Citizens' Voice is a platform for people-driven news and opinion. Be the opinion leader. Write and submit an 800-word op-ed with a one sentence bio and head shot.
Journalist Naomi Wolf offers some useful guidelines for writing an op-ed - Read More
by Autumn Smith
The state of Michigan has been in the news more so than normal since Republican Rick Snyder was elected Governor in 2010. Michigan first made national news when Gov. Snyder signed into law the controversial Emergency Manager Law, also known as Public Act 4. Michigan continued to make headlines with other extreme actions by the GOP led legislature, which included raiding money from the school aid fund, raising taxes on low, middle, working class people and seniors, while giving tax breaks for the rich and corporations. The GOP dominated Michigan Legislature also kicked thousands of people off of public assistance, even though Michigan continues to have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Many legislators faced recalls during the summer of 2011, including Governor Snyder and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger. Headlines continued when in was made public that the GOP Speaker had been illegally implementing 'immediate effect’ on over 90% of the 500 plus bills that passed the legislature, a direct violation of the Michigan Constitution Article 4 Section 20 .
In June, the Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, censored Rep. Lisa Brown and Rep. Barb Byrum for saying the word 'vagina' and 'vasectomy' when discussing a package of extreme anti-abortion bills. Immediadely following 'Vaginagate', Michigan was once again thrust into the spotlight when Speaker Bolger and Rep. Roy Schmidt were caught trying to rig the state election by paying a 22 year old college student to run as a fake democrat on the ballot.
One of the biggest stories hands down, has been that of PA 4, the Emergency Manager Law. Public Act 4 Section 19 (cc) states as follows ,"(cc) For municipal governments, with approval of the governor, disincorporate or dissolve the municipal government and assign its assets, debts, and liabilities as provided by law"
There is no democracy under PA 4 and the emergency manager answers only to the governor. Upon signing of this law by Gov. Snyder on March 16, 2011, citizens began a referendum process and began collecting signatures to repeal PA 4. 161,000 signatures were needed to trigger a referendum. Over 220,000 signatures were delivered to the Michigan bureau of elections by the citizens group Stand Up for Democracy, Michigan Forward and Rainbow PUSH-Detroit on February 29, 2012.
But the fight didn’t stop there. According to Michigan Law, once the signatures were validated they needed to be certified by the State Board of Canvassers. The State Board of Canvassers is made up of 2 democrats and 2 republicans. In the event of a ‘tie’, the petitions do not get certified and the referendum does not make it on the ballot. As you can probably guess, the state board of canvassers tied along party lines, thus keeping the petitions from going before Michigan voters. Why did the 2 GOP canvassers not certify the petitions? Because just minutes before the certification deadline a group named “Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility” filed a claim against the certification of the petitions, citing “the font size on the petitions was incorrect.” The office where Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility operates out of, is the same address as The Sterling Corporation, a republican communications firm, which is also the office of Jeffrey Timmer. Why is this Jeffrey Timmer guy important? Because he is one of the four members of the Michigan State Board of Canvassers who were supposed to certify the petitions. He along with Norm Shinkle were the 2 GOP members on the board who voted to not certify the petitions, yet a group operating out of Mr. Timmer’s office brings forth at the 11th hour the font size issue. An obvious conflict of interest, but in Michigan, that has become known as ‘business as usual.”
The fight to let the citizens vote on this referendum made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court after being battled back and forth in Michigan’s lower courts. On August 3rd 2012 in a 4-3 ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the petitions met the standards to appear on the November ballot to go before voters. Although this is a huge victory for the people of Michigan and democracy as a whole, there are still questions looming about what happens next. It is thought that the older more democratic emergency manager law, Public Act 72 of 1990 would go into effect, but after careful review of PA 4 the Michigan legislature snuck in the following clause into PA 4:
“Sec. 31. If any portion of this act or the application of this act to any person or circumstances is found to be invalid by a court, the invalidity shall not affect the remaining portions or applications of the act which can be given effect without the invalid portion or application. The provisions of this act are severable. Enacting section 1. The local government fiscal responsibility act, 1990 PA 72, MCL 141.1201 to 141.1291, is repealed.”
What makes this significant is that since the citizens referendum of PA 4 has been upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court and is scheduled to go before voters on the November 2012 ballot, by doing so this clause automatically repeals PA 72 of 1990, the act which was supposed to replace PA 4 in this very event of a citizens referendum.
This then leaves us to question what the GOP Michigan legislature is planning to come up with between now and November 6th to keep their Emergency Managers in power and to continue to circumvent democracy and the citizens referendum process that the Michigan Supreme Court has upheld. It also leaves us to wonder just how much corruption will the citizens take from their government officials before they stand up and say enough is enough?
Oh and by the way, the State Board of Canvassers as of August 8th, 2012 has not met to certify the petitions even though the Michigan Supreme Court ruled the petitions were to be certified.. And until the petitions are certified, PA 4 is still the law of the land.
Autumn Smith is a political activist from Michigan. Her activism has targeted key issues including, Mich. Enbridge Oil Spill, LGBT issues, HIV education, anti-bullying, reproductive rights, Occupy Movement & petitioning elected officials for recall.