There are six statewide ballot proposals for Michigan voters to decide in the 2012 election. WKAR's Melissa Benmark spoke with the Michigan Public Radio Network’s State Capitol Bureau Chief, Rick Pluta about the ballot issues, starting with Proposal One.
RICK PLUTA: That’s the only question on the ballot that is not a proposed amendment to the state Constitution. It’s a referendum on the state’s emergency manager law, and it’s the only one that Governor Snyder and Republicans communally are hoping for a ‘yes’ vote on.
That, this was a necessary measure to insure that local governments that run into trouble are dealt with quickly and then everyone moves on, and the traditional, democratic form of local government is restored. Versus, unions and other local government advocates who said that removing elected officials, or at least taking away their authority, is just too far outside our democratic traditions.
Republicans are already looking ahead to the possibility that Proposal One will be pulled down with all the other proposals if their “Just Say No” campaign succeeds, and working on a Plan B to replace the emergency manager law that they passed and is suspended for the duration of the referendum, with sort of an emergency manager ‘lite,’ a somewhat rolled-back version of that.
MELISSA BENMARK: And then there’s Proposal Six, which would require a statewide vote in order for any international crossing to be built between the U. S. and Canada.
PLUTA: That is a statewide issue just because of the massive ad buys that are basically bankrolled by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge. I go all over the state, and people in Traverse City want to know what the story is behind the ‘government bridge’ ads and what that really means.
So, there are really two ballot proposals that deal with that. One of them is the bridge, and one (Proposal Five) is the two-thirds supermajorities for tax increases, otherwise it goes to a public vote. And by the way, Proposal Five is also largely bankrolled by the Maroun family, which is backing the bridge.
BENMARK: Proposal Two and Proposal Four are the collective bargaining proposals. Two would enshrine collective bargaining rights for public and private workers--
PLUTA: To start with.
BENMARK: To start out with. Four has to do with home health care workers having limited collective bargaining rights.
PLUTA: Unions saw a Republican governor, a Republican House, and a Republican Senate, which they considered to be essentially hostile to organized labor. So they decided to go to the ballot and lock into the State Constitution what they couldn’t get out of the House and the Senate and the Governor. To start out with, trying to forestall a “Right to Work” law in Michigan, which Republicans in the Legislature have talked about but nobody has actually introduced.
BENMARK: Proposal Three would mandate that 25% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2025. Where is the push for that coming from?
PLUTA: That is basically the brainchild of a bunch of alternative energy companies that want to create a demand for their businesses. So that’s where the money for that is coming from. The money against it is coming from the big utilities that are saying that this is just going to be an additional burden and cost on them and they’ll ultimately pass that along to their customers.
Consumers Power was just given permission by the state’s utility regulating agency, the Public Service Commission, to put fliers into utility bills, basically arguing for a ‘no’ vote on that.
BENMARK: I guess the last question is a general one. Which is, seeing that the clerks are concerned about the length of time people are going to take in the voting booth to decide six proposals, do you get to a point where there are too many things to be enshrined in the state Constitution? I mean, is this becoming a trend?
PLUTA: All of these ballot questions were put on the ballot by special interests with money. Everyone used some paid staff to get these on the ballots. But we’re going to see a call after this is all over to do something about our petition process to get stuff on the ballot.
I don’t know what form that proposed overhaul might take. But a lot of people are talking about, you know, maybe it’s just too easy for wealthy interests to get what they want on the ballot, while if someone just wanted to organize a real grassroots campaign, that’s a lot more effort.