Mich. Senate OKs new emergency manager bill

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature cleared the way Thursday for GOP Gov. Rick Snyder to sign a replacement for an emergency manager law struck down by voters, delivering another punch to Democrats still reeling from this week's rapid passage of right-to-work legislation limiting unions' power.
AP Wire
Dec 14, 2012

 

On the final day of the legislative session that capped an acrimonious week in the state capital, the Senate approved the legislation mostly along party lines. It contains key provisions from a law rejected in November but includes more choices for local school districts and communities deemed by the state to be in a financial emergency. The House passed the bill Wednesday night.

The new version proposed by Snyder and GOP legislative leaders gives four options for financially troubled governments: accept an emergency manager, undergo bankruptcy, enter into mediation or join the state in a partnership known as a consent agreement — similar to the current one involving Detroit.

The legislation also includes a $770,000 appropriation to cover managers' salaries, a provision that would prevent a second defeat at the polls because spending bills are legally shielded from referendums.

As with the rejected law, the manager would have the power to change or cancel contracts, but local officials also could develop an alternative plan provided it generates equal financial savings. Should a local government choose an emergency manager, the state would pay for the manager, and local officials would have the option of removing the manager after one year and with a two-thirds vote of its governing body.

The state has been operating since under a previous law that gives managers fewer powers, but leaders argue it's inadequate to deal with failing cities or schools.

Snyder and other backers of the plan argue adding the choices and other steps to provide more local input respect the will of the voters.

Democrats see it as a blow to democracy because it subverts local control. They say it's the same as the rejected law with an opportunity for distressed communities to "pick their poison."

Democratic Sen. Bert Johnson, from the Detroit enclave of Highland Park, offered several changes that failed to garner support, including one that would have enabled a consent agreement between the state and financially struggling local government that's "binding to both parties" and lasts for no more than two years.

"What we need is a partnership," he said. "We do not need a dictator in Lansing."

Hillsdale Republican Sen. Bruce Caswell said he voted no because he was "following the dictates" of his constituents who voted against the emergency manager bill.

Opponents also contended the measure was being rushed similar to the way right-to-work legislation reducing union strength sailed through the legislative process in recent days amid widespread protests at the Capitol. But supporters noted that the emergency manager bill was considered during a committee hearing this month.

Johnson echoed a feeling of helplessness among Democrats, but he vowed it would be temporary.

"Our grievances will be settled at the next ballot," Johnson said. "Continue to do what you're doing if you want to give away this majority ... and the governorship."

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville disputed critics' claims that it's merely a rehash of the failed law with poisonous extras.

"There are very different paths they can take," he said. "These are usually people who are in a situation that has a financial emergency. They're saying, 'Don't help us, don't help us, and you give us another option, we don't like that either.' The problem isn't being solved."

Richardville said the only option some local officials are leaving themselves is bankruptcy.

"And they'll have the option to choose that if they want, but I don't think they'd be representing their people very well if they did that," he said.

The new emergency manager proposal was announced last week on the same day that Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon said he'll likely order a review of Detroit's municipal finances, a 30-day process that could lead to a state takeover of its largest city that's deep in debt and has a budget deficit of more than $200 million.

Since the spring, Detroit and the state have been partners in a consent agreement that allows limited state oversight of Mayor Dave Bing's fiscal restructuring plans. Tied to the deal is millions of dollars in bond money held in escrow by the treasurer's office and released to Detroit when certain benchmarks are achieved.

The deal averted the placement of an emergency financial manager in Detroit.

Managers are in place in Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint, Pontiac and Allen Park, as well as in the Muskegon Heights, Highland Park and Detroit school districts.

Comments

BTL2A

Democracy RIP: 1776-2012

rj18rad

Really? This is the way a democratic government should be. These are elected officials, and if this proposal was never passed this state would be in a heap of trouble!

Lanivan

In the dead of night with the clock ticking toward the deadline of the lame duck session, our highly paid legislators (2nd highest in the nation after California) worked feverishly to pass an emergency manager bill. A similar bill was voted down and rescinded a month ago, but this new bill re-instituted the law to make it referendum proof by attaching taxpayer money to it.

The GOP legislators have discovered a nifty trick. Even if a law is unpopular and has been voted down and rescinded by voters, they simply change a few words, booby-trap it to make sure it can't easily be undone, and pass it. So much for the fine public policy of former Michigan governors like Gov Milliken.

They don't care how it looks anymore - the deed is done, and "we the people" have no say in it. With the RTW law, they "read" that the people gave them "permission" to pass it without chamber debate when voters said no to a collective bargaining proposal that would mean a constitutional amendment. Now why the problem "reading" the no vote the people gave just last month?

I guess it really doesn't matter how the voters feel about these sweeping, radical far-right extreme measures. Regarless of how we feel about a particular issue, when your billionaire benefactors demand pay-back, you hop to.

I have a suggestion. Since our highly paid legislators ($79,650/year - 2nd highest in US!) seem to want to emulate the other RTW states, how about bringing their salaries in line as well. Alabama - $53,438. Georgia - $17,342. Or, if that doesn't suit them, let them get jobs at non-union Amway or Koch Industries.

newsblogger

"Even if a law is unpopular and has been voted down and rescinded by voters, they simply change a few words, booby-trap it to make sure it can't easily be undone, and pass it" Do you mean similar to the way Obama handled the health care mandate? This is not just a right wing tactic, both sides do it feverishly. We have a bipartisan problem and the people need to say ENOUGH!!

Lanivan

No, I don't. The Obama administration spent a year meeting with lawmakers; the insurance industry; the medical industry including hospital administrators, physicians, nursing and technician associations; economists, the CBO, and the SS/Medicare/Medicaid heads; many budgetary and economic commissions. All lawmakers were kept on board throughout the entire process. All sides were given every opportunity to present it to their constituents. Every president since Teddy Roosevelt has tried to implement some form of universal health care. It just so happens Obama was able to make it happen, not to mention Romney in Massachusetts. Romney tried to hide this fact until his numbers started to tank, then pulled it out of his hat and couldn't say enough about his "accomplishment". Numbers started to go up!

Too bad our GOP governor and legislators have so little respect for the people, they couldn't even bring themselves to do the decent thing. The "banks" called the note in, and the voters were left in the dust.

rj18rad

What dreamland are you living in???

Lanivan

It's called reality.

newsblogger

Yeah yeah.. I get it, you hate Romney.. you missed the point.. the problem is BIPARTISAN.. it's not a Republican only or a Democrat only problem. Try to look past your hate for the GOP to realize this. Regarding everyone wanting this particular health care mandate.. why is it only 16 out of 50 states wants it?

Lanivan

You sure use the word "hate" a lot. I don't "hate" much in life. Apparently you do, to be so quick to assume hate in others. You might be interested in reading this article. http://www.newyorker.com/reporti...

Actually, in the years 2004-2008, two Senators, Wyden (D) and Bennett(R) put together a health care proposal, which had wide bipartisan support in Congress. But when Obama presented it, the GOP totally backed off.

As far as the health care mandate, its the law. You might mean the MedicAid Expansion part of the ACA, which is up to the states to decide whether they want to control the exchanges or allow the government to set it up. So far, 18 states will be setting up their own exchanges, 14 states want the Feds to set it up, and 18 states are still looking into it and haven't decided yet.

I did get your point. I wish congress could find a way to get along, work together to find solutions for the good of the country. I'm not very optimistic it will happen anytime soon.

 

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