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'Wrong Font Size' Keeps Michigan's 'Shock Doctrine' in Place

Common Dreams staff

Opponents of Michigan's emergency manager law who had gathered more than enough petitions to put the law on the November ballot were told yesterday that it wouldn't happen because the petitions had used the wrong font size.

OccupyDetroit_20120116_3744

Organizers had hoped to suspend Public Act 4, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, also known as the “emergency financial manager law” signed by Gov. Snyder last year.  The Center for Public Integrity explained that with the law, "appointed managers can nullify labor contracts, sell public utilities and dismiss elected officials."  Greatly contested was the ability of emergency managers under this law to nullify collective bargaining agreements.

Even though organizers had gathered 203,000 petition signatures, about 40,000 more than necessary to put a repeal on the ballot, the Board of State Canvassers was unable to accept the petitions due to a deadlock 2-2 vote with the two Republican members of the board ruling out the petitions, saying the size of the font on the heading was incorrect.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Canvassers board member James Waters who agreed to certify the petitions said, "I believe there was more than substantial compliance, there was total compliance," while Republican Norm Shinkle, who voted against them said, "I think there is a legitimate question as to size."

The Detroit News reports that opponents of the “emergency financial manager law” are furious at the results.  "The Constitution was not judged on the basis of font size," said Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP and pastor of Detroit's Fellowship Chapel church. Rashid Baydoun, executive director of the Arab-American Civil Rights League, said, "The will of the people was denied. All we ask is for Michigan people to be able to decide."

If the petitions had been certified, the emergency manager law would have been immediately suspended.

Stand Up for Democracy, the group that organized the petitions, has vowed to file an appeal.

* * *

Detroit Free Press: Emergency manager ballot issue rejected, now it's headed for the courts

LANSING -- Opponents of Michigan's beefed-up emergency manager law are headed for the state Court of Appeals after a state elections panel declined by deadlock Thursday to place a referendum on the law before voters in November.

Herbert Sanders, attorney for the group Stand Up for Democracy, which collected 203,000 petition signatures to put the issue on the ballot, said he would file an appeal of the Board of State Canvassers' decision within a week.

The canvassers split 2-2 along party lines (Democrats supporting and Republicans opposed) after hearing exhaustive testimony on a single point of contention about the adequacy of the petitions -- whether the typeface used on a heading met a statutory size requirement. [...]

Certification of the petitions for the ballot would have suspended the 2011 law, forcing emergency managers appointed to seven cities and school districts around the state to operate with diminished authority under an earlier version of the law.

* * *

The Detroit News: EM referendum off November ballot, opponents vow appeal

LANSING— Angry shouts broke out Thursday at a Board of State Canvassers meeting when members failed to allow a repeal of the emergency manager law to make the ballot based on the type size on the petitions.

Supporters of the repeal effort said they'll take their fight to court. [...]

Michigan has seven emergency managers operating with the tough new powers granted under Public Act 4. Four that were appointed under a previous and weaker emergency manager law had their powers boosted when the new act was past last year. The current managers are in Pontiac, Flint, Ecorse and Benton Harbor, and in the Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights school districts.

The year-old law grants nearly unlimited power to emergency managers to overrule elected officials and toss union contracts. It replaced Public Act 72 of 1990, which Republicans who control the House and Senate, and Gov. Rick Snyder claimed did not give enough power to emergency managers.

Had the board voted to put the repeal question on the ballot, P.A. 4 would have been immediately suspended, according to the Secretary of State's Office. It is the position of the Snyder administration, and of Attorney General Bill Schuette, that if P.A. 4 is suspended, the law it replaced, P.A. 72, would be revived.

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