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Democracy Denied: Michigan Gov. Signs Replacement Emergency Manager Law

New law contains most contentious aspects of previous emergency manager law

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

(Photo: Peace Education Center)Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law new, controversial emergency manager legislation following the recent passage of a flurry of legislation that many have seen as attacks on women, workers, and democracy.

His signature comes weeks after voters rejected the previous emergency manager law, Public Act 4.

Many critics of the emergency managers see the replacement emergency manager law as a regurgitation of the worst aspects of Public Act 4, and critics have dubbed it "local dictators" law.

"This one, in many aspects, is just as onerous and dictatorial as the last one," Greg Bowens, spokesman for Stand Up for Democracy, which campaigned for the repeal of Public Act 4, told the Detroit Free Press.

"The disrespect you have for voters is overwhelming," MLive reports Sen. Coleman Young III, D-Detroit, as saying. "The people already spoke. ... Why do we need this law then?"

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer echoed Young's statement, saying Snyder had "chosen to ignore the will of the people."

"In choosing to sign the re-enactment of the emergency manager law — a law that was defeated at the ballot box not even two months ago — Governor Snyder has chosen to ignore the will of the people of Michigan," Brewer said in a statement. "This new version was crafted behind closed doors without bipartisan input, it fails to respect the authority of local elected officials, and an appropriation was added to prevent voters from having their say on the new law."

Explaining the bill, the Detroit Free Press continues:

The new proposed law gives financially distressed cities and school districts four options once a financial emergency is determined: a consent agreement, mediation, an emergency manager or Chapter 9 bankruptcy. In another change from PA 4, the state -- rather than the cash-strapped local city or school district -- will pay the salary of the emergency manager and other related costs.

But, as MLive points out, the replacement emergency manager law

[...] does not completely strip emergency managers of one of their most controversial powers: the ability to break union contracts.

The law would allow an emergency manager to propose rejecting, modifying or terminating one or more terms and conditions of a collective bargaining agreement after meeting with labor representatives.

Laura Conaway adds in The Maddow Blog:

What's more, even though the new law lets cities vote out an emergency manager, they can't do it for a year and a half. That means Detroit, along with towns already under emergency management, will be stuck without meaning local democracies for a long while more.