In a 4-3 decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the proposed repeal of the state’s “emergency financial manager” (EFM) law, also known as Public Act 4, must be placed on the November ballot. The law is suspended until the question is considered by the state election board.
Organizers, activists, and volunteers collected over 200,000 signatures – about 40,000 more than required – in order to get the chance to undo the anti-democratic law. Public Act 4 allows the governor to appoint “emergency financial managers” who can take over entire towns, cities, and school districts. Such a law had been on the books for years, but Governor Rick Snyder and the Republican legislator made it tougher in 2011, allowing the EFM’s to cancel collective bargaining contracts and override the decisions of local governments.
Already, the cities of Benton Harbor, Flint, Ecorse, and Pontiac have EFM’s, as do the Detroit Public Schools, the Highland Park Schools, and the Muskegon Heights School District.
It hasn’t been pretty. One of the first actions of Pontiac EFM Lou Schimmel was to dissolve the union contract with the city’s firefighters, giving out pink slips on Christmas Eve. Schimmel also fired the city’s director of public works and gave control to a federally-indicted company called United Water. Those two examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to EFM actions over the past year, which read like fake headlines from a dystopian novel – closed schools, canceled contracts, a privatization free-for-all, and even proposals to combine police and fire departments to save money. (Chris Savage at Eclectablog has done extensive coverage of EFM abuses.)
With 200,000 signatures in hand, organizers faced another obstacle: a Tea Party group calling itself Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility challenged their submission, ridiculously, over the size of the font used on the petitions, which doesn’t comply with Michigan law.
At first, it seemed to have worked, and Michiganders were left living under a banana republic-like system with no recourse because of font size. That’s not what democracy looks like.
Luckily, four Michigan Supreme Court judges agreed, including Republican nominee Justice Mary Beth Kelly. The next step is a confirmation from the Board of Canvassers, and then the tough work of campaigning to repeal the law begins.
Want to join the fight? Become a Working America Michigan activist here.