DETROIT—The tour bus featured a full wraparound graphic with the words “YES on 1, NO on the rest.” It traveled across the state of Michigan the week prior to Election Day carrying Republican Gov. Rick Snyder along with journalists, state leaders, and other officials. The message plastered on the bus was unmistakable. The governor’s words were similarly clear: “YES on 1, NO on the rest.”
The message referred to six initiatives on the Michigan ballot. Five of the six were proposed constitutional amendments. One was a referendum on the “emergency manager” law enacted in 2011 (Public Act 4). When all the votes were counted, Michiganders said “no” to all six proposals.
Five of the measures were on broad topics: collective bargaining, renewable energy goals, forced unionization of home healthcare workers (see “Home invasion,” Sept. 8 issue of WORLD Magazine), a supermajority requirement for new taxes, and a required public vote on new international bridges or tunnels. In each case, through misleading advertising and carefully worded ballot proposals, advocates of those proposals were trying to sneak an agenda item into the state constitution, thereby circumventing the legislative process and ensuring nearly permanent enshrinement of the agenda item.
Michiganders saw right through those attempts.
The other “no” answered the question of whether the state would retain the “emergency manager” law passed last year, which gave the state the ability to send a temporary emergency manager to municipalities and school districts in the most dire financial situations. This manager had the power to nullify existing contracts and enact sweeping changes in order to gain fiscal solvency. Michigan currently has emergency financial managers in Flint, Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse, and Allen Park, and in the school districts of Detroit, Highland Park, and Muskegon Heights.
The law was controversial when it was enacted, and voters yesterday sent a message to Lansing: Don’t push aside local authorities.