emergency manager law

via Detroit Board of Education

Detroit’s elected school board will have short-lived authority over some key decisions.

A Wayne County judge ruled Wednesday that the district’s emergency financial manager had exceeded his authority on some issues.

Judge Annette Berry said Roy Roberts must consult with the school board on school closings, security, and some other issues.

Roberts is supposed to share authority with the school board. He oversees finances, while the board supervises academics.

But the two are hard to separate, and both sides have brought court cases over how that should work in practice

Detroit school board President Lamar Lemmons says the ruling granting board members a partial injunction proves Roberts overstepped his authority.

"He’s used the fact that he’s had financial authority to, if you will, bully the staff into cooperating with him,” Lemmons said.  “And for all intents and purposes, ignoring the board and its designated superintendent.”

The arrangement will be short-lived, though. A new emergency manager law kicks into effect on March 28th, once again giving Roberts broad powers over the whole district.

Lemmons says the board plans a court challenge to the new law.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is planning to discuss Detroit's financial situation on Thursday.

The governor is expected to hold an afternoon round table with the media in Detroit. Snyder's office says he isn't planning to announce if he'll appoint an emergency manager, but instead to provide an update on where things stand.

The Republican governor has less than a month to decide whether the state will take over the city's broken finances and send in someone to oversee a recovery.

Detroit can just barely avoid running out of cash this fiscal year--if it implements some key measures.

That’s what the city’s finance officials told its financial advisory board on Monday.

The premise to avoid insolvency involves some immediate cuts, some deferred payments—and a few big “ifs.”

Some of those measures are so-called “structural changes,” like mandatory furlough days, layoffs, and possible pension and health care changes. Others defer payments or take one-time opportunities to grab
cash.

Roy Roberts, the state-appointed emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools, will keep his job after the Michigan Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit attempting to remove him.

The Supreme Court refused to overturn an earlier decision by the Court of Appeals ruling that Roberts’ office remains in effect under Public Act 72—the state’s emergency financial manager law of 1990.

The lawsuit was brought by Robert Davis, a union activist and school board member in Highland Park.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder has signed an updated local emergency manager law to replace the one rejected last month by voters.

The governor says the new law is an improvement because it gives local governments more options to come up with a plan to dig out of a financial crisis.

Critics say it's not very different from what voters said "no" to. It still grants emergency managers sweeping authority over local governments that are taken over by the state.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week Weekend Edition host Rina Miller and Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss the lame duck session in Lansing.

While right to work was passed despite massive protests, Lessenberry says there is only one way it can be repealed.

“People could petition with the legislature to repeal the law and if they don’t then it goes on the ballot,” he says.

The question is, is if anyone will actually do it.

And a package of abortion bills were sent to Governor Snyder’s desk.

“The package passed is mainly regulating abortion clinics, putting them under more scrutiny, making sure that people coming in for a procedure weren’t coerced,” Lessenberry says.

And finally, a new emergency manager law also moved forward.

“This gives emergency managers more power than the old emergency financial managers have. But it also sort of gives cities a choice--whether they want an emergency manger, whether they want to move to bankruptcy or have a consent agreement,” Lessenberry says.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Many bills made moves yesterday at the state capitol. Here are some of the bills that are now headed to Governor Rick Snyder's desk:

Abortion bills

Governor Rick Snyder will have the final say on a measure to add restrictions for abortion providers. State lawmakers approved the legislation yesterday. Among other things, it requires physicians to screen women to make sure they’re not being forced or coerced to have an abortion.

Bill to phase out personal property tax

State lawmakers have approved a plan to phase out Michigan’s tax on industrial and business equipment. Local governments rely heavily on the tax to provide services. The bill is headed to Governor Snyder's desk. The measure would also make up for 80-percent of funding for non-essential services.

Emergency manager bill

The Michigan Legislature has sent Governor Rick Snyder a new local government emergency manager bill -- five weeks after voters rejected their last effort. The new law will give local governments in financial trouble some options. They can negotiate an agreement with the state, accept an emergency manager, or go a federal bankruptcy court.

Michigan House Republicans

The state House has approved a measure that would replace the emergency manager law that voters rejected last month.

Supporters of the measure say it gives local governments and schools more choices than Public Act Four. That law was rejected by voters last month.

The options now would include coming to a consent agreement with the state, mediation, an emergency manager, or bankruptcy.

Republican state Representative Al Pscholka sponsored the original emergency manager law.

“It is a significant difference from Public Act 4, because it allows the local elected officials to have a choice,” Pscholka said.

Democratic state Representative David Nathan of Detroit said he doesn’t see a real difference between the proposal and the original law.

“I think that both of those – (Public Act) 4 and this legislation – is imposing its will on communities and not allowing the communities to be a part of the decision-making process to get them out of the struggles that they have,” Nathan said.

A provision in the bill would make the measure immune to a voter referendum, like the one that repealed the original emergency manager law.

The bill now goes to the state Senate, where a vote is likely Thursday.

New emergency manager law moves to House floor

Dec 6, 2012
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new emergency manager bill advances to the House floor after a partisan vote passed the legislation through the House Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee.

The Detroit Free Press has more:

Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder and legislative leaders are talking about a possible replacement to the emergency manager law that was rejected by voters nearly a month ago.

The governor says he’d like to see it done before the Legislature wraps up its “lame duck” session.

Governor Snyder says a new law would have to respect voters’ decision that the old emergency manager law was too sweeping. 

Under one version being discussed, local governments in financial trouble could ask the state for an emergency manager – otherwise, they would face the prospect of federal bankruptcy.

Rick Jones

Detroit is at a political impasse that could lead to a financial collapse next month.

Now, one state legislator is saying Lansing should consider “all its options”—including possibly dissolving the city as a municipality.

The idea of dissolving Detroit—and effectively merging it with Wayne County—has popped up occasionally in some business and political circles recently.

But mid-Michigan senator Rick Jones is the first official to publicly discuss that as an option.

Jones says Detroit’s local leaders just aren’t dealing with the city's fiscal problems—and having the state’s biggest city file for municipal bankruptcy would be “horrible.”

“I think everything is on the table,” Jones said. “ I would be willing to consider dissolving the city, if that’s what it took.

“One of the options could be actually dissolving the city of Detroit, and putting all of their functions back into Wayne County. That is possible.”

Still, Jones acknowledges this merger scenario is “unlikely.” He says the prevailing discussion in Lansing is about bankruptcy versus some kind of state intervention.

Lawmakers in Lansing are also considering passing a revised version of the emergency manager law voters overturned in November.

Detroit faces the possibility of running out of cash in mid-December.

Will new emergency manager plan be hybrid of old laws?

Nov 15, 2012
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder voices his opinion on the ballot proposals.
YouTube

What do you get when you take Michigan’s past two emergency manager laws, Public Act 72 and the recently repealed Public Act 4, and add them together?

Public Act 76, of course.

That is the working title of a suggested hybrid law outlined in a state Treasury Department memo obtained by the Detroit News.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s Emergency Financial Manager says his job hasn’t changed, despite Tuesday’s vote to repeal Michigan’s controversial Emergency Manager law.

Flint voters strongly supported repealing the law. Their city is among those that have complained the most about the draconian measures the law permitted state appointees to take.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Next week, voters will decide whether Michigan’s controversial emergency manager law is the right way for the state to make sure local governments avoid financial collapse.

An emergency manager has been operating Benton Harbor for over two years.
notashamed / flickr

In November, Michigan voters will decide the fate of Public Act 4 of 2011 (PA 4)—the controversial emergency manager law.

PA 4 is the latest of three Michigan laws that define the state’s ability to appoint emergency managers to oversee financially distressed local governments.

Under the law, emergency managers have the power to modify and terminate existing contracts, and in some cases, collective bargaining agreements.

Since August 8, when the Board of Canvassers placed Proposal 1 on the ballot, PA 4 has been suspended while awaiting the statewide referendum.

Check back later for more coverage on Michigan's six ballot proposals.
Flickr

Michigan voters will see six proposals on their ballots.

There is one referendum on a current law, and five proposed amendments to the Michigan State Constitution. 

See the links below for the proposals as they will appear on your ballot.

Be sure to check back in the coming weeks as Michigan Radio will be providing detailed analysis of each proposal.

Referendum:

Proposal 1: The emergency manager law

Mosaica was hired in July, 2012 to run the schools. (L toR) Mosaica Regional Vice President Alena Zachery Ross, Mosaica founder and President Gene Eidelman, and Emergency Manager Don Weatherspoon.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The first two weeks of class have presented some obstacles for Michigan’s first fully privatized public school district.

Muskegon Heights schools' emergency financial manager hired Mosaica Education, a charter school company, in July to run the K-12 system while he focuses on paying off the district’s debt. Highland Park schools’ EFM took the same option later that month.

Alena Zachery-Ross is the top administrator at the new Muskegon Height Public School Academy System. She’s very positive, but admits the first two weeks didn’t go “as smoothly” as she expected.

“There are all these things that you don’t think of. There are small details that we want to ensure are taken care of immediately but they take time,” Zachery-Ross said. She says these 'day-to-day' details are important but she must stick to a priority list.

Emergency managers once had significant power in the school districts and cities they were appointed in. They could break union contracts and strip elected leaders of their power. But that changed once the Supreme Court ruled the voter referendum challenging the law could go on the November ballot. The emergency manager law was suspended, so they no longer have their broad powers. MLive reports that it appears the Michigan legislature will wait until November to decided what to do next.

A Wayne County Circuit judge has ruled that some Detroit schools will remain in a new district for low-performing schools despite a ballot proposal challenging a state law that allowed the move, according to an Associated Press report.

The judge told emergency manager Roy Roberts today that the Detroit Board of Education regains academic control of remaining schools in the district pending the November election outcome on Michigan's emergency manager law.

Until then, state-appointed managers of financially distressed cities and school districts have to operate under the law's predecessor, which gives them only financial oversight.

Board members sought to reverse Roberts' movement of 15 schools into the Education Achievement Authority, claiming it falls under their academic control.

Detroit Public Schools Board President, LaMar Lemmons talks with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White about today's hearing and what steps the board will take next.

The Pontiac City Council is trying to reclaim its authority lost to the state-appointed emergency financial manager.

Louis Schimmel became the cash-strapped city's third emergency manager in 2011.

The Detroit Free Press reports that yesterday, all present council members approved a resolution demanding that authority over all city finances and financial decision-making be restored to the mayor and council.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The referendum on Public Act 4, Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law is now slated to appear on the November ballot. Once the question is formally placed on the ballot, PA4 would be suspended.

Gov. Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette both say that the state will then revert to Public Act 72, the Emergency Financial Manager Law for cities and schools currently under state control.

But Flint’s City Council President, Scott Kincaid says Flint doesn’t need an emergency financial manager.

Scott Kincaid, Flint City Council President
City of Flint / CityOfFlint.com

Flint's City Council President opposes the appointment of a new emergency manager for his city.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Public employee union leaders are ecstatic that a referendum challenging the state’s emergency manager law will be on the November ballot.

They’ve fiercely opposed the law in large part because emergency managers have the power to alter or throw out collectively-bargained contracts.

Subterranean / Wikimedia Commons

Update Aug. 3 4:00 p.m.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon said at a press conference following the Supreme Court ruling, that putting the Emergency Manager referendum on the ballot means the state will have to revert to previous legislation about Emergency Financial Managers.

Dillon says the current Emergency Managers running cities in Michigan will all be re-appointed except for Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown.

Brown has served as Mayor of Flint within the last five years, and is not eligible to be an Emergency Manager under the old law.

Dillon says the state will name a new Emergency Manager for Flint.

Aug. 3 1:30 p.m.

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered the referendum on the state’s emergency manager law onto the November ballot.

A divided court ruled the ballot campaign’s petitions met the letter of the law, that the type on a critical portion of the petition was, in fact, 14 points, which is what the law requires.

The Supreme Court decision requires a state elections board to put the challenge to the emergency manager law on the November ballot.

At that point, the emergency manager law is suspended, but what happens next is not certain. In a statement today, Gov. Rick Snyder said:

While I fully support the right of all citizens to express their views, suspension of the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act may adversely affect Michigan communities and school districts mired in financial emergencies. It promises to make eventual solutions to those emergencies more painful.

One of the act’s primary goals is to identify financial emergencies before they become full-blown crises. Suspending the law limits the state’s ability to offer early intervention and assistance, and eliminates important tools that emergency managers need to address financial emergencies as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This is critical given the state’s responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, regardless of the city in which they live or the school district they attend.

Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette say the old emergency manager law is resurrected -- the seven emergency managers currently serving will continue, but with diminished authority.

The referendum drive says otherwise – that there is no emergency manager law, and the emergency managers are out of a job.

It could take another court fight – or extraordinary action by the Legislature to settle the question.

Others have also released statements on the ruling:

  • American Federation of Teachers Michigan President David Hecker:

The Michigan Supreme Court has listened to reason and the hundreds of thousands of citizens who signed petitions calling for the repeal of PA4. Michigan voters know that the Legislature granted extreme powers to unelected Emergency Managers in this bill, and deserve the right to vote on this issue in November.

  • Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

We respect the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion, protecting the constitutional right of citizens to use the petition process. However, the Financial Stability Agreement (FSA) remains in effect and is still a critical tool to help fiscally stabilize the city...

The Financial Advisory Board will also remain in tact as will its oversight function to make sure the City is moving forward in restructuring. The court’s decision is not expected to affect the bond issue we need to maintain the city’s cash flow, and the city must complete the bond issue to fund city operations. The bottom line is the City’s fiscal challenges remain, and Public Act 4 was one tool to help us.  Without P.A.4, we will continue to execute our fiscal restructuring plan.

  • Flint Mayor Dayne Walling:

The legal decision does not change anything about the City of Flint's finances, however. It is my hope that there can be cooperation at all levels in the public and private sectors to address the deep rooted challenges we face in Michigan's communities. This is a time when we need to stop fighting over control and instead work together in equal cooperation.

Dario Corsi / Redhead Design Studio

It’s now up to the state Supreme Court to decide whether the referendum to challenge Michigan’s emergency manager law will appear on the November ballot. The court spent 90 minutes today listening to arguments on whether a dispute over type size is enough to keep the question off the ballot.
    
John Pirich is the attorney for Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. The business-backed group is trying to knock the referendum off the ballot. Pirich says it’s not enough to trust that a computer program used by petition printers is accurately measuring type size.  

“Everyone knows what a computer can do. I can make letters get scrunched. I can make letters get elongated. They say 12-, 14-, or six-point font, whatever it might say, but that can be manipulated," he said.

Supporters of the referendum say the petitions were correctly printed in the proper font size. They also say the will of more than 200,000 petition signers should not be ignored.

City of Allen Park

The state is moving ahead with the process that could result in an emergency manager for Allen Park.

Allen Park is a Detroit suburb with about 28,000 people. City officials there actually requested a preliminary review under the state's emergency manager law.

In addition to suffering declining property tax revenue, the city was also on the hook for millions due to a botched movie studio deal made by the city's former mayor.

Unsurprisingly, the preliminary state review found “probable fiscal stress” there. So Lt. Gov. Brian Calley took the next step, appointing a review board to take a deeper dive into the city’s finances.

The preliminary review found chronic cash flow problems, and says city officials haven’t come up with an effective deficit-elimination plan.

If the review team confirms those findings as expected, then Allen Park will almost certainly face some type of state intervention. It would be the eighth Michigan city where the state has intervened.

Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, and Ecorse all have emergency managers. Three more cities, including Detroit, are under consent agreements.

Detroit Public Schools

The state-appointed emergency manager for the Detroit Public Schools has imposed a new contract on the district’s teachers.

Roy Roberts is empowered to impose new contract terms on teachers under the state’s emergency manager law.

The district’s previous contract with the Detroit Federation of Teachers expired June 30.

In a written statement, Roberts says the decision to impose a new contract came after “a series of meet and confer sessions” with union leadership prior to June 30.

The Michigan Hall of Justice
user Subterranean / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility has been trying to block a statewide referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law. Today, the group filed a request asking the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that would allow voters to decide on emergency managers.

The group says a mistake in the font size that pro-referendum campaigners Stand Up for Democracy used in a portion of the text of their petitions was too small under regulations. 

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility believes the font size is reason enough to keep the emergency manager referendum off the November ballot.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Organizers behind the bid to get Michigan’s emergency manager law on the November ballot say they’re getting tired of waiting for the courts to act.

So they’re taking their case directly to the streets—and judges.

After a complicated legal battle, the Michigan Court of Appeals effectively ruled earlier this month that a referendum on Public Act 4 must go on the November ballot.

Last week, referendum proponents filed a motion with the court, asking them to order the state Board of Canvassers to do just that.

Supporters of a referendum to overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law want to make sure that question is on the November ballot.

They filed an emergency motion with the Michigan Court of Appeals Wednesday to speed that process along.

After a complicated legal process, the Court of Appeals ruled the question should go on the ballot last week, but without specifying it could take “immediate effect.” So the order could sit for as long as 42 days.

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