LANSING (WWJ/AP) – While the protesters were outside, Governor Rick Snyder was inside the capital Wednesday signing into law a package of bills that gives emergency financial managers broad, some say dictatorial, powers.
Emergency financial managers are appointed by the state to take control of struggling municipalities and school districts.
Snyder said the bills will let the state offer help earlier when governments are in financial distress, instead of having to wait until they are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Democrats and labor leaders do not like the new law, especially a provision that enables financial managers to void public employee union contracts.
Many Democrats and labor unions say it is a state power grab that could set up virtual dictatorships and strip power from local elected officials.
UAW President Bob King said he has heard one thing in private about the Governor and quite another in public.
“He sold himself as being nonpartisan who is going to work with people and now he’s taking extreme actions that are anti-democratic and anti-middle class,” King said.
Mr. King, at a rally yesterday with about 2500 union folks in front of him, said the Synder policies balance budgets on the backs of the middle class.
The Governor insists the law is not an attack on organized labor or collective bargaining.
The current state law related to emergency financial managers is affecting about a half-dozen local communities and schools at this time. Only Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Ecorse and the Detroit Public Schools have state-appointed emergency financial managers in place.
Critics from these districts claim the current law is not strong enough to do much good.
The new laws set up multiple triggers that could spark a state review of a local government or school’s finances. The triggers would include creditors with undisputed claims, defaulting on bonds, ending the year in a deficit or a resolution of the state House or Senate requesting a preliminary review.
The state treasurer’s office says the bill would allow the state to get information from local governments and start preliminary reviews more quickly, and supporters say many cases could be resolved without the appointment of an emergency manager.
Ultimately, the Governor would decide whether an emergency manager is appointed to a district. The manager then could modify or end union contracts, order elections to raise or extend property taxes or take a host of other actions.
A manager could also recommend that local governments consolidate and, with the Gov. Snyder’s approval, could “disincorporate or dissolve” a municipal government. Local elected officials would be stripped of significant powers.
However, supporters of the legislation say local officials could be removed from office only if they repeatedly refuse to comply with requests for information.
(Copyright 2011 WWJ Newsradio 950. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press Contributed To This Story.)