I have been pretty silent lately but it’s because I as well as others have been engaged in local races. However, the sheer number of Ballot Proposals we Michigan voters confront seems very much like a “people’s Constitutional Convention”. Necessarily, then much of our attention has been turned to researching in order to make sound recommendations. In doing so, I spoke with our “sister group”, Grassroots in Nebraska’s (GiN), co-founder and leader Shelli Dawdy.
We have discussed the various measures facing Michigan and Nebraska, and, in the process, we realized, there is a very important thing to remember before one begins diving into any detail associated with such questions.
The FIRST step in any decision-making process is to define a principled and rational criteria by which to operate. therefore we put together a criteria to use when assessing how to vote on the Proposals:
- Constitutional changes are not to be done lightly. Any proposed amendments should be very thoroughly examined and considered.
- Why is this proposed amendment even needed?
- Is there some solution, short of changing the Constitution which would suffice or could be undertaken?
- Could or would a legislative measure address the issue?
- Is the proposed Amendment in pursuance of the philosophy of protecting inalienable rights (life, liberty, property, etc.) and restraining government power?
- Poor wording, overly broad, overly narrow – is it likely, due to the way it is to invite litigation, which could result in a ruling that is different from the originally stated purpose and cause significant costs, which are always paid by taxpayers (today’s or tomorrow’s)
- What was the intent, who was involved, etc. in putting together and advocating for the proposed Amendment?
- In order to assess and answer this question properly, it is vital to look beyond the rhetoric of advocates and opponents. It is naive to accept, wholesale such rhetoric; we must start out skeptically if we want to rationally – absent knee jerk emotions – independently judge.
- Are there are special, particular interests involved? Do those interests conform to the criteria for the original philosophy of a natural rights, limited government Constitution?
- Will only a certain individual, or particular group benefit?
- If yes, should there be constitutional changes made to benefit only certain individuals or particular groups?
- If yes, do the benefits provided by the measure come at the expense / harm of taxpayers and citizens? Or, does the measure benefit citizens and taxpayers without either imposing upon their inalienable rights or costing money?
- Who supports / opposes the measure?
- Do the advocates’ philosophy of government align with your own?
- Are they credible, consistent, and “walk their talk”?
- Or is their support / opposition based consistently wholly on partisan logic alone?
- What are the potential unintended consequences of the proposed amendment?
1. A REFERENDUM ON PUBLIC ACT 4 OF 2011 – THE EMERGENCY MANAGER LAW
This Proposal does NOT amend the Constitution, rather it is a vote to retain the current emergency manager (EM) law. If the Proposal fails to pass we revert to the old emergency manager law. The basic difference between the old EM law and the current PA 4, is that the current law gives the EM the power to recommend that the state amend a local government’s collective bargaining agreements.
The State of Michigan has a fiduciary responsibility to protect her cities and citizens from malfeasance by elected officials and keep her cities solvent. This a bill of “last resort”, and a tragic necessity in too many mismanaged localities within the State. There are established criteria for employing PA 4, and requirements for the way in which an EM must operate. For instance, there is a public transparency web site of EM and additional independent review. PA 4 gives emergency Manager the tools needed to enact a serious municipal turnaround.
Pontiac’s Mayor (Pontiac has had two prior EMs)The first Pontiac EM was appointed by Gov. Granholm, under PA 4 had this to say about the current EM law:
“I’m a Democrat,” Jukowski continues. “People in my party say it’s union busting. To a certain extent, it is. The dilemma is, how do you send someone in and say, ‘I want you to fix this problem, but you can’t touch 80 percent of what’s under the hood?’ (emphasis added).
We recommend a “YES” vote on Proposal 1.
We highlight here in particular, an important section of full text from Prop 2:
“(3) No existing or future law of the state or its political subdivisions shall abridge, impair or limit the foregoing rights;…”
“Prop 2 would ‘(have) the potential to dramatically alter the established powers and authorities constitutionally granted to different branches of government and different types of government in the state.’ While individual laws that might conflict with it would have to be challenged one by one, the proposal does have the potential to change or nullify a great many of them.” - Citizens Research Council of Michigan
Prop. 2′s Sec. 3 provisions, all by themselves, fail #4 and #5 of our criteria.
Additionally, PROP. 2 stands to cause a tangle of expensive litigation for the State of Michigan:
“The lawyer for Proposal 2, Andrew Nickelhoff, said, ‘We can guess at how ‘Protect Our Jobs’ might affect existing legislation and we could spend all day doing that, but in the end, it’s just going to have to be decided (in the courts) on a case-by-case basis.’” – Detroit News Blogs
For instance, Prop. 2, if passed could nullify PROP 1 (PA 4) should that pass.
As a GM (and UAW) retiree, I have confidence in saying that the effect on Michigan, should PROP 2 pass, would be similar to the effect on GM; unsustainable Union contracts that would eventually bankrupt our state.
We recommend a “NO “ vote on Proposal 2
3. A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO ESTABLISH A STANDARD FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY
Isn’t it ironic that PROP 3 language states:
“Section 55. (1) It is the policy of Michigan to promote and encourage the use of clean renewable electric energy sources.”, when in reality it does not “promote” or “encourage” but force a mandate on the citizens of Michigan?
Free markets create businesses/industries and jobs by consumer demand. PROP 3 tries to force consumer demand by creating an industry via the Constitution.
Michigan already has a law mandating that 10% of energy come from “renewable sources” CLEAN, RENEWABLE, AND EFFICIENT ENERGY ACT Act 295 of 2008 signed into law by Jennifer Granholm. The law instituted the state’s “renewable energy standard”, and it’s been a costly one. According to the Manhattan Institute’s Energy Policy and Environment Report
“There is growing evidence that the costs may be too high—that the price tag for purchasing renewable energy, and for building new transmission lines to deliver it, may not only outweigh any environmental benefits but may also be detrimental to the economy, costing jobs rather than adding them.“
As far as “wind power” is concerned: In Great Britain where they (wind turbines) have been used for years, a study by Global Warming Policy Foundation in London concludes that wind power is simply too expensive to be worth using.
Mandates by their very nature MUST be implemented and PROP 3 has ZERO provisions for potential budgetary constraints on carrying it out, nor does it provide any relief should the implementation of it have any other such adverse effects. In other words, the mandate must be met, whether or not funds are available, whether resources must be diverted from maintenance of existing infrastructure, or whether that means shortages of traditional energy supplies due to lack of funds.
We recommend a “NO” vote on Proposal 3
4. A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO ESTABLISH THE MICHIGAN QUALITY HOME CARE COUNCIL AND PROVIDE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR IN-HOME CARE WORKERS
This proposal came about because Public Act 76, April 2012, defunded the Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3)[2. Michigan Department of Community Health deducts union dues and fees from Home Help workers paychecks, which are then sent through the MQC3 to SEIU Healthcare Michigan.] MQC3 is the fictional employer created by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm, with which the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) allegedly negotiates on behalf of home care aides who actually work for private clients.
And the SEIU was given a collective bargaining agreement by the state, According to a report from the Anderson Economic Group on “The Role of MQC3 and Home Help” from 2011, about 75% of the total number of home help workers are family members or friends of seniors or people with disabilities and 80% have only one client.
Most of those did not even know of the MQC3 until they noticed dues being taken out. The State assigned the MQC3 to represent seniors and people with disabilities without their knowledge or participation. For example:
Robert Haynes and his wife, Patricia, take care of their cerebral palsy-stricken son and daughter in their Macomb Township home. Taxpayers help out with monthly checks to the Haynes family. The checks, which are sent by the state, allow them to keep their son and daughter at home instead of having them institutionalized. The state takes a $30 monthly deduction from the checks and sends it to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
The bottom line is that this is nothing more than forced unionization in a deal cut by our Liberal ex-governor, Jennifer Granholm and the SEIU.
We recommend a “NO” vote on Proposal 4
5. A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO LIMIT THE ENACTMENT OF NEW TAXES BY STATE GOVERNMENT
Note that PROP 5 has no effect on “fees”, see footnote[3. PROP 5 has no effect on "fees": The Michigan Supreme Court in BOLT v. CITY OF LANSING advanced three main criteria: (1) a user fee is designed to defray the costs of a regulatory activity (or government service), while a tax is designed to raise general revenue; (2) a true user fee must be proportionate to the necessary costs of the service, whereas a tax may not be; and (3) a user fee is voluntary, whereas a tax is not.]
Our Founders realized that in some instances a super-majority of the people was needed to ensure careful contemplation of changes to a constitution[4. Several Articles of the U.S. Constitution point to specific such super-majority requirements, including, but not limited to Article V, requiring a two thirds majority votes in either the U.S. House or State Legislatures to bring about changes in the Constitution, and an even higher bar, a three-fourths majority of States to ratify the product of those processes, before they go into effect.], and Michigan already has one such super-majority requirement. A three-fourths vote in the legislature is needed to raise property taxes. Sixteen other states have some sort of super-majority requirements, either through direct votes by citizens or by legislators to pass certain types of legislation.
Michael New, writing for the Cato Institute, explains:
“Eight of the nine states that enforced comprehensive super majority limits balanced their budgets without raising taxes. The spending-cut-to-tax-increase ratio in these states was an astounding 137 to 1. Conversely, in the rest of the country, tax increases exceeded spending cuts.”11
PROP 5 Amendment does not interfere with the Headlee Amendment in any way, as the clear language states, “This section shall in no way be construed to limit or modify tax limitations otherwise created in this constitution.” If the Prop 5 amendment had been in place in 2007, then governor Jennifer Granholm would have not been able to sign her Michigan Business Tax into law creating the biggest tax increase in Michigan history of $1.4 billion. Therefore, there would have no need to repeal it and institute a new tax on our pensions.
A major concern being expressed is the possibility of “special interest” buying votes. Ladies and gentleman, if we have that many legislators in both chambers willing to take a bribe, than our problem isn’t a 2/3 Proposal!
PROP 5 is one small step towards a “limited government” that requires less revenue because it spends less.
We recommend a “YES” vote on Proposal 5
6. A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION REGARDING CONSTRUCTION OF INTERNATIONAL BRIDGES AND TUNNELS
In researching this proposal I found an interesting story. It appears history is repeating itself…From “The building of the Ambassador Bridge“:
“…For the past 67 years, the Ambassador Bridge has served as a graceful link between Detroit and its neighbor, Windsor, Ontario, and as a weathered monument to the friendship and cooperation of two great nations. But the bridge itself was born not out of peace and cooperation but amid bitter squabbling between public (Detroit Mayor John W. Smith) and private interests (Joseph A. Bower, James W. Austin) over whether it should be built and who would build it.”
And what settled the dispute?
“Bower took his case to the voters of Detroit for approval of a bridge ordinance”
Of course much has changed since 1927, but some things about human nature and politics remain.The battle has not ended between public and private interests, nor has the effects on policy, the influence peddling or cults of personality. As in 1927, several public figures have dominated (and muddied) the real issues over which deliberation should occur.
Among them, are…
- Who should build a bridge, private enterprise or government?
- Which is more likely to appropriately allocate scarce resources?
- Is another bridge even necessary, considering that on one side there lays a city in such shambles, its chief of police warns potential visitors that they do so at their own peril?
Answering the question about the necessity of another bridge between Detroit and Canada is a matter for further deliberation later, should only be undertaken carefully, and with an adherence to the federal and State Constitution, and rule of law. Enacting additional restraints on the process would only enhance the ability to do all of these things properly.
“One tough nerd” Governor Snyder and billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun are engaged in an age-old battle, which includes a number of typically unsavory aspects, the least of which is “influence peddling”. Moroun has done so with his money, which may very well bring to mind questions about just how many palms must be greased in corrupt Detroit.
Governor Snyder can (and has) effectively call legislators into his “wood shed” to offer support for his desired policy, with all of the natural implications regarding their own future career aspirations or even immediate legislative agendas. Your pet projects bills being signed? Possibly the threat of a Primary with their candidate? Veto your transparency bill that passed both Houses without a single no vote?
As we know, Mr. Moroun has financed PROP 6 and, therefore is the embodiment of a “special interest” in this case. As a private business owner, his revenue from tolls and his duty-free plaza, which includes a store and gas station, would fall dramatically if a new bridge were to be built just two miles from his Ambassador bridge.
But Governor Snyder has a “special interest” also, although we are not quite sure what that is. We must ask: does that include the best interests of the citizens of Michigan? A legacy? Career aspirations to a higher office? It’s a question screaming for a credible answer, considering the history of the issue, his conduct as Governor, and the questionable value at this time in building an additional bridge.
Is Rick Snyder engaging in an end run around the legislature after the bill was defeated by a vote in the Senate Committee? We have a government based on a REPRESENTATIVE Republic, not a government by contract which is what Gov. Snyder obviously believes.
Snyder also lied when he said no taxpayer money is being used to fund the bridge. Snyder cites the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) as a party to the bridge agreement. The MSF receives its money from taxpayers and requires that the authority to appropriate money from the MSF is through the Legislature.
Dave Agema (R, Grandville) Chairman of the House Appropriations Transportation Committee won a vote for an amendment in the larger House Appropriations Committee, barring any involvement of the Michigan Strategic Fund
“(W)hat the legislature and particularly the appropriations committee does is we appropriate money for spending. Nobody has the authority, including the governor, to spend any money without the legislature and appropriations appropriating the money, so I just reinforced that concept when I put the amendment in.” * In addition, “Governor Snyder has written a formal veto letter to the legislature calling no-bridge-spending provisions of law “unenforceable” and vetoing them.”,
Gov. Snyder also cites other authorities he claims to have to enter into an Agreement with Canada. Snyder cites Article III, Section 5 of the Michigan Constitution to enter into an inter-local agreement with Canada. However this section also states, “Subject to provisions of general law“, which he clearly did not follow when over riding the legislature, particularly with the inclusion of the MFS as a party in the agreement. He also cites an authority under other Michigan Law, subject to the requirements of Section 10of Article 1 of the US Constitution, which raises troubling issues Michiganders should note, truly require attention.
I believe the “other Michigan Law,” is PA 7 of 1967 entitled, “URBAN COOPERATION ACT OF 1967″, which states that:
“‘Public agency’ means a political subdivision of this state or of another state of the United States or of Canada, including, but not limited to, a state government; a county, city, village, township, charter township, school district, single or multipurpose special district, or single or multipurpose public authority; a provincial government, metropolitan government,(includes an Indian tribe) borough, or other political subdivision of Canada; an agency of the United States government; or a similar entity of any other states of the United States and of Canada.“
Under PA 7, Michigan can enter into an agreement with a foreign nation, Canada, and I believe that is where the Governor feels he has the power to veto Rep. Agema’s amendment. And this is a real problem:
PA 7 of 1967 conflicts with the US Constitution Article I – The Legislative Branch – Section 10 Clause 1:
“No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;”
PROP 6 is really a bandage to the real problems abuse of executive power and potential unconstitutional Public Acts.
Will the passage of PROP 6 fix those? Perhaps, as without or without passage there will be court battles all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court. However, the passage on PROP 6 sends the message that the people cannot and will not abide “government by contract”, abuse of executive power, and rejects unconstitutional Public Acts.
Voting is a privilege that we as American citizens have the right to exercise.
So, leaving aside notably unsavory elements entangled in this issue…we consider only the interests of Michigan citizens, and Constitutional principles…
We recommend a “YES” vote on Proposal 6
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