There is an emergency–an emergency for democracy.
Michigan’s first emergency manager law, Public Act 4, was passed by extreme conservative majorities in the Michigan Legislature in March 2011. The law gave the Governor discretionary power to appoint an emergency manager over any city, town, village or school district in Michigan undergoing a “financial emergency.” The law removed all powers from democratically elected officials and transferred all governing power, including the power to make local laws, to emergency managers. At the same time, emergency manager are not required to obey local laws such as city charters or ordinances.
The State of Michigan itself admitted in its own internal analysis of Public Act 4 that:
“This bill allows the emergency managers too much power and control over local units of government. Emergency managers can’t be trusted to act in the interests of the local nut and will use the enhanced powers granted under this bill for their own gain. Stripping local officials of the powers is anti-democratic.”
After a lengthy petition drive and court challenges, a referendum was placed on the November 6, 2013 ballot allowing voters to decide whether to keep or repeal Michigan’s emergency manager law. Michigan voters overwhelmingly elected to repeal Public Act 4 and Michigan’s emergency manager law was removed from state law.
In defiance of Michigan voters, extreme conservative elements in the state capitol passed a new law, Public Act 436, that reenacted the same emergency manager powers rejected by Michigan voters. The new law passed the Michigan legislature on December 13, 2012 and was approved by the Governor on December 26, 2012.
Michigan’s emergency manager law effectively establishes a new form of local government, unelected and unaccountable to local residents. The law disproportionately effects communities of color and economically poor communities – people hardest hit by unemployment and home foreclosures resulting from the global recession caused, not be local corruption or incompetence, but by government policies of deindustrialization and deregulation of the financial industry. As a result, the law is inherently discriminatory. The Sugar Law Center is opposing this law through civic engagement, public education, grass roots advocacy, and litigation.
If you would like to assist, contact us and see if we can assist to connect you with opportunities and organizations engaged in opposing the emergency manager laws.
Click here for a flier regarding a few of the undemocratic aspects of Public Act 436.
For background facts and a timeline of municipal financial stress and emergency manager issues in Michigan, click here.
Sugar Law’s law review article Local Government Fiscal Emergencies and the Disenfranchisement of Victims of the Global Recession published in the Journal of Law & Society can be downloaded here.
See Sugar Law’s Op-Ed Appearing in the Detroit Free Press here.
Our interview on Democracy Now regarding Michigan’s emergency manager law is available by clicking here.
The Law Center’s know-your-rights booklet for Michigan protestors can be found here.
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Michigan attorneys, you can meet your State Bar pro bono commitment with a donation to the Sugar Law Center; download the printable Access to Justice form here, or simply designate "This gift is for Sugar Law Center Operations" on the form you received from the Bar. Thank you!