michigan constitution

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

Starting next month, the Committee to Restore Michigan's Part-Time Legislature says they will be looking for your signatures. They've got six months to gather 400,000 voter signatures to get a big question on the November 2014 ballot: Should we amend Michigan's Constitution to switch our state to a part-time Legislature?

We'll be looking at both sides of this idea. Today we welcome a Republican strategist who believes this proposal is not in the best interest of Michigan.

Dennis Lennox is a columnist for The Morning Sun and a public affairs consultant.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The elections board in Washtenaw County has rejected a recall petition drive aimed at local school board members. It’s one of the first such actions since the Legislature passed a law making it harder to recall elected officials. The Washtenaw County Elections Commission ruled the petition was not sufficiently clear on why six members of the Ann Arbor Board of Education should be removed by voters.

The board did not rule on whether the petitions were factual. That’s also required under the new law. Washtenaw County Clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum says he thinks that would violate the Michigan Constitution.

“For us to make those kinds of determinations flies in the face of what the Constitution provides that the sufficiency of reasons for a recall is a political question, not a judicial question. It’s a political question... means it’s up to the people.”

Kestenbaum says he expects the recall law will eventually face a court challenge.
 

Peter Martorano / Flickr

The Michigan Court of Appeals has blocked further action in three lawsuits filed in Lansing that attempt to stop the Detroit bankruptcy case. The decision comes on the eve of the first hearing before a federal bankruptcy judge.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has stopped any further proceedings in the Ingham County lawsuit while a three-judge panel looks into the case.

The appeals court stayed a judge’s order that the bankruptcy filing be withdrawn, and it ordered the next round of arguments to be filed no later than the close of business Friday.

But it’s possible U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will order all lawsuits dealing with Detroit’s bankruptcy to run through his court.

Detroit city employees and pension funds say the bankruptcy filing is contrary to the Michigan Constitution. That’s because the state Constitution has specific protections for public employee pensions that could be reduced by a bankruptcy.

LGBT flag.
Guillaume Paumier / Flickr

Yesterday, Minnesota’s governor signed a bill that made gay marriage legal in the state.

Could Michigan be the next state to make steps towards legalizing gay marriage?

Given the state’s current constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage, probably not anytime soon.  But more Michiganders support gay marriage than they did a year ago.

According to a state-wide poll released to The Detroit News and WDIV-TV Channel 4 on Tuesday, 56.8% of Michigan residents support gay marriage. That’s a 12.5 percentage point increase since May 2012 when 44.3% of Michiganders supported gay marriage.

Opinions have drastically changed since January 2011, when only 38% supported gay marriage. 

Republican opinion has shifted the most – 36.5% of Republicans supported gay marriage in the most recent poll compared to the 20% who supported it in 2012.

Wind power could feature prominently in Michigan energy production if voters amend the state constitution to include a new renewable energy standard.
cwwycoff1 / flickr

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) promote the use of renewable energy by requiring that a minimum percentage or amount of energy sold in a state come from sources like wind, solar, biomass, or hydropower. 

There are currently 29 states with some sort of RPS in place. Michigan is one of them. 

Michigan’s current standard, passed by the legislature in 2008, calls for 10 percent of retail electricity sales to be derived from renewable sources by 2015.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

You’ve got a lot to decide on election day. It’s not just who will be president, or elected to Congress or to the state legislature. There will be five state constitutional amendments. Some people are concerned about whether adding a lot of Constitutional amendments muddies a document that is designed to be a clear guide for the state.

Ray Holman of UAW Local 6000 says the ruling is a victory for state employees.
UAW

The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Court of Appeals to issue a ruling by Monday on whether the "Protect Our Jobs" constitutional amendment proposal should go on the November ballot.

The referendum seeks to to protect collective bargaining rights in Michigan.

From The Detroit News

Stun Guns
user Rama / Wikimedia Commons

A court has ruled Michigan’s ban on private citizens owning Tasers and stun guns violates the right to bear arms that is protected in the state and federal constitutions.

Michigan’s ban on Tasers and stun guns will be relaxed come August. That’s when a new state law will allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry the devices. These cases date back to 2011 and 2010. A convenience store worker was arrested for carrying a stun gun on the job; another person was arrested in his home for possession of an illegal weapon.

The non-lethal devices rely on a surge of electricity to disable their targets. The Michigan Court of Appeals says the weapons are not sufficiently dangerous or unusual to be banned. The court did not address restrictions like Michigan’s new concealed weapon license requirements.

There are two very different proposals this year that would dramatically change life in Michigan.  Both have evidentially gotten way more than enough signatures to qualify to be on the November ballot. But opponents of both are fighting hard to prevent people from having a chance to vote on them.  And what this ought to say to all of us is that our state constitution is fundamentally flawed. 

If everyone who is trying to get a referendum on something on the ballot this fall succeeds, every conscientious person may end up having to spend half an hour in the voting booth in November.

That’s a  bit of an exaggeration, but not much. There is a campaign to get a ballot referendum on the state’s emergency manager law -- and another to recall the governor himself.

The unions are collecting signatures to try to get a constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining for workers in both the public and private sectors.

Failed Reform

Mar 19, 2012

I heard something last week that gave me a little bit of hope our state might be moving towards slightly more open and honest politics.  Jocelyn Benson, a law professor at Wayne State, is leading a drive to amend the Michigan Constitution to require complete and immediate disclosure of corporate campaign contributions.

Doing that would make a lot of sense. Two years ago, a lot of people, including me, were dismayed when the United States Supreme Court ruled that no limits could be placed on campaign contributions made by either corporations or unions.

Going for Broke

Mar 7, 2012

For weeks, I heard rumors that a coalition of unions were going to try to get a state constitutional amendment on the ballot to prevent the legislature from making Michigan a so-called "right-to-work" state. That is, one where workers could no longer be required to join or pay dues to a union. Well, the unions revealed their proposal yesterday.

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration has placed the city of Flint under an Emergency Manager. Meanwhile, financial reviews are underway for the cities of Inkster and Detroit.

On December 1, Democratic Congressman John Conyers sent a letter to the Justice Department, requesting an immediate review of Michigan’s emergency manager law, arguing that the law is unconstitutional.

Congressman Conyers spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley issued more formal opinions about the constitutionality of various Michigan laws than any attorney general in history.

Of course, that’s partly because he served longer in the office than any attorney general in the history of this or any other state-- thirty-seven years. He was elected ten times, and retired before he had to. Now nearly eighty-seven, he is mostly cheerful, healthy, and enjoying life from his home on Lake Lansing.

How many of the forty-four thousand prisoners sitting in our state’s prisons do you think are actually innocent of the charges which put them there? None? A handful? Maybe … one percent?

I talked recently with a man who is an expert on this, and what he told me was absolutely shocking. Jim Petro was Ohio’s Attorney General for four years, until he left office to make an unsuccessful run for governor in 2006.