ByÂ Andrea Billups-The Washington Times
LANSING, Mich. â€” In a year of political pushback and unusually sharp partisan fights across the Midwest, union anger at Republicans and general voter frustration may turn Michigan into a case study in ballot-box confusion this November.
As many as 14 ballot initiatives could be put before voters in November, adding to confusion for even the most educated followers of policy and, according to stateâ€™s Republican governor, threatening the stateâ€™s progress on government reforms after years of tough economic times.
Asked last week at a town-hall event about the stateâ€™s ever-growing list of ballot petition drives, MichiganÂ Gov. Rick SnyderÂ responded, â€œMost of them donâ€™t have a whole lot of value.â€
â€œBasically all theyâ€™re doing is messing with the Michigan Constitution and trying to go backward, taking us back or making things more complicated or more expensive,â€ he said.
Among the most prominent initiatives collecting petition signatures are a drive by unions to keep collective bargaining rights as a part of the state constitution, negating a push to make Michigan a right-to-work state; to require utilities to get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources; and to require a two-thirds vote from theÂ state legislatureÂ before taxes can be raised.
Like the governor, the stateâ€™s Chamber of Commerce opposes several of these ballot proposals, and it has announced a new coalition of business and taxpayer groups to fight proposals they deem â€œan unprecedented assault on Michiganâ€™s state constitution.â€
â€œUnfortunately, there are several special interest groups trying to hack their way in and hijack the constitution for their own personal gain and to use it to go around the legislative process, and a lot of our members think we should fight this,â€ saidÂ Jim Holcomb, senior vice president for business advocacy and general counsel of theÂ Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
He calls some efforts, particularly those by public sector unions â€œa stifling of Michiganâ€™s reinventionâ€ and a bid to protect their privileged position.
â€œA lot of these government employee unions are saying â€˜Oh, no, we need to reach in to taxpayer wallets further.â€™ We see this across the Midwest,â€ he said. â€œThese are the battleground states in this yearâ€™s election cycle where taxpayers need to step up and fight.â€
Thus far, no ballot initiative has been certified by the stateâ€™s Board of Canvassers, said Gisgie Gendreau, spokeswoman for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
The collected signature petitions must be approved 60 days before the election in November to appear on the ballot, and there is no telling at this point how many will succeed. The most Michigan voters have seen on a ballot in recent memory is 12 issues in 1978.
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