Snyder wants fast review of emergency manager law

By Tim Martin

Associated Press

LANSING (AP) -- Gov. Rick Snyder wants to fast-track a legal challenge to the state's law granting new powers to emergency managers appointed to run financially struggling cities and schools, by having the case go directly to the Michigan Supreme Court.

That request was called "troubling" last Thursday by the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, which sued over the law in June on behalf of a group of Michigan citizens, saying it violated the state constitution. The lawsuit was filed in an Ingham County court.

Snyder, a Republican, supports the new law and says it's constitutional. He wants the state's high court, which has a 4-3 majority of justices nominated by the Michigan Republican Party or appointed by Snyder, to quickly decide the case so it isn't held up by appeals.

"This is a situation where time is of the essence to ensure the continued financial stability of communities in financial emergency," Snyder spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher said in an email last Thursday. "To have the potential of leaving communities in financial distress and uncertainty for years while this case is reviewed by the courts would be unacceptable. "

Snyder asked the court to resolve the lawsuit as "expeditiously as possible" in an executive message the week prior.

The revised law, signed by Snyder in March, lets emergency managers strip power from locally elected leaders and scrap union contracts.

That takes away citizens' rights to vote for and petition local government on matters of local concern, according to the Sugar Law Center suit. The suit also says the law suspends "home rule" for cities by giving emergency managers the power to repeal local ordinances and contracts.

"The mentality behind the emergency manager law is that fair process doesn't matter, input from all stakeholders doesn't matter, and decisions are better if they are simple and fast," John Philo, legal director of the Sugar Law Center, said in a statement. "This rush to the Supreme Court reflects the same attitude, and shows a fundamental mistrust of the state's established judicial system."

Michigan has emergency managers in place in the Detroit public school system and the cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac. The city of Highland Park's school district is in the official pipeline to potentially get an emergency manager, with a state-ordered preliminary review of finances set for this month.

The new powers granted under the revised emergency manager laws have been used in some locations.

Snyder's request to fast-track the legal challenges to the emergency manager law marks the second time he's asked the Supreme Court to get involved reviewing a new law in his first year as governor. The court accepted Snyder's request to review the constitutionality of some provisions in a new state law that will change how pensions are taxed in Michigan, with oral arguments in that case set for Sept. 7.

Published: Mon, Aug 22, 2011