There are some things you should do through the ballot box and some things you shouldn't — and the flood of Michigan constitutional amendment-adding ballot proposals come November is the latter of those.
There are six proposals on the ballot for November and of the six, five would amend the state constitution. Only one — to invoke the right of referendum on the emergency financial manager law — is a straightforward referendum.
As the 90-year-old public policy research organization Citizens Research Council of Michigan noted in a report on the constitution, the goal of a constitution should be a compact, easy to understand and general guideline document on how to run the state government.
In general it should not be amended to include things that can be done by statute and legislatively.
In other words, the document should speak to how the government is set up, how it operates and the general principles for which it stands. Citizens Research Council quoted the late Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo on constitutions thusly: "A Constitution states or ought to state not rules for the passing hour but principles for an expanding future."
That's not what we have going on here right now.
The five proposals that would legislate through an amendment include an initiative to create a new right to collective bargaining; an initiative to require the state's utilities to provide 25 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2025; an initiative to establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council; to prohibit the imposition or new or additional taxes or expansion of the tax base unless approved by two-thirds majority of both houses of the legislature or by a statewide vote of the people; and, finally, requiring a vote of the people before the state can construct or finance new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles.
Special interests have loaded up the ballot with these proposals — the unions on the collective bargaining and home health care issues, anti-taxers with the two-thirds proposal, any number of groups on renewable energy and the especially special interest of all, the Maroun family that seeks to maintain its monopoly on traffic crossings between Canada and Michigan at Detroit with its ownership of the Ambassador Bridge.
The ads for the Maroun initiative claim "let the people decide" but then go on to showcase a series of statements that are just wrong. I know, never trust a political ad, but still this one is over the top. And probably effective.
If that were to pass, however, the billionaire Maroun would have ensconced IN THE STATE CONSTITUTION his right to basically maintain his monopoly on bridge traffic between the U.S. and Canada at Detroit unless the Legislature could get the voters to approve a new facility. I'm sorry, but I don't want Manuel "Matty" Maroun messing with my state constitution to maintain his business interests.
The other proposal that's horrible is the two-thirds majority needed to raise taxes being promoted by the Michigan Alliance for Prosperity, whatever that is, because they really don't have to tell you until probably sometime in October. I love not knowing who is trying to manipulate the electorate.
But the proposal on its face is a bad one — just ask the folks in California where a similar measure passed years ago has literally hamstrung the state from enacting reasonable fiscal reforms and has cut funding to what at one time was considered one of the nation's premier higher education destinations.
The bottom line is special interest should not place their special interests into the state Constitution, period. It's bad policy and bad for Michigan.
There's an ad out there promoting the idea that voters in Michigan should vote no on any ballot issue this year that seeks to amend the state Constitution. I'm all for that idea. Join me?
Mitt oh Mitt
So Mitt Romney figures Obama supporters are all moochers that live at government expense and want to see their gravy train continue. Funny, that doesn't match up with the Obama supporters I know.
But Romney's continual gaffes underscore a disconnect with the country he is trying desperately to lead.
We'll give Mitt the benefit of the doubt though with this quote from the late Texas governor, Ann Richards, concerning George H. W. Bush: "Poor George, he can't help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
Insert Mitt in the quote and there you go!
Kendall P. Stanley is retired editor of the Petoskey News-Review. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hands off the Constitution
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