Mich. SC orders union-backed proposal to be put on ballot

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 6, 2012, 12:00pm



LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that a union-backed proposal that would add the right to collective bargaining for public and private sector employees to the state constitution should be added to the state's November ballot.

The Court's action comes after the state Court of Appeals, in an opinion filed Aug. 27, ordered the state Board of Canvassers and the director of elections to take the "necessary steps" to place the proposal on the ballot.

Last month, both state Attorney General Bill Schuette and Gov. Rick Snyder joined the battle against the proposal in an effort to keep it off the Nov. 6 ballot.

The attorney general submitted a brief to the appeals court, arguing that the Protect Our Jobs initiative is a "startling end-run on the legislative and referendum processes."

The campaign is supported by unions representing nurses, firefighters, police officers and teachers.

In his brief, Schuette said the proposal would "eviscerate" provisions of the Michigan Constitution and more than 170 state statutes.

The attorney general and Snyder also argued that the measure has not been adequately described to those signing petitions or those potential voters.

The appeals court was asked to weigh in only after the Board of Canvassers deadlocked over whether to certify the question.

Following the appeals court's decision, appeals were filed with the state Supreme Court.

The state's high court, in its 24-page opinion, affirmed the appeals court's ruling, finding that the proposed amendment would "neither alter nor abrogate" sections of the state constitution.

In an accompanying single-page order Wednesday, the Court directed the Secretary of State, the board and the director of elections to "proceed as necessary" to place the proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

No motion for rehearing, it said, will be "entertained."

In a statement Wednesday, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce expressed its disappointment with the Court's ruling.

"We are very disappointed with this ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court and especially disappointed with Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., and Justices Mary Beth Kelly, Stephen J. Markman and Brian Zahra, who failed to uphold clear standards for proposed amendments to the state constitution," Michigan Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley said.

Jim Holcomb, senior vice president of the Chamber's business advocacy and general counsel, said the Court allowed a "deliberately misleading proposal on the ballot."

That, he said, is bad enough.

"Worse yet, the Court's failure to recognize reasonable standards for petition drives to amend the state constitution may open the door in the future to a flood of vague and deceptive ballot proposals," he said in a statement.

Still, Studley said he is optimistic that voters will "do the right thing" come election day and vote against the proposal.

The Michigan Chamber is one of only six state chambers accredited by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform owns Legal Newsline.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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