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by Autumn Smith
The August 9th Detroit News reported that the State Board of Canvassers had met to certify the Repeal PA 4 petitions as ordered by the Michigan Supreme Court. Public Act 4 is a controversial law which was signed in to Law by Governor Rick Snyder on March 16 2011. What PA 4 does is allow the governor, at his discretion, to appoint a one man or corporation, control of a city, township muncipality or school district. This emergency manager has unilateral control and the power to sell off assets, cancel contracts or event dissolve the city entirely. There is no democracy under PA 4 and the Emergency manager is only answerable to the governor.
But Michigan Governor Snyder has begun reappointing previously the suspended Emergency Managers. He is doing so, he claims, under the old Emergency Manager Law, PA 72 of 1990.
PA 4 of 2011 was recently suspended due to a citizens' referendum -- one that was upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court in a 4-3 ruling on August 3rd. The problem with Gov. Snyder using the old PA 72 law to reappoint Emergency Managers is that in the enactment section of PA 4, the bill automatically repeals PA 72 -- which is the very law Snyder is using to reappoint emergency managers. In other words, Gov. Snyder is using a part of the law that the citizens of Michigan repeled by referendum -- to put the people back in power that the citizen had risen up legally to remove!
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, issued a legal opinion about this move which substantiated the reasons for the questions that I had about the illegality of the action. In The Detroit Free Press on August 7th, Schuette said: "The repeal of Public Act 72 (the old
law) has been rendered ineffective unless (PA 4, the new law is) approved by the electors."
It was sounding to me as if the Snyder administration was simply deciding for themselves what part of the law they wished to act as if it is or is not suspended -- and trying to use legalese to back up their actions. Wanting to get clearer answers, I contacted the governor's office myself. I spoke to Gov. Snyder's press secretary, Sara Wurfel, and asked the following questions:
"The Detroit News reported that Gov. Snyder was 'reappointing' previously suspended Emergency Managers since PA 4 has been repealed. How can Gov. Snyder reappoint Emergency managers when PA 4 has suspended?
If you are familiar with PA 4 of 2011- in the Enactment section it states the following: “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.”
Which means that upon repeal of PA 4 -- PA 72 of 1990 is also repealed.
"Therefore, if we are following the law as we should be, there currently is no legislation on the books that would legally allow the governor -- or anyone in his office -- to appoint an emergency manager. Could you please clarify how the governor can do this without circumventing the law?"
Her response: "I would urge you to look at Attorney General (Bill Schuette's ) opinion on this matter, but the short answer is because the act is suspended, the repeal is suspended as well. Because the act is temporarily suspended, so are the provisions in the act as well."
How fast can you say doublespeak? The repeal of PA 72 contained within PA 4 is a provision in the act. Therefore, it also would be suspended.
When the voters signed petitions to repeal PA 4, they didn't sign to repeal the hated directive in part -- they signed to repeal it in its entirety. Nowhere did Michigan citizens say: "Oh well, if we repeal this mandate, we want to keep the enactment portion that actually keeps the old Emergency Manager Law, PA 72, on the books.
That is not how 'repeal' works.
The Governor, in my opinion, is violating the suspension of the PA 4 as required in the legal citizens' referendum. And Michigan's attorney general Bill Schuette is holding his hand and leading they way, while this violation of the people's will takes place.
Right now as it should stand legally, there is no active law that allows Governor Snyder to appoint or reappoint Emergency Managers. He is not allowed to do what he is doing. I used the word 'legally' -- how naive of me; we all know by now that the Snyder administration circumvents the law rather than follows it.
:: photo courtesy of Michigan Municipal League, via Creative Commons license ::
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.