Proposal 1: The emergency manager debate explained
Editor’s note: This is the first in a six-part series detailing the November ballot proposals.
Perhaps the most controversial and divisive measure of Gov. Rick Snyder’s first two years in office will be up for a vote on the November ballot as Proposal 1.
On March 17, 2011, Snyder signed Public Act 4 of 2011, a law that gave more power to emergency financial managers appointed by the governor to manage financially distressed municipalities and school districts around the state.
Passed with Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, PA 4 establishes the standards under which a municipality or school district can come under review by a state board to determine the status of its finances, the powers of that board and when the governor can appoint an emergency manager after the review.
The controversy, however, is over the new powers granted to EMs. Among other powers, the EM can take the place of government officials, including elected ones, reorganize the local government and can throw out government contracts made by the municipality.
Supporters of the act say it finally gives EMs the proper resources to get struggling communities back on sound financial footing, while opponents see PA 4 as a veiled attack on collective bargaining or democracy itself.
Snyder released a series of YouTube videos Tuesday focusing on his opinions behind each of the six proposals. He said the law is necessary to bring struggling communities and schools around the state back to financial stability.
“This is a good law,” Snyder said. “Actually, I’m very proud of it and the impact it’s had.”
Snyder said the old EM law was flawed because it did not have an “early-warning system” and did not give EMs enough power to get the job done quickly and efficiently.
“Both these reforms were important, positive steps,” Snyder said. “We’re seeing the positive benefit of that law today, and I believe it’s very good public policy.”
Stand Up for Democracy, a coalition of labor and grassroots activists, successfully collected enough valid signatures to put the referendum on the ballot and has fought for the referendum in court.
“(PA 4 is) just a power grab by politicians in Lansing,” the group says on its website. “Political opponents of local officials don’t have to beat them in elections. They can just get Gov. Snyder and politicians in Lansing to take away power and put their people in place, people who support their political agenda – not the needs of people in the community.”
Although the law was put into effect immediately after being signed, the law has been suspended since Stand Up for Democracy successfully won its case in the Michigan Supreme Court against Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, a political coalition supporting PA 4. Any law facing a referendum is suspended under Michigan law until after Election Day, when it will either be reinstated or thrown out.
A “yes” vote on Proposal 1 in November is a vote in favor of keeping the law, while a “no” vote is a vote to repeal it.
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