Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
Ed Haynor is a retired consultant to the West Michigan Construction Alliance, with over 40 years of public service as teacher, school administrator and school board member. He resides in Newaygo, MI.
GRAND RAPIDS January 19, 2016– In the cloak of darkness during the last state legislative session this past December, partisan Republicans stripped away straight-ticket voting and passed an expansion of Citizens United in Michigan, allowing wealthy donors unlimited spending on Michigan campaigns.
And, if this wasn’t bad enough, they passed a bill, with overwhelming support from House and Senate Republicans– including my own elected officials, Rep. Jon Bumstead and Sen. Goeff Hansen– known as Senate Bill 571 (SB-571). This bill makes it illegal for schools and all local governments– such as cities, townships, counties and library boards, etc.– from explaining to voters what is on an upcoming ballot within 60 days of an election. All House and Senate Democrats voted against this legislation.
There was no legislative debate or public hearings on the merits of SB-571; it was just ramrodded through at the last moment at the insistence of Republican legislative (so-called) leaders. As Lord Acton, the famous British historian once said, “absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and this bill is a perfect example of absolute corruption.
On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Gov. Rick Snyder joined this assault on democracy by signing SB-571, this sham disguised as a legislative bill, into law. Now known as Public Act 269 (PA-269), it has immediate effect, and means the upcoming March 8 elections fall under this new law.
Why in the name of good government and free speech would Gov. Snyder and his fellow Republicans in the legislature support this bill, and prevent citizens from obtaining factual information from a local public body about an upcoming millage or ballot proposal? Do they now have something more frightening and sinister in mind by blocking the public’s access to information?
Under this new law, numerous state-wide media are reporting that any public official could be sent to jail for sharing factual information produced by that public body about elections with their communities. Public boards, for instance, could be fined for sending out a newsletter if they share information about what is on your local ballot. Some are reporting that local government officials and schools could not even tell voters the names of any council or board candidates in an upcoming election.
PA-269 states that for any individual who violates the 60 day gag order, they are guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than a year or both. If a board or council was cited for a misdemeanor, the punishment will be not more than $20,000 or a fine equal to the amount of the improper contribution or expenditure.
PA-269 would ban citizens from obtaining information from any public body on the issues that are commonly voted on in their voting district, including: road patrols; commissions on aging; veterans affairs; medical care facilities; township millages; fire protection; and school and library millages to name a few. In my 40 years of public service, I’ve never seen such an undemocratic onslaught by Republican partisans in Lansing. Do Gov. Snyder and his Republican cronies no longer feel that citizens have the right to know what they are voting on before an upcoming election?
There’s already a law in place that prohibits public bodies from using tax dollars to advocate for or against a ballot proposal, so that is not the issue. The issue is shameless Republican attempts to prevent citizens from knowing what they are voting on.
It’s my understanding this new law does not prevent Michigan legislators from sending out taxpayer-funded mailers on statewide ballot proposals. So why the double-standard? Why are our state elected officials putting a 60-day gag order on those who are elected locally?
Every so often I think that our Republican-controlled state government, might do some good; but too often they stab us in the back. For me, our state elected officials have shown their true stripes; stripes that some might suggest go right down the middle of their backs.
Elected Republicans suggest they stand for freedom from burdensome government overreach into each of our lives, but if you didn’t know before, you know now that’s a boldfaced lie. I’m not necessarily a fan of term-limits, but the quicker these guys are out of office, the better.
It’s apparent to me with this new law, that silences local officials and citizen public information, our beloved state and country are on a collision course with fascist-like control. Citizens have clear choices: they can goose-step right along with these fascists in disguise as Republicans into Armageddon or they can support and vote for persons who know what our citizens need, what voters will support, and what our country ought to stand for.
Guest columns on KICLC.org represent the views and opinions of their authors, not necessarily the opinions of the Kent-Ionia Labor Council. If you would like to submit a guest column, please email Steve at Steve@KICLC.org. All submissions are subject to KICLC board review before publication, and editing for clarity and length.