been following, it’s likely to be a bit of a bombshell.

Here’s an excerpt:

Everyone agrees that something must be done to “fix” Michigan’s struggling urban centers and school districts, although news of a $457 million surplus in early February prompted the state budget director to declare, “Things have turned.” But at what cost? In 2011 Governor Snyder stripped roughly $1 billion from statewide K-12 school funding and drastically reduced revenue sharing to municipalities. Combined with poor and sometimes corrupt leadership and frequently dysfunctional governments, these elements have brought Michigan cities to the brink of bankruptcy. Residents of the hardest-hit places have fled if they are able. […]

Michigan Republicans seem to be most concerned about a petition drive, organized by Michigan Forward, seeking a citizen referendum to overturn the law. As of mid-February the petition had more than 200,000 signatures, well over the number necessary to put the law on hold. The group plans to turn in the petitions on February 29. Since PA 4 replaced the law that created emergency financial managers, this could eliminate the positions in Michigan until the referendum is voted on in November.

GOP lawmakers are discussing replacement legislation, with Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger warning about “the chaos that could ensue if the emergency manager law is suspended.” Since Michigan law prevents referendums on appropriations bills, PA 4 opponents fear that any such law will contain an appropriation to make it “referendum proof,” a tactic already used by the state GOP this year.

The outcome of the citizen referendum and the constitutional challenges may well determine if laws like PA 4 remain unique to Michigan or become the national standard for dealing with impoverished urban areas. With the Indiana Senate having just passed an emergency manager bill of its own, we may be heading down that path.

Read the rest HERE.