Feb 15, 2011
Union busting bills on the fast track
LANSING -- Michigan Republicans are putting bills on the fast track that places dictator-like powers in the hands of unelected officials with no oversight who are appointed from Lansing.
The House Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee took testimony on House Bills 4214-4218 on Tuesday that will repeal Public Act 72, the current law governing emergency financial managers (EFM) , and give them more power.
The EFM law already takes the power and authority out of the hands of the people legally elected by the voters and places it in the hands of a person appointed by the governor and the Legislature. The new bills will make it easier to appoint an EFM with several more triggers, and the bill also gives the EFM much more broader powers, such as allowing the manger to terminate contracts negotiated with labor unions in good faith. It also gives emergency financial managers the ability to appoint people to committees and exclude elected officials from city business and bar then from running for office for at least six years.
Benton Harbor is one of four cities with an EFM, and they showed up in mass to testify against the bill. They say the current EFM has violated the city charter.
“If the bill passes it will have a negative impact on all cities and school districts in the state,” said Mayor Wilce Cooke.” It takes away the vote of residents, and it provides no oversight for the EFM.”
Rev. Edward Pinkney, the Head of the Benton Harbor NAACP and a courageous community activist who had a 3-10 year prison sentence for writing an article that criticized a local judge overturned in 2009, called the bills tyranny.
“Anytime you remove or suspend elected officials, you take away democracy and have a dictatorship,” he said. “He comes in and does what he wants.”
Pinkney said there is absolutely no oversight of the EFM, and these bills do not change that.
“We don’t even know what checks he writes,” he said. “There are no checks or balances. He has failed Benton Harbor, and you want to give him more power.”
Mark Docher, the President of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, said the bills provide no oversight and allows someone who knows nothing about fire safety making rules with no input from professionals.
“It takes away local control, and he is going to dictate what is acceptable risk,” he said. “What I always understood was that the EFM was to have the authority of the local government.”
The Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee will vote on the package on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. in room 519 in the House Office Building, 121 N. Capitol.
On Tuesday a meeting of the Senate Education Committee was called for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday to take testimony on the Senate version of the union-busting bills, Senate Bills 153-158. The committee meets at 12:30 p.m. in room 100 of the Farnum Building, 125 W. Allegan Street.
All committee meetings are open to the public.