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GOP ignores voters, offers new EM law

By Marcus Wright
Special to the Michigan Citizen

DETROIT — The Republican offensive, the reenactment of Public Act 4 (PA4), the Emergency Manager Law has begun.

Lawmakers are poised to act with drafts of legislation for revised emergency manager (EM) laws along with a municipal bankruptcy authorization.

The bills are crafted in opposition to voters who support local control rather than rule by a state-imposed all-powerful emergency manager.

Maiyoua Vang, an assistant professor of educational administration and leadership at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, said an overwhelming majority of Michigan counties; 90.3 percent struck down PA4. Party affiliation was not a factor; 90.1 percent of Republican-leaning counties (55 of 61) and 90.9 percent of Democratic-leaning counties (20 of 22) voted to repeal PA4.

By a ratio of eight to three, the majority of counties in Congressional District Two, counties like Benzie, Wexford, Oceana, Mason and Newaygo, the most conservative congressional district in the entire state, voted to repeal PA4, Vang said.

Roy Roberts

Roy Roberts

Despite the win, Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts has refused to vacate the office. The day after the election Gov. Rick Snyder reappointed EMs across the state, telling them they were empowered by Public Act 72 (PA72), the original and less powerful emergency manager law.

Highland Park Schools Board of Education member Robert Davis brought a lawsuit before a panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals asking for immediate relief and that Roberts be thrown out of DPS. Roberts argued that Michigan law states clearly that if a law is repealed it cannot be revived. PA72 was repealed by language within the text of PA4, and therefore no longer exists. The Michigan Court of Appeals Nov. 16 denied Davis’ request to remove Roy Roberts, stating that voters’ rejection of a broad emergency manager law means the prior emergency financial manager law is in effect and allows Roberts to remain in office.

However, the case is now headed to the Michigan Supreme Court, a move that could finally lead to a decision over the fate of the state’s eight emergency financial managers.

AFSCME Council 25 President Albert Garrett said there should be no need for more fighting. The people have spoken.

“The Republicans should listen to the voters, all the stakeholders should be invited to the table, including Stand Up for Democracy,” Garrett said.

Stand Up for Democracy was the coalition of organizations that fought up to the state’s highest court to get the proposal to repeal PA4 placed on this past November’s ballot.

According to Garrett the bond holders are the only winners in this scenario, referring to the debt created by emergency managers.

“They (bond holders) charge high interest rates for high-risk loans,” Garrett said. “When in fact they risk nothing because the state guarantees they get their money, but they still charge premiums for high risk loans. Something isn’t right about that.”

The new bills would permit elected leaders to file municipal bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the federal code without state approval. Chapter 9 Bankruptcy would allow the judge to restructure municipal debt, void union contracts and renege on retiree healthcare obligations.

“The Republicans believe they know what the people didn’t like about the repealed EM Law,” Sen. Bert Johnson said.

Johnson said the Republicans are running an end around.

“We need to stop the profiteers from siphoning off the public funds,” Johnson said. “Republicans have pillaged the Detroit Public Schools for the last 12 years. It was their pillaging that put us in this sad state of affairs.”

AFSCME Attorney Herbert Sanders predicted voters would react to the GOP efforts.

“Seventy seven out of 83 counties voted to throw out the (EM law). That leaves only six counties in favor of it. That means (Michiganders) don’t like their democracy being taken away,” Sanders said. “If they move to go against the voters, they’re going to catch holly hell from citizens in the state of Michigan, not just Detroit.”

Nor were activists happy over the Republican bills trying to strengthen the EM.

“The state of Michigan should be investigated by the federal government for violation of human, civil and voters’ rights,” activist Cecily McClellan said.

Contact Marcus Wright at marcuswright@michigancitizen.com

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