LANSING (WWJ/AP) – The Republican-controlled Michigan House on Wednesday approved a replacement for an emergency manager law struck down by voters in the November election, despite Democratic complaints that it doesn’t differ significantly from what voters rejected and would still subvert local control.
The House passed the bill on a 63-46 vote after rejecting numerous Democratic amendments. The Senate on Thursday is expected to review the legislation.
Gov. Rick Snyder has endorsed the proposal, which includes a $770,000 appropriation to cover managers’ salaries. That provision would prevent a second defeat at the polls because spending bills are legally shielded from referendums.
A new version proposed by Snyder and GOP legislative leaders gives four options to communities in dire financial straits: accepting an emergency manager; undergoing bankruptcy; going through mediation; and entering a consent agreement similar to an existing one between the state and Detroit. The governor believes the bill is “good, sound public policy,” spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.
Rochester Hills Republican Rep. Tom McMillin said the legislation is needed for local governments “that refuse to deal with their spending problems.” He said Pontiac has become a safer place because of an emergency manager who “came in and started to make adult decisions.”
“This bill respects the will of the voters and protects our communities from financial disaster,” said Rep. Al Pscholka, a Republican from Stevensville. “The goal is … to get things back on track, restore fiscal integrity and restore local control. It’s about local choice and fiscal accountability.”
Rep. Maureen Stapleton, a Detroit Democrat, said the new bill is essentially the same as the rejected law and merely offers local governments an opportunity to “pick their poison.” Places targeted by the legislation are being blamed for problems not entirely of their making, she said, with state aid being slashed and the national economy lagging.
“This is yet another slap in the face of democracy perpetrated by this body,” said Tim Greimel, the incoming House Democratic leader. He said emergency managers don’t improve the economy or quality of life in ailing cities.
Opponents contended the measure was being rushed to enactment like right-to-work legislation that also reduces union strength, which was introduced and enacted within a week as thousands of protesters massed at the Capitol. But opponents noted that the emergency manager bill was considered during a committee hearing this month.
Snyder has appointed emergency managers for Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint, Pontiac and Allen Park, as well as school districts in Muskegon Heights, Highland Park and Detroit.
Officials in Detroit are trying to fend off appointment of a manager, but state treasurer Andy Dillon this month announced a potential first step in that direction, saying he was leaning toward ordering a review of the city’s finances. Detroit is deeply in debt and has a budget deficit exceeding $200 million.
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