emergency manager law

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr didn’t share much new information at his first public meeting Monday night—but he did set the stage for an upcoming meeting with the city’s creditors.

At his first public meeting—required by the emergency manager law that empowers him--Orr told a story we already know: Detroit hasn’t been paying contractors, making pension payments, and has only survived by borrowing billions.

As expected, Governor Snyder has confirmed that Hamtramck faces a financial emergency.

Now, the question is what to do about it.

Hamtramck’s financial problems are nothing new. The city was in state receivership from 2000-2007. And in 2010, city officials asked to file for bankruptcy.

And they asked for this state review, too—which found the city is still running continuous deficits, and can’t make pension payments on time.

LinkedIn

The number of school districts and cities in Michigan that are in a state of financial emergency are rising.

Now, as many of them are handing over control to a state-appointed manager, it's important to ask: how effective is state oversight?

The City of Hamtramck is in a state of financial emergency six years after it emerged from state oversight.

An independent review team reported that Hamtramck isn't able to make its monthly pension payments and that the city's general fund deficit is expected to reach $3.3 million by the end of June. A structural operating deficit has existed in the city's  general fund throughout the city's last three fiscal years. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s Emergency Manager submitted his letter of resignation today.     

Ed Kurtz has long said he planned to step down at the close of the fiscal year at the end of June.  His letter of resignation simply makes that official.

Kurtz was appointed as Flint’s emergency financial manager last summer, after the city’s previous emergency manager had to step down because of changes in the law.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager will unveil the city’s budget plan for next year later today.

Elected officials in most Michigan cities have spent the past month or so holding public meetings to discuss and get public feedback on their spending plans for next year.

But in Flint, the emergency manager has sidelined the mayor and city council

So the budget has been drafted behind closed doors.

The plan will be made public late this afternoon, after state officials have had a look and possibly made some changes.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Leaders of the Detroit branch of the NAACP say they'll file a lawsuit next week challenging Michigan's emergency manager law.

The law has allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to put managers in Detroit and other struggling cities and school districts. Critics plan to talk Monday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Other legal challenges have not been successful. An Ingham County judge in April threw out a lawsuit that claimed lawmakers violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved the bill in December.

Hamtramck could be the next Michigan city to get an emergency manager.

Governor Snyder appointed a state review team to examine the city’s finances Wednesday.

Hamtramck city officials actually asked for the state review. The tiny enclave within Detroit has struggled financially for many years.

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) - The state-appointed emergency manager for Highland Park's public schools has revoked diplomas awarded last year to 18 students.

MLive reported Friday that a review of transcripts determined the students were given credit for failed classes or didn't have enough credit hours to graduate.

Emergency manager Donald Weatherspoon says the students in the academically and financially struggling Detroit area district were "misled" by school officials.

Weatherspoon also is manager of Muskegon Heights Public Schools in West Michigan.

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possibility of improving Michigan’s public defense system, and lawsuits challenging the state’s emergency manager law and right to work law for violating Michigan’s open meetings act. They also talk about the potential for a rapid transit system in southeast Michigan.

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell / Wikimedia Commons

Union activist and Highland Park school board member Robert Davis has been actively fighting emergency manager appointments in the state.

He's had some success arguing that the state's financial review teams must meet in public, but he's lost a recent round.

More from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

The Michigan Court of Appeals has dismissed a legal challenge to the state takeover of the Highland Park school district. Union activist and school board member Robert Davis claimed the takeover violated the Headlee Amendment to the State Constitution. The Court of Appeals said another court panel had already ruled against Davis on the same set of facts.

Davis was indicted last spring for theft.  Federal authorities say Davis sent fake bills to the Highland Park school district and pocketed more than $125,000. Davis says he's been fighting these accusations for years and says the indictment was based on information supplied by his "political enemies."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A lawsuit seeking to block the appointment of Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has been dismissed.

Activist Robert Davis said Monday that the lawsuit became "moot" when a Lansing Circuit Court judge refused last month to hold a hearing before Orr's hiring by the state's Emergency Loan Board.

Davis says both parties stipulated that the suit be dismissed "based on a pending case" before another judge to invalidate Orr's appointment.

via wikipedia

The Reverend Al Sharpton and his National Action Network are the latest activists to jump behind the fight to Michigan’s emergency manager law.

Sharpton was in Detroit as opponents filed a federal lawsuit today.

Critics maintain that Michigan’s emergency manager law violates both state and federal law by stripping local voting rights in cities and school districts with emergency managers.

And they also argue it’s a racial issue, with black voters disproportionately affected.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Each week we discuss Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Michigan’s new emergency manager law went into effect today, so we wanted to find out how the new law differs from the one voters overturned in the November 2012 election. And we discuss the legal challenges to the new law. Plus, the Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week centering on same-sex marriage. In Michigan in 2004, voters approved a constitutional ban of same-sex marriage and civil unions. There has been a legal challenge to that ban, but the judge overseeing the case chose to delay his decision until after the Supreme Court makes their ruling. 

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Michigan's right to work law goes into effect

Michigan's right-to-work law, which says employees cannot be required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, goes into effect today.

According to MPRN's Rick Pluta, there is still plenty of conflict over the new law.

"Some Republicans are threatening budget sanctions for public employers that have signed extended labor bargains that would delay the effects of the law. Labor groups plan to mark the day with protests and vigils, including one at the state Capitol. Governor Rick Snyder says he’s not concerned."

Opponents challenge EM law in federal court

Opponents to Michigan's new emergency manager law say it is unconstitutional and are challenging it in federal court.

“A lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit seeks an injunction to stop the law. It claims that the new law is similar to one that voters rejected in November, and violates the collective bargaining rights of workers," the Associated Press reports.

Governor Snyder approves harbor dredging after record low water levels

"Governor Rick Snyder says he expects almost 60 Michigan harbors to be dredged in time for the summer boating season. He approved more than $20 million for the projects yesterday," reports Michigan Radio's Jake Neher.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The US Department of Education is now investigating the state of Michigan over alleged civil rights violations.

The department’s civil rights office was already investigating two civil rights cases against the Detroit Public Schools.

Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law are gearing up for a long, hard fight against it.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson joined Congressman John Conyers and others in Detroit Friday to outline some of their plans.

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.

The week in review

Dec 15, 2012
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.

In this morning's lame duck headlines. . .

Dec 14, 2012
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.

Pages