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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. 20, 2016

Civic, Education Leaders Tell House Committee to Repeal Portion of PA 269/SB 571; HB 5219 'Fix' Doesn't Go Far Enough

Unconstitutional 'Gag Order' Already Tying Hands of Local Officials

LANSING, Mich. – Local government and school organizations today told the House Elections Committee that a “gag order” provision in Senate Bill 571 should be repealed, a move both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have suggested.

Section 57, amended in Senate Bill 571, was signed into law (as PA 269) by Gov. Rick Snyder on Jan. 6. This law now dramatically limits the ways local officials can inform voters about local ballot measures within 60 days of an election.

When he signed the bill into law, the governor called for a fix and HB 5219 has been proposed. This bill would allow local officials to tell voters the date of an upcoming election and what the ballot language says. But school districts and local governments still would be banned from communicating with voters by giving them factual information about a ballot measure through radio, television, mass mailing or prerecorded telephone messages. Many of those testifying called for repealing Section 57.

Chris Hackbarth, director of state affairs for the Michigan Municipal League, pointed out in his testimony that the Michigan Department of State found only five valid complaints in a three-year period where local entities violated an already-existing state law forbidding them from advocating for a ballot issue. He added that the gag order section of PA 269 was a heavy-handed solution to a problem that barely exists.

“This bill is like taking a sledgehammer to an ant,” Hackbarth said. “That’s why we instead support bipartisan efforts to repeal the ‘gag order’ provision in Section 57 and lift the limitations on local officials trying to give voters important, basic and factual information on local ballot issues.”

More than 100 school districts and local governments with issues on the March 8 ballot already are being affected by the new law since it bans local officials or employees of local governments from using public resources for a communication 60 days before an election, making it imperative that lawmakers repeal Section 57 soon, Hackbarth added.

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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