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A Michigan leap of faith

Reform Michigan Government Now, a political group of uncertain provenance, has submitted its petition signatures (more than 487,000, they claim) to qualify a proposed constitutional amendment for the November election. The measure sweeps through all the branches of government in its 19,000 words, cutting the pay of elected official, shrinking the Legislature and eliminating seats on the state Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, in the process kicking off Republican appointees.

Here's the text.

The petition gathering went on in relative obscurity, and organizers have kept silent about their funding, saying their backers don't have to be revealed until August. The spokeswoman for the group is Dianne Byrum, a former Democratic House leader, and other leading Democrats have praised the measures; scuttlebutt is that organized labor is the primary mover.

Republicans have certainly geared up against the measure, with state GOP Chairman Saul Anuzis laying out the arguments against in this op-ed in the Detroit Free Press. As for the courts, he says, "This monstrosity proposes a wholesale special interest takeover of our state's courts. It purges two Supreme Court justices, with those justices chosen by one set of criteria. It wipes out seven Court of Appeals judges by a different set of criteria. It jiggers the pensions of more than 250 judges, potentially creating a real emergency in our courts if most or all of them decide to quit. "

Which raises another sticky issue. Backers of the measure claim no sitting judge can review the legality of the ballot language because of inherent conflict of interest; they'd be ruling on their own pay. (Kalamazoo Gazette story.)

Gov. Granholm, a Democrat, says she likes some parts, not so sure about others, and maybe a state Constitutional Convention is the way to go. (Detroit Free Press.)

So, much confusion, no doubt litigation, and let the accusations fly. The measure promises months of theorizing, commentary and fun for political watchers, but it's hard to see any good government coming out of it.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.