Monday, December 21, 2015

Last minute bait-and-switch by Michigan legislature will gag schools and local communities trying to inform their electorate

UPDATED: From the Detroit Free Press, 12/20/15
"But it wasn't just the voting process Republican lawmakers were out to re-engineer. They also made some 11th-hour changes to campaign finance laws, making it more difficult for voters to find information about ballot issues and preserving reporting requirements that allow so-called independent political donors to delay disclosing their political expenditures on behalf of candidates until after the election has taken place. 
"When (Rep. Lisa) Lyons' committee voted unanimously to recommend its passage a week ago, SB 571 was a 12-page bill that reduced paperwork, but not disclosure requirements, for political action committees across the state. It had breezed through the state Senate with nary an objection from lawmakers of either party. 
"But when it emerged from a Republican caucus room Wednesday evening, SB 571 had metastasized into a 53-page behemoth that included GOP-friendly amendments to 10 different sections of Michigan's Campaign Finance Act. It was adopted by both houses late Wednesday night without a single Democratic vote or amendment, and after the Republican majority voted to clear the Senate chamber of Democratic staffers and lock the senators themselves inside."

Moments before recessing for the holidays, the Michigan House and Senate rushed through a bill intended to improve campaign finance reporting, but included somebody's pet amendment designed to silence school districts and communities who want to provide factual information within sixty days of an election. The original bill as reported by the House Committee earlier did not contain this restriction.

Below is an excerpt of the final bill (SB 571, H-3) passed by both bodies and headed to the Governor for signature. In addition, I've included excerpts of both the House and Senate journals so you can see how this unfolded and who supported it. Click on any item to enlarge it for viewing.


From the House Journal:



From the Senate Journal: