July/julio 25, 2008
Web site: State Dems behind sweeping ballot effort
By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN, Associated Press Writer
LANSING, July 17, 2008 (AP): A PowerPoint presen- tation posted on a Web site shows the Michigan Demo- cratic Party and some unions are behind an effort to make sweeping changes to state government through a ballot proposal.
No one publicly has ac- knowledged writing or fi- nancing the proposal. State elections officials are still determining if the ballot supporters handed in enough valid signatures to qualify it for the November ballot.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy posted the pre- sentation to its Web site Thursday, as did several other sites. The PowerPoint is titled, “Changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats.”
The Midland-based cen- ter says it found the presen- tation on the United Auto Workers Region 1-C Web site. A message seeking comment was left Thursday with Region 1-C director Duane Zuckschwerdt’s of- fice in Flint. The presenta- tion was not on the union’s Web site Thursday after- noon.
The proposal would cut pay for legislators, judges, the governor and other elected officials; set up a different way to draw legis-
lative districts; allow vot- ers to vote absentee without having to provide a reason; require lawmakers to dis- close information about their finances, and bar them for becoming lobbyists un- til they’ve been out of of- fice for two years.
The Mackinac Center, which favors free markets, criticized the proposal.
“To the extent that this document is what it appears to be, it leaves little doubt that the Reform Michigan Government Now ballot ini- tiative is a partisan power play,” the center’s Paul Kersey wrote on the center’s Web site.
“The most important fea- tures of the scheme are the redistricting commission and the removal of two Re- publicans from the Michi- gan Supreme Court. Nearly everything else in the pro- posal seems to be calculated to make the entire package more attractive to voters,” he added.
The PowerPoint makes the case for changing the makeup of the state’s top courts because supporters fear the majority of Repub- lican justices on the state Supreme Court will block their efforts to redraw leg- islative districts after the 2010 census in a way that would correct a 2002 plan
that it says favors Republi- cans.
On legislative redistrict- ing, the presentation notes: “The key to its passage is packaging it with the other very popular reforms.”
The PowerPoint notes that the Michigan Demo- cratic Party was providing staff to supervise the peti- tion drive and handle com- pliance issues.
Brewer said last week that he did not write the pro- posal but on Thursday again praised it as a way to make government more account- able and lessen the influ- ence of special interests.
Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said he hadn’t seen this par- ticular PowerPoint presen- tation, but said he had seen a similar one. A majority of unions in the state support the proposal, he said, al- though the Michigan Edu- cation Association issued a news release Thursday say- ing it remained neutral.
“We have serious con- cerns about legal issues sur- rounding this initiative,” said Ed Sarpolus, MEA gov- ernment affairs director. “We are continuing to re- view the proposal.”
Some Democrats also have expressed concern about the proposal. Demo- cratic Rep. Mark Meadows
of East Lansing last week pitched another way to let voters cut legislators’ pay and benefits, noting voters could then reduce legisla- tive pay without “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Gaffney pointed to sev- eral issues he said have not gotten done because of the opposition of a few GOP senators, including setting aside more money for build- ing projects at state univer- sities and making changes Gov. Jennifer Granholm has said could lower prison costs.
“This system is broken. And if by fixing it we get rid of these Republicans who are stopping progress be- cause the plan slightly ben- efits Democrats, then that’s what we think our members are telling us about reform- ing Michigan government,” Gaffney said. “A lot in this ballot proposal, a lot of the individual pieces of it, have been proposed by Republi-
spokesman Matt Marsden said Gaffney isn’t an elected government official and
isn’t part of budget negotia- tions, and that his ac- cusations do not help the process. Marsden noted that much of next year’s state budget already has been approved, faster than in some recent years.
The presentation says it could cost $4.9 million to draft the proposal, collect signatures and buy ads, but points out that the cost is less than half what would be needed to defeat an in- cumbent GOP Supreme Court justice.
Democrats have not yet announced a candidate to take on Chief Justice Clifford Taylor this fall, al- though the state Democratic Party has briefly run a tele- vision ad saying Taylor would be wrong to rule on whether the ballot proposal should be on the ballot be- cause it affects the pay and benefits of Taylor and other top judges.
A Taylor campaign spokesman has said the ad makes a bogus claim.
The ballot proposal’s supporters turned in 487,000 signatures on June 7, about 107,000 more than needed to qualify for the ballot.
Reform Michigan Gov- ernment Now spokes- woman Dianne Byrum, a former Democratic House leader, has refused to dis- close who paid for the bal- lot drive, as has Brewer. A campaign finance report isn’t due until August.
On the Net: Mackinac Center: http:// www.mackinac.org Reform Michigan Govern- ment Now: www.reformmichigan- governmentnow.com Michigan Democratic Party: www.michigandems.com
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