The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Friday, Aug. 3, that a repeal of the Public Act 4, Emergency Financial Law should be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Michigan’s highest court is controlled by Republicans, 4-3. However, GOP Justice Mary Beth Kelly broke from the majority in this case and provided the decisive vote to order the state Board of Canvassers to have the referendum put on the ballot.
Once the Board of State Canvassers meets to certify the petition on August 15 at 1:30 p.m., Public Act 4, Emergency Financial Manager Law will be suspended and the previous law, Public Act 72, will be reenacted until Nov. 6, 2012.
The revised Emergency Manager Law amended a 1990 statute that gave appointed managers the power to run cities and school districts that are in financial distress, the authority to cut spending and sell assets, and nullify labor union contracts without the approval of elected officials.
A formal opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette was issued.
“The former Emergency Manager Law, enacted in 1990, was repealed when the Legislature approved the new and more controversial act last year,” Schuette said. “But the repeal of Public Act 72 (the old law) has been rendered ineffective unless (PA 4, the new law is) approved by the electors.”
Opponents of Public Act 4, Standup for Democracy, collected over 226,000 valid petition signatures from citizens across the state. Some citizens and local clergy expressed outrage by the stalling tactics used by the courts prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Friday.
“This is a question of justice, decency and honesty. We signed a petition and the petition has been violated. Let the people decide,” said Norman Thomas, pastor of Sacred Heart.
Detroit NAACP President Rev Wendell Anthony applauded the state high court, saying, “It was never the intent of the framers of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers to usurp the power of the people based on the financial distress of a local community. Less we forget the 13 colonies were in financial distress when they were compelled to come together to forge a Declaration of Independence.
“They did not petition King George III of England for an emergency manager. Their petition ultimately would lead to the creation of the United States Constitution.”
Anthony said the 226,000 people from all over the state who signed the petitions did so in good faith, “trusting their government and believing in the democratic process with the belief that their voices would be heard.”
Gov. Snyder noted he is in full support of citizens expressing their views, but suspension of the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act may make matters worse.
“One of the act’s primary goals is to identify financial emergencies before they become full-blown crises. Suspending the law limits the state’s ability to offer early intervention and assistance, and eliminates important tools that emergency managers need to address financial emergencies as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Snyder said.
So far, emergency managers have been installed in four cities (Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint and Pontiac) and three school districts (Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights).
It is believed but not confirmed that the suspension of PA 4 would make the Emergency Financial Law null and void and therefore would require the dismissal of emergency managers that are currently on the job.