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Press Release


Contact:

Kathy Barks Hoffman
517-485-6600

Matt Bach
Director of Media Relations
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317
mbach@mml.org; www.mml.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan. 14, 2016

Civic, Education Leaders: Best Fix for PA 269/SB 571 Lifts Unconstitutional Restrictions on Local Officials

Sen. Zorn Introduces Bill Repealing New Language in Section 57

LANSING, Mich. – Local government and school organizations today announced strong support for Senate Bill 703 introduced by Republican Sen. Dale Zorn of Ida that repeals a “gag order” provision in legislation (Senate Bill 571) passed last month by the state Legislature. Democratic Rep. Andy Schor of Lansing plans to introduce a similar bill in the House.

Section 57 in Senate Bill 571, which was signed into law (as PA 269) by Gov. Rick Snyder on Jan. 6, dramatically limits the ways local officials can inform local voters about local ballot measures.

The Michigan Municipal League, Michigan Association of Counties, Michigan Townships Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Conference of Western Wayne, and Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators are asking the Legislature to repeal Section 57 in PA 269/SB 571. A growing number of Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature support repealing Section 57 and the organizations would like to see the Zorn bill quickly passed by the Senate and House so schools and local governments with issues on the March 8 ballot no longer have to deal with the serious and unconstitutional restrictions it contains.

“We totally support Senator Zorn and Representative Schor’s efforts to repeal this provision and lift the limitations on local officials trying to give voters important, basic and factual information on local ballot issues,” said Dan Gilmartin, executive director and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League. “With both Republicans and Democrats agreeing that this law is unfair and unconstitutional, it’s time for legislators to unite behind repealing Section 57 of the bill, which was passed at the last minute in the middle of the night with no public discussion.”

“The feedback from county leaders is consistent and clear: the existing laws were working fine; this obviously rushed and vaguely worded law actually works against government transparency; and there is no apparent reason to impose these restrictions,” said Steve Currie, deputy director of the Michigan Association of Counties. “On top of all that is the more fundamental issue of violating county leaders’ freedom to speak with their constituents about ballot issues.”

Noted Judy Allen, Michigan Townships Association director of government relations:  "Local governments have a responsibility to finance local infrastructure, programs and services for Michigan residents. It is incumbent that local officials be able to share factual information to allow voters to exercise their responsibility to be well-informed when they vote on local ballot issues."

School districts and local governments with issues on the March 8 ballot already are being affected by the new law signed by Gov. Snyder last week since it bans local officials or employees of local governments from using public resources for a communication 60 days before an election “by means of radio, television, mass mailing or prerecorded telephone message if that communication references a local ballot question.” Michigan already has a law prohibiting local and school officials from using public resources to advocate for ballot issues, making Section 57 of the new law unnecessary and unconstitutional.

About Michigan Municipal League:
Michigan Municipal League is dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services. Learn more at mml.org.

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