With election day approaching, members of the Grand Valley Metro Council took unanimous stands on five of the six ballot measures voters will weigh in on in a few weeks.
They also agreed that amending the state Constitution — as five of the six proposals would do if approved — should not replace legislative activity.
“It’s almost like a game,” said Alex Arends of Alpine Township.
Council members did not support passage of: Proposal 2, the collective-bargaining measure; Proposal 3, the renewable energy measure; and Proposal 5, which would require a two-thirds majority vote of both state chambers to expand the tax base or increase the tax rate.
“This could really change things with the power the 13 would have,” said GVMC Executive Director John Weiss, who noted that 13 state senators could kill any potential legislation involving taxes if Proposal 5 is added to the 1963 Constitution.
Council members also agreed a ‘no’ vote on Proposal 6 was their choice. If approved, the measure would require a statewide vote on the construction of international bridges and tunnels. The GVMC board supports the building of the new Detroit River bridge that would give the state a second major crossing between the Motor City and Windsor. Members see the bridge as necessary for the state’s economic prosperity and as a project that can’t be delayed.
But GVMC, a coalition of 35 local governments that represents 650,000 residents, did support Proposal 1, the emergency manager law and the only ballot measure that doesn’t amend the Constitution. The unanimous ‘yes’ vote to uphold Public Act 4 of 2011 overcame the members’ devotion to local control. The board felt the law is necessary when local officials fail and are in over their heads. “It has been applied very judiciously,” said Michael DeVries, supervisor of Grand Rapids Township.
“I think what you’re doing is good. These amendments do affect you. I think it’s important to step forward,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, an invited guest to the council’s meeting. “I think you’re right on (Proposals) 2 and 3. I think you’re right on (Proposal) 1.”
Schuette felt the council’s positions on those ballot measures were in step with what he called the “new Michigan” he and Gov. Rick Snyder are trying to create. “Is it a new Michigan or should we go back to the good ol’ days?” he asked.
By the term “new Michigan,” Schuette meant finding ways to stop the talent drain from Michigan and bring new jobs to the state.
Schuette saw Proposal 2, which would amend the Constitution to give private and public workers the right to collective bargaining, as an impediment to a new Michigan. He said its passage would strangle the state’s economy, and added that he supports Michigan becoming a “right-to-work” state.
“I don’t think Proposal 2 will pass. I think it will go down in flames,” he said. “I want to compete with Indiana.”
The board did not chime in on Proposal 4, which would establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council and provide collective bargaining for home health-care workers.
Schuette said making Michigan a safe state is directly linked to having a thriving economy, and his most important task as attorney general is to support law enforcement agencies throughout the state. “We’re Michigan’s biggest law firm,” he said of his office, which employs 275 lawyers.
Schuette then added that his biggest challenge is reducing the state’s cost for incarceration. He said the state spends $33,000 per year on every inmate in the penal system, while other states spend less. “I want to work on the cost side, instead of saying we can’t have people locked up.”