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Press Release


Contact:

David Waymire
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. 5, 2016

Local government leaders ask Gov. Snyder to veto SB 571

Say state shouldn't ban local governments from providing factual election information

Local government leaders from across the state today joined to ask Gov. Rick Snyder to veto Senate Bill 571, which would gag local officials seeking to provide constituents with factual information on election matters 60 days before the election.

City, township, county, school and other officials said that constituents need to have the facts to become informed voters on key matters that come before them, including local millage issues, charter changes, land transfers and other issues required by state law to go to local elections.

SB 571 includes provisions banning local officials or employees of local governments from using public funds 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…”

“In other words, in the weeks before an election we cannot use a mailing or local cable outlets to inform our constituents if a measure will raise or lower their tax rate, who it will affect, if it will mean the community will be selling a piece of property and where it is, how a charter change will affect them or anything else,” said Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, president of the Michigan Municipal League Board of Trustees.

“State law already prohibits electioneering using public resources, and rightly so,” O’Reilly said. “But voters need to have facts – and in too many cases, there is no other source than local governments.”

Chris Barnett, supervisor of Orion Township in Oakland County, noted that this year the township plans to combine two fire millages, to help lower election costs. “If SB 571 is enacted, we cannot communicate to our voters that we are seeking to save money by combining these two issues. We cannot rely solely on our local media to cover this important taxpayer issue. Voters could be in the dark unless the township provides information explaining why we are taking this action and how it will impact their taxes.”

Terry Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs Association, said that law enforcement in rural and metropolitan Michigan relies on local funding often provided by special millage. “Public safety millages can range from a small increase for road patrol in a township to a substantial increase to build a new jail to meet modern requirements,” Jungel said. “Voters need to get factual information on where the money will go and what they will be getting for their additional tax dollars – or the consequences of not approving a millage. Then they can cast an informed vote.”

Joining Barnett and Jungel to request a veto by Gov.  Snyder were Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly, who is president of the Michigan Municipal League, Commissioner Matt Bierlein of Tuscola County, Rochester Mayor Bryan Barnett, Lansing School Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul, Kalamazoo School District Superintendent Michael Rice and Judy Karandjeff, president of the League of Women Voters of Michigan.

Others who have asked for a veto include the Michigan Association of School Boards, County Road Association of Michigan, Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association and the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

“State law requires local elections on a wide variety of issues, from library millages to land sales, charter amendments to police and fire enhancements. Factual information is vital if we want informed voters,” said Karandjeff. “If local governments don’t provide this information who will? We see newspapers cutting back coverage, and radio and television stations reducing staff. Voters trust their local officials to give them the facts. Gov. Snyder should too, and should veto this bill.”

 

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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