LANSING (AP) – Supporters of Michigan’s emergency manager law argued Monday that an effort to repeal the law shouldn’t be placed on the November ballot due to flawed petitions.
Bob LaBrant of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility said the petitions turned in by the pro-repeal group Stand Up for Democracy aren’t legal because the heading is printed in a type that’s smaller than required. A printer’s affidavit says the heading size is correct, but LaBrant contends that “two experienced printers” disagreed.
“It’s somewhere between 10 and 12-point, rather than the 14-point size required, he said, suggesting the type was the size generally used in the body of a letter rather than in a larger heading. Opponents also say the proposal’s summary is “incomplete and misleading” and that the petition language has other glitches.
The decision by the Board of State Canvassers later this month on whether the challenge is legitimate could have major ramifications in Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac, the Detroit public school system and a few other places that already have or could soon have state-appointed emergency managers in charge of their troubled finances.
If state elections officials decide the challenge is legitimate, the emergency manager approved last year will remain in place, even if enough valid signatures have been turned in. If the challenge is found to be groundless and enough valid signatures have been submitted, the law would be suspended until the November election. Any suspension is not expected to affect a Detroit consent agreement reached last week by city and state officials.
The state Bureau of Elections is reviewing the challenge. The bureau’s staff will provide a report to the Board of State Canvassers on whether enough valid signatures were filed, then the board will make the final determination and can consider the challenge as it sees fit, secretary of state spokesman Fred Woodhams said.
Stand Up for Democracy has been girding for a challenge after turning in petitions in late February containing 225,885 signatures. At least 161,305 valid voter signatures are needed to make the ballot. The group is trying to give voters a chance to overturn the emergency manager law, which has drawn loud opposition in some cities and been welcomed in others.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration and Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette say a suspension of the law would mean Michigan reverts to its previous law for emergency managers, adopted in 1990. Emergency managers would stay on the job but wouldn’t have the powers granted in 2011 revisions – such as the ability to toss out union contracts and strip authority from locally elected officials.
State election officials are expected to make a decision by late April on whether the issue will be on the ballot.
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