Michigan bill would impose "financial martial law"
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signs his first bill as governor at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday March 8, 2011.
David Coates,AP Photo/The Detroit News)
Michigan lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that
would enable the governor to appoint "emergency managers" -- officials
with unilateral power to make sweeping changes to cities facing
Under the legislation, the Michigan Messenger reports,
the governor could declare a "financial emergency" in towns or school
districts. He could then appoint a manager to fire local elected
officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services -
and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public
The measure passed in the state Senate this week;
the House passed its own version earlier. The two versions of the bill
are expected to be reconciled next week, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder
has said he will sign the bill the bill into law.
and their allies are decrying the legislation as a power grab and say
it's part of a wider effort taking place in several states, such as Wisconsin, to weaken labor unions.
"It takes every decision in a city or school district and
puts it in the hands of the manager, from when the streets get plowed to
who plows them and how much they are paid," said
Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO. "This is a
takeover by the right wing and it's an assault on democracy like I've
U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat who represents Detroit, said in a statement
that in a given city, the governor's new "financial czar" could "force a
municipality into bankruptcy, a power that will surely be used to
extract further concessions from hardworking public sector workers."
said the legislation raises "serious constitutional concerns." On top
of that, he said, allowing an "emergency manager" to dissolve locally
elected bodies "implicitly targets minority communities that are
disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn, without providing
meaningful support for improved economic opportunity."
state Sen. Jack Brandenburg said several urban areas of the state,
especially Detroit, are in "bad shape" and require "financial martial
law," the Daily Tribune reports.
emergency manager, he said, "has to have the backbone, he has to have
the power, to null and void a contract." In response to concerns that
local leaders will have to cede control, Brandenburg said, "I'll tell
you what, I think that in a lot of these places there is no control."
emergency manager would only be put in place if several other steps to
save a city's finances failed, and Snyder has said in recent weeks that
removing elected officials or breaking contracts would be a last resort
for an emergency manager. In addition, the legislature would have the
power to remove an emergency manager.
As the "emergency
manager" bill nears final passage, state lawmakers are also considering
Snyder's proposed budget, which would cut spending on schools,
universities, prisons and communities, according to the Detroit Free Press.
has also proposed eliminating $1.7 billion in tax breaks for
individuals while cutting $1.8 billion in taxes for businesses to spur
job growth. Much of the $1.7 billion in new tax revenue would be "coming
from retirees, senior citizens and the working poor," the Free Press
wrote in an editorial.
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