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Michigan’s Lame Duck Hatches New ‘Financial Martial Law'

Faced with a shrinking margin for the 2013 legislative session, Michigan Republicans not only majority-muscled through a “right to work” for less bill in its lame-duck session that stood little chance of passage next year, but several other last-minute controversial measures as well.

In November, voters repealed Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) “financial martial law” powers. Under the so-called “emergency financial manager” law Snyder pushed through the legislature last year, the governor could declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers. Those include the ability to fire local elected officials, break teachers’ and public workers’ contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and even eliminate entire cities or school districts without any public input. Snyder appointed such managers in three towns and for the Detroit Public Schools system.

But after November's repeal, lame-duck legislators made a few cosmetic tweaks, called it "brand new" and approved it in the closing hours of the session. Using the same tactic Republican lawmakers used to block a citizens' veto of the "right to work" law, they included an appropriation that would prevent a second defeat at the polls. Spending bills, for the most part, are legally shielded from referendums.    

State Sen. Bert Johnson (D) said what cities and towns in financial straits need “is a partnership. We do not need a dictator in Lansing.”

In other action, taking much more significance since Friday’s tragic shooting that killed 20 Connecticut first-grade students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, is a new law that allows licensed concealed weapons permit holders to carry their weapons into current “gun-free zones” such as schools, churches, arenas, hospitals and other specified locations.

In her appearance Sunday on "Meet the Press," AFT President Randi Weingarten urged Snyder to veto the bill.      

We need to actually stop this routine view that just having more guns will actually make people safer. So we are opposed to having in a safe sanctuary like an elementary school, having someone who has access to guns. And I would actually ask Gov. Snyder to actually veto the bill that’s on his desk right now.

In a letter to Snyder, Weingarten and Michigan AFT President David Hecker write:

We should be doing everything we can to reduce the possibility of any gunfire in schools, and concentrate on ways to keep all guns off school property and ensure the safety of children and school employees.

Republicans also approved a bill that will make it more difficult to recall politicians. Critics say the new bill is a defense against voters angry with Republicans who rammed through the “right to work” for less legislation. Among other changes, it would shorten the time to collect petition signatures for a recall election.

In addition, the lame-duck session hatched some equipment tax breaks for manufacturers and other businesses. Currently that revenue supports crucial services provided by schools and municipalities.

The legislature also approved a new proof of citizenship requirement for voters. In November, a federal judge blocked a similar measure that Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson was trying to impose. Voting rights groups and unions had filed suit against Johnson’s action.     

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