Eye on Lansing Overflowing ballot 3 more Michigan groups hand in ballot signatures

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

AP Political Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The number of ballot issues that voters could face in November continues to swell, with three more groups turning in petition signatures by Monday's late-afternoon deadline.

The latest ballot issues would require a supermajority vote in the Legislature to raise Michigan taxes, give voters the final say over whether international bridges can be built between Michigan and Canada, and allow home health workers to unionize and be listed in a statewide registry.

The signatures for four other proposals already have been submitted. They would raise the number of casinos in Michigan, require utilities to get 25 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, put collective bargaining rights into the state constitution, and repeal the law giving emergency managers wide powers to void union contracts and cut spending.

Rather than try to fight the issues it opposes individually, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce on Monday launched the GrowMIJobs campaign to combat the issues as a unit. The business group is especially incensed by the Protect Our Jobs ballot measure backed by unions and other groups that would amend a number of state laws and possibly throw out the emergency manager law while protecting collective bargaining rights.

A related business-backed group, Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution, has gone to court to try to keep the measure off the ballot, arguing the petition language doesn't make it clear that up to 80 Michigan laws could be changed if voters approve the measure. Those behind Protect Our Jobs say 684,286 voters signed the petitions and deserve the right to have their say. They're hoping Michigan follows the example of Ohio, where voters last year threw out a state law restricting union rights.

The measure backed by the Stand Up for Democracy coalition to repeal the emergency manager law initially failed to make the ballot after accusations that the typeface on the petition was too small. The state Court of Appeals unwillingly said the measure must go on the ballot, but has sent the matter back for another vote by the Board of State Canvassers, a panel that certifies which issues go before voters. Opponents have asked the state Supreme Court to weigh in on the issue. Supporters face an Aug. 27 deadline to have the matter resolved.

Michigan Alliance for Prosperity President Lana Theis said the group submitted more than 613,000 signatures and noted that requiring a two-thirds legislative vote to raise state taxes rather than a simple majority is good because it "will require agreement on both sides" of the aisle.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said he tried several times to get the measure on the ballot in the 1990s, but couldn't get enough legislative votes. He said he it makes sense to require more deliberation and tougher requirements to raise taxes in Michigan.

But Zack Pohl, executive director of the liberal group Progress Michigan, said the measure was just an attempt by Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, which has the backing of conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch, to deeply cut government spending for programs that enjoy taxpayer support.

"This extreme Tea Party proposal would hamstring future legislatures, and force drastic cuts to education, roads, and public safety," Pohl said in a statement.

On another issue, The People Should Decide submitted 609,220 signatures Monday to the secretary of state's office. The group is backed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Maroun, who opposes efforts to build a competing bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Maroun and his company paid more than $6 million last year on television ads opposing the new bridge and have spent $3 million on ads so far this year, according to the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Gov. Rick Snyder reached a deal with Canadian officials last month to build a second bridge linking Detroit and Canada about two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. He says the ballot proposal has no bearing even if it passes because state money's not involved in building the second bridge.

But Mickey Blashfield, director of The People Should Decide, said during a Monday news conference that work on the new bridge should have to stop once the signatures are verified and the issue ruled eligible for the November ballot. He warned Snyder not to try to keep the issue off the ballot.

"If the governor and his third-part surrogates challenge our question from ever getting to the ballot, he should know that he is frustrating the will of more than half a million voters that he will label as 'special interests,'" Blashfield said. "The voters have clearly stated that they intend to have their voice heard on this issue come November."

Supporters of the Keep Home Care a Safe Choice proposal say they turned in 555,311 petition signatures Monday. They said the measure would establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council, keep a registry that links home care recipients with prescreened home care providers, require providers to undergo background checks and expand job training.

Opponents say the measure's real purpose is to provide for collection of union dues from home health workers after GOP lawmakers outlawed that dues collection.

Published: Wed, Jul 11, 2012