This coming election, voters in Michigan will have the chance to decide the fate of an important law that has affected the lives of many of the state's residents. This is an important part of the democratic process and its use here gives a substantial amount of power to the voters. Michigan's Emergency Manager Law, Public Act 4, is up for a referendum on the November 6th ballot this year. Public Act 4 allows the Governor to appoint an Emergency Manager to take over local governments in times of financial distress. This controversial law allows Emergency Managers to, among other things, disband unions and privatize prisons.. The initial Emergency Financial Manager Law, enacted in 1990, gave the managers far less power than the current version does. Once passed, the new law was immediately met with protests over its constitutionality. A coalition called the Stand Up For Democracy campaign began fighting for a referendum. To get this referendum on the ballot they needed to obtain at least 161,304 signatures, and on February 29th of this year they delivered 226, 637 signatures to the capital. However, the State Board of Canvassers voted 2-2 on the referendum, which temporarily kept it off the November ballot. A lawsuit was filed by the coalition, and the Michigan Supreme Court forced the board to change their verdict, officially placing the referendum on the November ballot. A controversy then developed over whether the ballot meant that the 2011 version of the law was repealed or the initial 1990 one as well. Supporters of the appeal argue that all forms of the law should be temporarily void, and as of this writing the issue is still being contended.
Current polling on the referendum indicates that it may not pass, nullifying the law. A survey done by Marketing Research Group found that 44.6% of people would vote "yes" and 47.5% said that they would vote "no", with around 8 percent of respondents undecided. A vote of "yes" indicates that they want the law to stay, while a "no" vote is a vote to repeal the law. In Detroit, 42% would vote "yes" and 45% would vote "no".
Detroit recently came close to having an Emergency Manager after a financial review was performed of the city, but instead the city came to an agreement with the state that allowed them to avoid going under an Emergency Manager's control. Another survey, this one conducted by the University of Michigan's Ford School of Public Policy, found that 30% of local officials oppose the law while 38% support it. Among those who are well-informed about the law, 53% of respondents believe that it is an effective way in combating the budget crisis throughout the state.
Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican Party in Michigan support the law because they feel that having an Emergency Manager with broad powers is the best way to deal with extreme situations of financial distress. However, they are urging voters to vote no for the other referendums on the ballot, and so some voters may be confused over the wording of this particular one. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the outcome of the vote.