Michigan Supreme Court takes on ballot issues

4 measures before high court after board of canvassers deadlocks

The Detroit News

By Karen Bouffard

Lansing — Attorneys for Gov. Rick Snyder will argue before the Supreme Court today that a ballot proposal backed by billionaire Matty Moroun would bar the state from building even inland bridges without a vote of the public.

Snyder’s legal team filed a brief late Wednesday in advance of the Supreme Court hearing on four ballot proposals. The proposals stalled when the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked along party lines Monday over whether to approve them for the Nov. 6 ballot.

Michigan Solicitor General John Bursch has asked to present oral arguments on the proposal that would require a new international bridge or tunnel be approved by a majority vote of the electorate. The proposal has also been challenged by the group Taxpayers Against Monopolies.

The proposal defines an international bridge or tunnel as “any bridge or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic as of January 1, 2012.” Snyder claims it would bar construction of all new bridges or tunnels, international or not.

Moroun has spent an estimated $10 million on television ads to defeat Snyder’s proposed bridge. He is also the primary funder of a proposal by the Alliance for Prosperity that would require a vote of two-thirds of the Legislature, or a majority vote of the electorate, to raise state taxes.

The Supreme Court also will hear arguments on the Protect Our Jobs initiative for a constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights. The fourth ballot bid is a proposal to add eight new casinos from Citizens for More Michigan Jobs.

Attorneys for the proposals will argue that the Board of State Canvassers has a legal duty to certify petitions as long as they have enough valid signatures and meet requirements for technicalities like type size.

In all four cases, the board deadlocked when Republican Colleen Pero voted against placing the issues on the ballot, saying the petitions did not list how statutes or parts of the constitution would be changed.

The board, which earlier deadlocked on Protect Our Jobs’ bid to protect collective bargaining rights, certified the proposal Monday to comply with an order from the Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court will be asked to consider how much authority the board has over the content of petitions.

Challengers will argue the petitions are misleading because they don’t give voters enough information. But proponents will claim Pero exceeded her authority, and had a duty to certify the petitions as long as the technical requirements were met.

It takes a bipartisan vote that includes at least one Democrat and one Republican for the board to put an issue on the ballot, a rule those who want ballot proposals approved for November will challenge because the bipartisan requirement is not in the constitution.

John Pirich, aveteran Lansingconstitutional attorney who is involved in fighting thebridge, taxes and casino issues, said today’s hearingwill be”extraordinary” for the high court.

“I don’t ever remember multiple cases being argued in this kind of setting,”Pirich said.