We didn’t know you cared…
[DIA “Thinker” image modified from CC photo by Michael Barera | Wikimedia Commons]
Yesterday, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville announced he would introduce legislation that would save the Detroit Institute of Arts art collection from being sold off to help solve Detroit’s budget crisis. While it’s a welcomed move, it would be nice if similar moves would be taken to protect poor folks, union families and retirees in cities with Emergency Managers.
The bill, sponsored by state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, would turn into state law an argument that the museum’s leaders have made amid the uproar that resulted after the Free Press revealed last week that DIA art is at risk if Detroit files a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.
Richardville said Thursday that the details of how the bill would work are “somewhat technical.”
“This is such an important asset to the city of Detroit and to the people of Michigan, it was important that we introduce something that got everyone’s attention and said, ‘Hey, look, if it’s a problem in Detroit and Michigan, the Legislature has a responsibility to look at it,’ ” Richardville said.
According to the Detroit Free Press article, it’s unlikely that Senator Richardville’s legislation will do anything to protect the DIA’s priceless art collection in the event the city goes through a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in federal court.
Laura Beth Bartell, a professor of bankruptcy law at Wayne State University Law School, cast doubt on whether a state law passed now could protect the DIA collection from a possible Orr-mandated sell-off. Federal law in general trumps state laws, and a state law that limits the powers that Orr could exercise under the federal bankruptcy code probably would not stand judicial review.
I’m not entirely sure how accurate this is. Section 904 of the law that governs Chapter 9 bankruptcies is very clear about this, limiting the ability of the bankruptcy court to “interfere with – (1) any of the political or governmental powers of the debtor; (2) any of the property or revenues of the debtor; or (3) the debtor’s use or enjoyment of any income-producing property” unless the city agrees.
Here’s the actual language from the statute (pdf):
Notwithstanding any power of the court, unless the debtor consents or the plan so provides, the court may not, by any stay, order, or decree, in the case or otherwise, interfere with—
(1) any of the political or governmental powers of the debtor;
(2) any of the property or revenues of the debtor; or
(3) the debtor’s use or enjoyment of any income-producing property.
At any rate, I’m glad Senator Richardville is going to bat for the DIA. Funny how fast Republicans act when rich people start getting pinched by their laws, isn’t it?
Last night, I spoke with Tony Trupiano on the Night Shift with Tony Trupiano radio show about the threat to the DIA’s art collection, perhaps a false threat to make some other draconian measures seem more palatable. You can listen to it here:
[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/94745379″ iframe=”true” /]