State Republicans silenced the outcries of opposition on Wednesday when they passed emergency financial manager legislation, which grants exclusive powers to governor-appointed officials in emergency situations. The bill passed in the Senate and will go back to the House for minor changes before it’s placed on Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk. The new bill far exceeds the level of control that a non-elected official should have, and with its passing there will be many decisions that Michigan voters won’t have control over.

Once approved by Snyder, the EFM will have the ability to control a wide array of government spending. According to a March 10 Detroit News article, among other powers, these one-year appointees will now be able to sell government assets, toss out local ordinances and take total control of school curricula. Twenty amendments proposed by Democrats were rejected by Republicans, including an attempt to limit an EFM’s salary to that of the governor’s, which is $177,000.

This bill further removes citizens from government and looks much less like democracy, especially the kind that Republicans espouse. These officials have one person to report to, and that’s the governor. And while these positions may be in place for emergency situations, the definition of such events is obviously subject to interpretation. There’s no way to ensure that there will be no abuse of EFM power. Republicans may dictate that having to negotiate with a union qualifies as an emergency, and under this new legislation the EFM would be able to terminate union employee contracts.

It seems like the state Legislature is trying to avoid the turmoil that overcame Wisconsin’s government in recent weeks and bypass the step in which citizens can try to influence government decisions. With EFMs, decisions would be made, and voters would have no choice but to sit back and deal with the consequences.

Among the more alarming powers, EFMs will be able to undermine the decisions of local elected government officials. It is even more authoritarian for these EFMs to be able to control school curricula, since there’s no guarantee they will have a background in education. Detroit’s EFM, Robert Bobb, has been an effective adjudicator for Detroit and was appointed and reappointed by former Democrat Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but even an exemplary EFM should be barred from dictating what schools teach.

Snyder has been comparing Michigan to Wisconsin and wants to prevent Wisconsin’s recent crisis from manifesting here. This new bill may be a way to avert the same mess, but it is also avoiding a true democratic process. For appointed officials to be able to subvert the power of elected officials shows a disregard for the will of voters.

Unfortunately, once the House finishes revising the bill, it will land on Snyder’s desk and will likely be signed into law. If the policy takes effect, Snyder needs to work with local governments and schools to make sure that implementation of an EFM is a mutual and beneficial decision.

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