Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have urged the Michigan Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional a move by Republican lawmakers to water down ballot proposals rather than putting them to a statewide vote.
In a brief filed with the court on Wednesday, Whitmer’s attorneys called the “adopt and amend” approach used by the GOP-controlled Legislature during December’s lame duck session “an unprecedented power grab and … an affront to the rule of law.”
Adopt-and-amend refers to the tactic used last year by Republicans to gut two petition drives that each collected more than 400,000 signatures to establish a higher minimum wage and enhanced sick leave rules for workers.
Rather than letting the two measures go to the ballot, the House and Senate passed them into law in September then altered them just weeks later as the lame duck season ensued.
Nessel, who also filed a brief on Wednesday, expressed to the Supreme Court that the circumvention of the ballot initiative process is “insulting to the will of the people, as it is a gross manipulation of the process the people intended.”
According to Michigan Advance, 14 separate amicus briefs representing 37 organizations and 64 elected officials have been filed asking for the high court to rule that the GOP’s actions were unconstitutional.
A brief filed earlier this year on behalf of Republican lawmakers made the argument that the Legislature can adopt an initiative generated by a petition drive and then “amend or repeal such law at any time with a majority vote.”
The Supreme Court justices have scheduled a July 17 hearing to hear oral arguments, including summaries of the two opposing views to be presented by the attorney general.
Among the advocacy groups who filed briefs are Voters Not Politicians, Progress Michigan and the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan. Voters Not Politicians successfully launched the 2018 campaign for Proposal 2, which was aimed at eliminating the process of partisan gerrymandering in the legislative redistricting process.
The group’s director of campaigns and programs, Jamie Lyons-Eddy, blasted the adopt-and-amend maneuver: “This type of political gamesmanship is exactly why citizens have little trust in our government. Voters stand together in defense of their right to petition their government without fear that politicians will pull a ‘bait and switch’ to compromise the will of the people.”