Advance Notice: Briefs

Bipartisan duo asks Snyder to veto GOP limits to ballot proposals

By: - December 18, 2018 4:42 pm

Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder today received an appeal from Bill Rustem, a former adviser to both he and GOP Gov. William Milliken, and Doug Ross, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who runs a charter school. The bipartisan duo asked Snyder to veto Lame Duck legislation that would erect hurdles to Michigan’s ballot initiative process.

Bill Rustem

House Bill 6595, sponsored by Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake) passed the Michigan House last week, as the Advance reported. The bill caps the percentage of signatures that could be collected from one congressional district to 15 percent of the total number of signatures. Signatures in excess of the applicable percentage would be invalid.

Both men have experience with petition drives. Ross led the repeal of the sales tax on food and medicine in 1974 and Rustem worked on the bottle deposit initiative championed by Milliken in 1976.

In an open letter to Snyder obtained by the Advance, Ross and Rustem write:

“You will be leaving office in several days with a laudable legacy of a Michigan with sounder state finances and a stronger economy.  We believe you have an opportunity to further solidify your place in our state’s history in the coming week.Legislation is working its way to your desk that would make it much more difficult for the citizens of Michigan to have a direct say in their own governance by making the referendum and initiative right granted Michiganders in the state constitution incomparably more difficult to exercise. We urge you to veto it.”

Doug Ross

Ross and Rustem write that Michigan first adopted the right of referendum and initiative petition in 1907 during the Progressive Era “when citizens were often frustrated by interests with undue influence in Lansing that thwarted government actions supported by a majority of citizens.” They note the right was enshrined in the 1963 Michigan Constitution.

The pair argue that “the need to keep this direct democratic option within reach of our citizens is as great as ever, especially given the loss of confidence in government’s ability to solve problems in recent years. It is difficult to argue that the proposal to limit the number of signatures from any congressional district to 15% of the number required is not onerous and does anything but move the right to petition the government beyond the practical reach of its citizens.”

Rustem and Ross end by writing:

“You have an opportunity to act upon Lincoln’s injunction to preserve ‘government of, by, and for the people.’ By vetoing the legislative to weaken the initiative process should it reach your desk, you would strike a blow for government ‘by the people’ in Michigan.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 23-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQ people, the state budget, the economy and more. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 100 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive.