LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Michigan voters will get the chance this fall to repeal the state’s emergency manager law after a bipartisan panel agreed Wednesday to place the measure on the ballot against the wishes of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers unanimously certified the referendum for the November election after the Michigan Supreme Court ordered that it go forward.
The law, Public Act 4, which Snyder signed into law last year, is currently suspended, and administration officials have said an older law granting managers fewer powers replaces it.
Emergency managers were appointed by the governor to turn around poor cities and schools and equipped with sweeping authority to cut spending, sell assets and tear up contracts without the approval of elected officials.
“This (the ballot question) was put there by organized labor which much didn’t like this legislation and this law because, basically, they argued, and so did civil rights groups, that it took away local control,” said WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick.
Republicans, including Peter Lund, say the law should remain in place.
“Without P.A. 4, the state of Michigan’s municipalities that are screwing things up, that are not functioning properly, they’re going to get closer to bankruptcy without a good, strong emergency manager that can actually make the changes neccessary to keep them out of bankruptcy,” Lund said.
The Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board was scheduled to meet later Wednesday to re-appoint managers in Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac. Flint was expected to get a new manager because of a technicality in the old law. Emergency managers also were put in place in public schools in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights.
A union-backed group called Stand Up for Democracy collected more than 200,000 signatures to get the referendum before voters. A divided Supreme Court ruled in favor of the group in a dispute over type size on the petitions.
Although Detroit doesn’t have an emergency manager, the possibility of appointing one led Mayor Dave Bing and the city council to agree to a deal with the governor that put several strict requirements in place to repair the city’s finances last spring, especially pay cuts.
Bing has said many changes still will stick, though union officials have argued anything that resulted from the 2011 law should be nullified.
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