Michigan Emergency Manager Referendum, Proposal 1 (2012)

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Editor's note: This article is NOT about Public Act 4. This article pertains to the veto referendum that aims to block Public Act 4. The text of Public Act 4 can be found here.

Michigan Emergency Manager Referendum, also known as Public Act 4 of 2011, Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, will appear on the November 6, 2012 statewide ballot in Michigan as a veto referendum.

Public Act 4 of 2011 focuses on emergency managers (EMs), who are appointed by the governor to take over local municipalities and school districts in financial distress. Among other things, PA 4 provides for:

  • The conditions under which a formal review of the finances of a municipality or school district;
  • The powers of the committee performing such a review;
  • The conditions and procedures under which the Governor may appoint an EM for a municipality or school district following such a review; and
  • The powers of the EM.[1]

Public Act 4 went into effect on March 16, 2011.

In Michigan, if a referendum proposal passes, the law is adopted; if the proposal is defeated, the law will not take effect. This means that voters wishing for PA 4 to take effect would vote yes, while voters opposing PA 4 would vote no.

According to reports, cities that currently have appointed emergency managers or are in the middle of a state takeover include Flint, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac and Detroit Public Schools.[2]


In mid-August 2011 Gov. Rick Snyder submitted an executive message to the state's court in request that the law be reviewed by the Michigan Supreme Court.[3]

Snyder's request comes after a lawsuit was filed in June 2011 by a group of 28 people against Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon. The lawsuit argues that the state law should be suspended due to conflicts with the Michigan Constitution. Specifically, plaintiffs argue that the law "violates the rights of local voters by attempting to delegate law-making power and the power to adopt local acts to unelected emergency mangers, by suspending the rights of local electors to establish charters and to elect local officials, and by imposing substantial new costs and expenses upon local municipalities without providing new revenue."[3]

The lawsuit was filed in Ingham County.

Snyder's request reads in part:[3]

[T]he Act can serve as an essential tool to address the austere fiscal realities local units of government face after a decade of economic challenges. Without a bypass, this lawsuit may take years to reach finality, regardless of the substantive disposition of this case; the subject matter requires an expeditious resolution.

On Tuesday, March 21, 2012, Judgepedia:Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina ruled against the state saying that its review team violated the Open Meetings Act during the process that eventually led to the appointment on an emergency manager in Flint. According to the ruling, Gov. Snyder's appointment of Michael Brown as emergency manager of Flint is now invalid, along with all decision made by him since his appointment. The state has said it plans to file an emergency appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals.[4]

Support for Public Act 4

Supporters of PA 4 argued that the act is important to ensuring that local governments are financially stable.

  • The group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility opposes the referendum and successfully brought a challenge to the petitions submitted by opponents. The challenge was brought on the grounds that the petitions' font size was too small.[5]

Opposition to Public Act 4

Stand Up for Democracy Campaign is a coalition that sought to place the referendum on the ballot.

Michigan Forward also supported placing PA 4 on the ballot. According to their website:

Public Act 4 of 2011, "The Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act" has created elite bureaucrats with absolute power by expanding the role and power of Michigan’s emergency financial managers. This legislation supersedes the previous emergency financial manager policy and court decisions that provide accountability and support democracy. Many municipalities and school districts in Michigan’s urban areas are threatened by the extremes this policy takes in the sign of financial distress.
  • On September 12, 2011 the Flint City Council passed a resolution in support of placing the proposed referendum. The resolution, according to reports, does not explicitly take a position on the issue but several city council members spoke out against the state law. Councilman Scott Kincaid said, "None of us like it, including myself. What we really need to do now is support the referendum."[6]
  • Rep. Woodrow Stanley argues that any attempt to create a temporary emergency manager law would undermine the will of the people and infringe on the democratic process of voters electing their government leaders.[2]


See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • An EPIC-MRA poll conducted in July 9-11, 2011 found that 53 percent were in support of the referendum and opposed the state law, while 34 percent were opposed to the referendum and in support of the state law. The poll was based on a poll of 600 likely voters.[7][8]

     Position is ahead and at or over 50%     Position is ahead or tied, but under 50%

Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
July 9-11, 2011 EPIC-MRA 34% 53% 13% 600
September 8-11, 2012 EPIC-MRA 42% 46% 12% 600

Note: A "yes vote" implements PA 4, while a "no vote" rejects PA 4.


2012 measure lawsuits
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Initiative process

Stand Up for Democracy will appear before the Michigan Court of Appeals on May 17, 2012. The group is arguing that the Board of State Canvassers unjustly denied the referendum ballot access with a politically motivated vote. The board had a split vote on the issue with the two Republican members voting to keep it off the ballot because they deemed the print on the petitions to be too small. Stand Up for Democracy will go before the court essentially arguing that it was the proper size.[9]

During the week of June 4 a three-judge panel from the court of appeals ruled on the case deciding that the measure should appear on the ballot. The court said it reached its decision based on a precedent set by an earlier case which said a technical violation such as the wrong font size shouldn't keep a question off the ballot. In spite of the court's decision, however, this does not mean the emergency manager law is suspended until November. That will not take place until the State Board of Canvassers meets and certifies the measure, in response to the court's ruling.[10]

Path to the ballot

See also: Michigan signature requirements

In order to qualify the proposed referendum to the statewide ballot, supporters are required to collect 161,304 signatures (5% of the number of people who voted in the 2010 election for Governor) and turn them in 90 days after the final adjournment of the Legislature.

Stand Up for Democracy Campaign is the coalition circulating petitions. According to reports, the group plans to complete their signature gathering process by September 2011.

  • As of August 2011 an estimated 80,000 petitions were in circulation.[7]
  • On August 16 supporters announced 120,000 signatures had been collected.[11]
  • In early November 2011 supporters announced 130,000 signatures had been verified.[12]
  • On February 29, 2012, members of the group Stand Up for Democracy delivered around 226,000 signatures to the state capitol. The Michigan Secretary of State has 60 days to verify that enough signatures are valid to place the referendum on this year's ballot.[13]
  • On April 26, 2012, the State Board of Canvassers voted 2-2 on the referendum, thereby preventing it from appearing on this fall's ballot.[14]


Event Date Developments
Introduction Feb. 9, 2011 Introduced in the House by Representative Al Pscholka.
Senate vote March 9, 2011 Final version passes Senate 26-12, all Republicans voting yes and all Democrats voting no.
House vote March 15, 2011 Final version passes House 62-48, all Republicans except one (Dale Zorn) voting yes and all Democrats plus Zorn voting no.
Signed into law March 17, 2011 Signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.[15]
Referendum initiated August 2011 A veto referendum effort launched against the Emergency Manager Law

See also

Suggest a link


External links

Additional reading


  1. Michigan Legislature - House Bill 4214 (2011)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Flint Journal,"State Rep. Woodrow Stanley calls potential emergency manager backup plan a 'scheme'," December 9, 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 The American Independent,"Michigan governor asks state Supreme Court to rule on constitutionality of emergency," August 19, 2011
  4. Associated Press "Emergency Manager Law Dealt a Blow in Flint, Mich.," March 21, 2012
  5. Detroit News "Michigan Court of Appeals hears plea for vote on emergency manager law," May 17, 2012
  6. Flint Journal,"Flint City Council supports referendum on emergency financial manager law," September 14, 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1 Metro Times,"State of emergency: Push for referendum on emergency manager law could halt EM appointments," August 10, 2011
  8. The Michigan Messenger,"Poll voters would reject emergency manager law," July 19, 2011
  9. MLive "Michigan's emergency manager opponents try to revive their effort in court," May 9, 2012
  10. Detroit Free Press "Michigan Emergency Manager Law to Stay on Ballot for Now," June 15, 2012
  11. Detroit Free Press,"Drive to repeal emergency manager law still needs 130,000 signatures on petitions, organizers say," August 17, 2011
  12. NBC News,"Groups wants EFM repeal on 2012 ballot," November 6, 2011
  13. Huffington Post "Michigan Emergency Manager Repeal Delivers 226,637 Signatures," February 29, 2012
  14. Associated Press "Elections board tie keeps Michigan emergency manager repeal measure off November ballot," April 26, 2012
  15. Michigan Legislature - House Bill 4214 (2011)