Emergency Manager Law — April 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm

BREAKING: Sufficient signatures validated to put Michigan Emergency Manager law on ballot – and on HOLD! — UPDATED



I’m going to let the Stand Up for Democracy press release speak for itself:

Citizens in the Stand Up for Democracy Coalition are announcing they have received notice from the Secretary of the Board of State Canvassers reporting the group has collected 203,238 valid voter signatures needed to place the repeal of Public Act 4 (aka the Emergency Manager Law) on the November 2012 general election ballot. According to the report, the group exceeded the 161,305 valid signatures needed by more than 40,000.

“This is an important step in the effort to stand up for democracy in Michigan,” said Herb Sanders, director of the coalition. “This report clearly shows that people across the state want the opportunity to vote to repeal the emergency manager dictator law. Now it is up to the State Board of Canvassers to honor the democratic process and let the people vote.”

On Thursday, April 26, 2012 the members of the State Board of Canvassers will meet in Lansing to decide if the petition will be placed on the November general election ballot. They will also have the opportunity to review a memo from the Secretary of the Board of State Canvassers that dismisses the challenges of a republican group seeking to prevent voters from deciding the fate of PA 4.

The report says, “The Board’s authority and duties with regard to proposed constitutional amendments are limited to determining whether the form of the petition substantially complies with the statutory requirements and whether there are sufficient signatures to warrant certification of the proposal.” One challenge to the font size of the heading in the petition is strong evidence of substantial compliance. And the signatures have been validated. The repeal question should move forward.

“We urge the Board of Canvassers to do the right thing and vote for certification of the 200,000 plus signatures,” says Brandon Jessup, Chairman of Michigan Forward and Stand Up for Democracy coalition member. “The truth is in the petitions. We can’t let bogus, partisan attacks usurp the will of the people. We are simply asking them to follow the law.”

Another coalition partner agrees, “People from every county in the state have volunteered their time and talent to collect these signatures,” said Al Garrett, President of Michigan AFSCME Council 25, one of the partners in the coalition. “We hope the board of canvassers will honor their sacrifice, follow the law as reported by their staff and allow the petition to be placed on the ballot.”

For more information go to www.standup4democracy.com or call 1-866-306-5168 to volunteer.

A hearty and heartfelt congratulations to Michigan Forward, the Stand Up for Democracy coalition and to all of the hard-working volunteers who made this happen. This is an incredible victory.

UPDATE: You can look at the Board of State Canvassers final staff review HERE (pdf).

There’s some new information in there. It appears that the challenge to the petitions by Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility actually challenged the petitions on four additional points beyond just the font size:

  1. The type size of the petition heading, REFERENDUM OF LEGISLATION PROPOSED BY INITIATIVE PETITION purportedly does not comply with the requirement of MCL 168.482(1) that it be “printed in capital letters in 14-point boldfaced type [.]”
  2. The summary that appears on the signature side of the petition form is, in their view, “incomplete and misleading.”
  3. The petition omits the prior law, 1990 PA 72, which will be revived if 2011 PA 4 is suspended.
  4. The petition omits the effective date of 2011 PA 4.
  5. The petition omits 2011 PA 9, which was tie-barred to 2011 PA4.

The report says that it’s appropriate for the Board to look at the font issue because it’s part of the technical requirements of the petitions. However, they are being advised NOT to review the other four:

Challenges to summary and omission of prior law, effective date, and tie-barred legislation. However, CFR’s other challenges to the petition form (Items 2 – 5 above) appear to relate to the substance of the proposal’s summary, the substance of the proposal itself, and the manner in which the language is affixed to the petition. When approving a petition as to form, the Board explicitly states that its approval does not extend to any of these subjects. In addition, and in contrast to the type size requirement of MCL 168.482(1), there is no statute that governs the content of the summary, nor is there a statutory duty imposed on the petition sponsors to include a reference to the prior law, actual effective date, or tie-barred legislation. Accordingly, it is not clear that the Board possesses the authority to consider whether the summary is adequate or whether the omission of the prior law, effective date, and tie-barred legislation constitute fatal defects to the form of this petition.

Recommendation. The Board may entertain a challenge to the type size of the petition heading, but should reject the remaining challenges as exceeding the scope of its authority.

They’ll have to take them to court on those, it would appear. I predict they will. I suspect they have enough money backing them and have a keen desire to make the supporters of the repeal effort spend as much money as possible defending their petitions so that they don’t have it available to advocate for it.

The question then becomes (a) will some group like Sugar Law Center or others defend them pro bono and/or (b) will a benefactor come forward to help pay for their defense and also for the campaign ahead.

This story is not over by a long shot and I feel certain there will be lawsuits forthcoming.

Stay tuned.

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