Ballot proposals often present a false image: On the surface, proposals appear to be the product of a grassroots effort to amend a state’s constitution or change a state law to better serve its residents. Yet that idealistic image is not reality. Special interest groups usually finance the campaigns for ballot proposals, using much of their funds to monopolize the debate. In 2012, Michigan voters face six statewide ballot proposals. Some may genuinely create positive change, while others are deceptive in nature and are potentially dangerous.
Proposal 1 asks voters to decide on the fate of Public Act 4, which establishes criteria to assess the financial situation of local governments and authorize a state-appointed review team to enter into local government. It also allows the governor to appoint an emergency manager if the review concludes financial emergency. The emergency manager is required to develop financial plans for the city and overrule elected officials.
Michigan’s emergency financial manager law gives too much power to non-elected officials, seriously undermining the democratic process. While policymakers can be ineffective, relinquishing power to someone who may align incorrectly with the community’s wishes isn’t the answer. In order to protect the democratic process, vote NO on Proposal 1 to repeal Public Act 4.
Proposal 2 reaffirms the rights of public and private employees to join unions and bargain collectively. It also overrides state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment if those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements. Proposal 2 would thus give permanent bargaining rights to all employees.
Collective bargaining is an essential right for all workers. Proposal 2 will help keep employees safe and provides a necessary — and often times undervalued — voice for all workers. Unions, for their flaws, have been essential in creating a middle class and improving American working conditions. This proposal ensures all deserving workers have basic rights. To protect collective bargaining, vote YES on Proposal 2.
Proposal 3 stipulates an amendment to the state’s constitution that would require that by the year 2025, at least 25 percent of Michigan’s energy come from specified renewable energy sources. Acceptable energy sources are wind, solar, biomass and hydropower. Anticipating increases in utility rates for the public, the amendment includes a provision that doesn’t allow electric utility rates to increase by more than 1 percent per year while achieving to 10 percent increase in alternative energy requirements. It also requires legislators to encourage Michigan workers and production units when striving for the 25 percent standard.
Clean energy is extremely important to the future of Michigan. Renewable energy sources can be vital to Michigan’s economy and environmental leadership. However, putting in place a constitutional amendment that stipulates an arbitrary percentage may slow down innovation and actually restrict development of efficient clean energy alternatives. Limiting the types of energy to wind, solar, biomass and hydropower puts the government in the position of picking winners and losers, which by 2025 may be irrelevant. If these aren’t the most effective or efficient ways to produce alternative energy, this amendment would actually push Michigan backward in the race for the benefits of green, high-tech industry. It’s essential to move toward a future of sustainability and alternative energy sources, but Michigan must do so in a way that is flexible and allows for organic innovation. Because this proposal is limiting and arbitrary, vote NO on Proposal 3.
Proposal 4 deals with the rights of in-home healthcare workers. Under the proposed amendment, limited collective bargaining rights would be given to more than 42,000 Michigan residents working in the homes of Medicare-eligible senior citizens and the disabled. Bargaining would be carried out through the Michigan Quality Home Care Council, a board that will also provide training to these workers and create a registry of workers who pass background checks. The amendment provides in-home care workers with collective bargaining rights, while the creation of MQHCC ensures quality health care and increased transparency for patients. To protect the rights of health care employees and their patients, vote YES on Proposal 4.
Proposal 5 would either require a two-thirds super-majority in the state Legislature or a statewide ballot referendum to raise taxes. Proposal 5, at first glance, appears to give the power back to voters and keep it out of the hands of Michigan’s lately misguided Legislature. However, essential taxes, like those for education and transportation improvements, would become extremely hard to pass in the conservative atmosphere of the country. Taxes aren’t inherently bad — making them even harder to pass is paranoia, not policy. To protect our basic services and stop our legislature from becoming even more inefficient, vote NO on Proposal 5.
Proposal 6 would require a majority vote in a statewide ballot on the construction of new international crossings. The current bridge from Detroit to Canada, owned privately by Manuel “Matty” Maroun’s company, isn’t sufficient. The Ambassador Bridge makes his company a fortune even though it’s an inefficient crossing between the United States and Canada. The Canadian government has repeatedly offered $550 million to cover Michigan’s costs associated with the bridge, although estimates vary as to how much the bridge will cost. Allocating funds for infrastructure improvements is within the state and local government’s jurisdiction. Proposal 6’s campaign has been heavily funded by Maroun’s greed. There is no need to slow down the process of improving the state’s infrastructure by mandating that individuals vote on every additional international crossing proposal. To improve transportation in Michigan and stop self-serving interests from amending the state constitution, vote NO on Proposal 6.