LANSING – Despite thousands of workers packing the Senate gallery on Tuesday morning chanting “kill the bill,” the Senate Republicans ignored them and moved the anti-union and anti-Democratic Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) package of bills to the third reading.
The bills can be voted on as early as Wednesday and sent to the Governor for his signature. The EFM package, House Bills 4214-4218, will make it easier for financially troubled municipalities and school districts to be taken over by an emergency financial manager, and the bills give the EFM almost dictatorial like powers. The bills take 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, and it allows the EFM - which is why Republicans have placed the bills on the fast track - to terminate contracts negotiated with labor unions in good faith.
Many of the financial challenges municipalities face are due to mandates and budget cuts not of their own creation, but rather those that were imposed on them by decisions made in Lansing. The Governor’s proposed budget cuts will push those barely hanging on over the edge, from financial stress to financial emergency.
Senate Democrats put up 17 amendments and two substitutes to the main bill to make it more transparent, but they all were defeated along mostly party lines, with the exception of one. Sen. Tupac Hunter, D-Detroit, introduced an amendment that would not allow the EFM to be paid no more than the Governor, Michigan's highest paid elected official at $177,000 a year.
Amendments are voted on via voice vote unless the chair is not sure of the outcome or someone makes a request for a record roll call vote. The Chair, Sen. Make Jansen, R-Gaines Twp., said the Hunter amendment failed despite the obvious loud yes votes.
When a record roll call vote was called for, Republicans joined with Democrats and the amendment passed with a vote of 19-18. But about 45 minutes and 12 amendments later, the Senate Republicans moved to reconsider Hunter’s amendment, and it was then disapproved by a vote of 16-21, angering Democrats.
“We have an emergency financial manager in my community that makes $420,000, and this man will make a million dollars before he leaves,” said Sen. Virgil Smith, D-Detroit. “Are you really saying we can pay someone half a million dollars in a community that is financially strapped?”
Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, was very angry, and even though the Senate Republicans tried to gavel her down, she made her point about the basic dishonesty of Republicans, saying they have no problem making millionaire EFMs with taxpayer money, but they want to break contracts with first responders negotiated in good faith.
“We were told you were going to open it back up because more people wanted to vote for it not to defeat it,” she said.