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.

Proposal 1
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Type:Veto referendum
State code:Public Act 4
Referred by:Citizens
Topic:Administration of government on the ballot
Status:On the ballot
Michigan Emergency Manager Referendum, also known as Public Act 4 of 2011, Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, is 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]

Election results

See also: 2012 ballot measure election results

LIVE election results will be posted when polls close on November 6, 2012 and when numbers start to roll in.

Michigan Proposal 1
Result not yet known  

Text of measure

The official ballot text reads as follows:[3]



Public Act 4 of 2011 would:

  • Establish criteria to assess the financial condition of local government units, including school districts.
  • Authorize Governor to appoint an emergency manager (EM) upon state finding of a financial emergency, and allow the EM to act in place of local government officials.
  • Require EM to develop financial and operating plans, which may include modification or termination of contracts, reorganization of government, and determination of expenditures, services, and use of assets until the emergency is resolved.
  • Alternatively, authorize state-appointed review team to enter into a local government approved consent decree.

Should this law be approved?
YES __
NO ____


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.[4]

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."[4]

The lawsuit was filed in Ingham County.

Snyder's request reads in part:[4]

[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.[5]

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.[6]
  • Governor Rick Snyder supports the law, saying, "Public Act 4 helps financially struggling cities and school districts to get back on track,” Snyder said. “If the emergency manager law were to go away, debt in those local units of government would continue to pile up, bills would go unpaid, paychecks may not be sent, lights could be turned off, police and fire protection might not be provided, and students would be at risk of not having a school to attend. Michigan needs this law because it helps those communities to efficiently and effectively overcome financial problems and avoid painful long-term solutions, and that is good for all Michiganders."[7]

Campaign contributions

In Michigan campaign finance information related to ballot measures is organized by ballot question committees. The following data was obtained from the state Campaign Finance Committee:

Committee info:

Committee Amount raised Amount spent
Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility $25,000.00 $24,481.75[8]
Total $25,000.00 $24,481.75

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."[9]
  • 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]

Campaign contributions

In Michigan campaign finance information related to ballot measures is organized by ballot question committees. The following data was obtained from the state Campaign Finance Committee:

Committee info:

Committee Amount raised Amount spent
Stand Up for Democracy $183,860.92 $182,965.07[10]
Total $183,860.92 $182,965.07


See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • An EPIC-MRA poll conducted on 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 pool of 600 likely voters.[11][12]
  • An EPIC-MRA poll conducted on September 8-11, 2012, found that 46 percent were in support of the measure and opposed the state law, while 42 percent were opposed and in support of the state law, and another 12% were undecided. The survey was based on a pool of 600 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.[13]

     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 appeared before the Michigan Court of Appeals on May 17, 2012. The group argued 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 went before the court essentially arguing that it was the proper size.[14]

On June 8 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 did not mean the emergency manager law was suspended until November. That would not take place until the State Board of Canvassers met and certified the measure, in response to the court's ruling.[15]

Upon receiving an appeal of the Court of Appeal's ruling by Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, the Michigan Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments for July 25. The court, however, has not actually granted the request for a repeal but instead will hear arguments on whether to grant the request or take some other action. If the request is denied the question will automatically go to voters without further input from the courts.[16]

On August 3, 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court decided 4-3 to keep the referendum on the ballot.[17]

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.[11]
  • On August 16 supporters announced 120,000 signatures had been collected.[18]
  • In early November 2011, supporters announced 130,000 signatures had been verified.[19]
  • 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.[20]
  • 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.[21]


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.[22]
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. Michigan Secretary of State,"Proposal 1," retrieved September 10, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 The American Independent,"Michigan governor asks state Supreme Court to rule on constitutionality of emergency," August 19, 2011
  5. Associated Press "Emergency Manager Law Dealt a Blow in Flint, Mich.," March 21, 2012
  6. Detroit News "Michigan Court of Appeals hears plea for vote on emergency manager law," May 17, 2012
  7. ABC10,"Gov. Snyder speaks out on ballot initiatives," September 19, 2012
  8. Pre-primary campaign statement, accessed August 30, 2012
  9. Flint Journal,"Flint City Council supports referendum on emergency financial manager law," September 14, 2011
  10. Pre-primary campaign statement, accessed August 30, 2012
  11. 11.0 11.1 Metro Times,"State of emergency: Push for referendum on emergency manager law could halt EM appointments," August 10, 2011
  12. The Michigan Messenger,"Poll voters would reject emergency manager law," July 19, 2011
  13. Detroit Free Press,"Poll: Michigan voters skeptical about collective bargaining, bridge ballot proposals," September 16, 2012
  14. MLive "Michigan's emergency manager opponents try to revive their effort in court," May 9, 2012
  15. Detroit Free Press "Michigan Emergency Manager Law to Stay on Ballot for Now," June 15, 2012
  16. MLive.com "Michigan Supreme Court to decide if repeal of emergency manager law goes on ballot," July 11, 2012
  17. Ballot Access News "Michigan Supreme Court, by a Vote of 4-3, Puts Referendum on Ballot Despite Small Font Size," August 3, 2012
  18. Detroit Free Press,"Drive to repeal emergency manager law still needs 130,000 signatures on petitions, organizers say," August 17, 2011
  19. NBC News,"Groups wants EFM repeal on 2012 ballot," November 6, 2011
  20. Huffington Post "Michigan Emergency Manager Repeal Delivers 226,637 Signatures," February 29, 2012
  21. Associated Press "Elections board tie keeps Michigan emergency manager repeal measure off November ballot," April 26, 2012
  22. Michigan Legislature - House Bill 4214 (2011)