Enough signatures to suspend emergency manager law?

Mar 1, 2012

A group seeking repeal of Michigan’s emergency manager law has submitted 226,000 petition signatures to place a referendum on the issue in November.

If 161,305 signatures are verified by a state elections panel the emergency manager law will be suspended until the vote comes up in November.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke to Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service about the implications.

According to Sikkema , the Secretary of State has 60 days to verify the correct number of signatures, and he says “in my opinion there’s no question that this is headed to the ballot in November.”

Now, if the signatures are verified and the law is suspended there’s some question about what happens next. Some lawmakers say that Michigan would revert to PA 72, the original emergency financial manger law which would lessen the power of an emergency manager.

Demas says there are ways that the legislature and the governor can work around a possible repeal before voters go to the polls to make the ultimate decision.

“Now, there is legislation that is pending that is kind of billed as an EM law part two which is supposed to provide for a process after a municipality or a school district comes out of the EM process. However it also is being looked at as a kind of interim legislation in case the law is suspended and that would make clear that PA 72 would be in effect.”

What organization might lead the charge for and against repeal?

“You’ve got a union like AFSCME that will probably be on the “yes” side, but you have a lot of things on the ballot. You’ve the presidential election. You’ve got the balance of the Michigan House. Do business groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce  want to pour money into this effort, or do they decide to let this thing go, or because there is still a Republican Legislature, through the end of the year at least and a Republican governor, they could re-fashion some sort of replacement law,” says Demas.

Sikkema tells us that Gov. Snyder has made it clear that the appointment of an emergency manager is better than federal bankruptcy for any struggling city or school district.

He adds, “There’s a real possibility that they [Republicans in the legislature and Gov. Snyder] might take a pass on this and let the law be repealed and say ‘take your chance with federal bankruptcy.’”