Feb 23, 2011

Republicans vote for big state government to usurp local democratically elected officials

LANSING -- House Republicans struck a blow for bigger government, against local control and disenfranchising voters when they approved a package of bills that gives dictatorial like powers to state-appointed emergency financial managers (EFM).

On Wednesday House Bills 4214-4218 and 4246 were approved almost along party lines, 62-47 with one Republican voting no because it makes it easier to appoint an EFM and they give the unelected EFM much more broader powers with no oversight while giving them the power to dissolve elected board and commissions.

“Proponents of this bill have argued for years that more big government is the wrong path to economic recovery,” said Rep. Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek. “This legislation paves the way for big state government to come in and completely usurp local democratically elected governmental functions.”

That was precisely why at least one Republicans voted against the package.

“I voted against House Bills 4214-18 and HB 4246, the package to expand the powers of emergency managers, because it gives these appointed managers total control over local boards who are elected by the people,” said Rep. Dale Zorn, R-Monroe. “Local elected officials, such as city or village council members and school board members, deserve a voice in the process. It is the local elected official, and not an appointed manager with no connection to the community, who knows what is best for their home town or school district. “

Despite thousands of people invading Lansing to protest against passage of the bills, Republicans ignored them and voted to disenfranchise voters. The reason that it is so popular with Republicans is because it allows the manger to terminate contracts negotiated with labor unions in good faith.

This is about union-busting pure and simple.

“One is that this legislation is being rushed through without a proper understanding of all of the issues surrounding it,” Segal said. “A number of very suitable amendments were turned down in committee and on the floor without an actual vote. To my knowledge, there are few, if any, examples in Michigan that this concept has really worked to any degree of satisfaction.”

Some Democrats commented on the fact that Gov. Rick Snyder wants to expand the scope and reasons for the EFM, holds a two-day class for EFM candidates and cuts revenue sharing to local municipalities already reeling from falling property taxes.

“Another aspect of this is that, at the same time the current administration is rushing this legislation through, it is also on a parallel track of drastically cutting revenue sharing to cities, counties, and other municipalities at the same time they are cutting $470 per pupil from schools,” Segal said. “Both of these actions will further serve to push additional school districts and municipalities already on the brink into receivership and be subject to these ‘emergency’ financial managers. It would seem they are artificially creating the ‘emergency.’”

The bills now go to the Senate, but the Senate Education Committee approved along party lines their version.

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