After spending millions on misleading television ads and more than $4.5 million on out-of-state signature gathering firms, The People Should Decide ballot proposal was rejected by the Michigan State Board of Canvassers Monday afternoon.
Attorneys for Taxpayers Against Monopolies, a group opposing the Moroun funded ballot proposal, said it would amend parts of Michigan’s constitution that were not detailed in the petition that was circulated by signature collectors.
The Moroun funded ballot proposal would have required a statewide vote for a new bridge to Canada. The issue will likely head to the court and face an appeal from The People Should Decide.
Anti-bridge proposal kept off Michigan ballot, but Moroun-backed group expected to continue fight
A proposal seeking to block construction of a new Detroit-Windsor bridge is not yet heading to the November ballot, but the ongoing argument likely is heading to court.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Monday voted 2-1 in favor of certification, but the measure was kept off the ballot because it did not receive required bipartisan support.
Democrats Julie Matuzak and James Waters voted to certify the proposal. Republican Colleen Pero voted against it, and Norman Shinkle missed the meeting to attend the GOP convention in Florida.
The proposal, backed by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, would amend the Michigan constitution to require a public vote on any international bridge or tunnel project not completed by the end of the year, including the New International Trade Crossing announced in June by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
The People Should Decide, a ballot committee funded entirely by Moroun companies, collected more than 600,000 signatures from Michigan voters in order to place the proposal on the ballot. The Bureau of Elections estimates 477,048 of those signatures were valid, far exceeding the threshold for certification.
A new opposition group, operating with initial funding from the Detroit Regional Chamber and Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, argued the proposal should be kept off the ballot because the petition did not reference three constitutional provisions that would be altered or abrogated.
Opposition attorney John Pirich also argued that the proposal included a vague definition of international bridge that could be applied to any crossing in the state, regardless of geography or jurisdiction.
Gerald Fisher, a professor at Cooley Law School who represented The People Should Decide at today’s hearing, rejected the assertion that the proposal would alter multiple sections of the state constitution or apply to local construction projects.
Fisher also questioned why canvassers would approve petitions for circulation, as they did at an April 26 hearing, only to reverse their opinion today and declare the petition defective. “Nearly half a million people signed this approved form and became joint petitioners for this constitutional amendment,” he said. “Don’t they have some say in this process?”
The bridge decision mirrored two earlier votes regarding casino and tax proposals, with the two Democratic canvassers voting to certify the proposal, which was kept of the ballot due to lack of Republican support.
Asked if The People Should Decide would take its case to court in an attempt to get the proposal on the November ballot — as several other ballot committees have done in recent weeks — Fisher said, “I don’t see why not.”
Earlier this summer, Snyder announced an interlocal agreement with Canada to form a public-private partnership for construction and operation of the NITC, to be located roughly two miles down the Detroit River from the Ambassador.
Canada has agreed to cover Michigan’s upfront costs for the project and recoup its investment through future toll revenue. The U.S. General Services Administration is expected to cover the cost of a customs plaza and the bridge itself will be financed by investors in a public-private partnership.
The governor has suggested that the ballot proposal — if approved by voters — would not be able to undo the international agreement, but experts say that would be up to courts to decide.