Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas
A ballot committee seeking to alter the state’s term limits laws and bolster financial transparency in the Legislature launched last week with the help of a bipartisan array of political leaders as well as business, labor and community leaders in the state.
The group behind the proposal, Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, aims to amend the state’s constitutional amendment on term limits that would give lawmakers the option to serve more terms in either chamber, but would slice two years off the total time they could be in the Legislature.
Voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1992 that limited Michigan House members to three, two-year terms and state senators to two, eight-year terms.
Over the years, there have been myriad proposals from lawmakers and groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce to alter the law that’s been backed by national conservative groups like U.S. Term Limits. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan dismissed a case earlier this year that challenged the 1992 amendment.
Under this proposal, lawmakers could serve 12 years total in the Legislature. As it currently stands, lawmakers can spend up to 14 years in the Legislature.
The proposed changes only apply to lawmakers and do not apply to the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general or secretary of state, which are limited to two, four-year terms.
The measure is supported by Democratic Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Republican former House Speaker Jase Bolger, former Michigan Chamber of Commerce CEO Rich Studley, and former Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney.
The proposal would also ensure state lawmakers adhere to the same financial disclosure requirements required of elected officials in Congress. It would require that all lawmakers within the Michigan Legislature, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the attorney general and the secretary of state submit an annual financial disclosure report and regular transaction report to the Secretary of State’s office.
The financial disclosure report would make transparent assets, income, positions within outside organizations, agreements regarding future employments and travel payments, and reimbursements. Currently, Michigan is one of two states that does not require lawmakers to put forth financial disclosures to prevent conflicts of interest.
In 2012, Bolger was embroiled in an ethics scandal in getting Democratic Rep. Roy Schmidt to switch parties at the last minute and run as a Republican. Both were cleared in a grand jury investigation.
The proposal will be taken into consideration by the Board of Canvassers on March 23 to either be approved or denied. If approved, the committee will begin gathering the 425,059 petition signatures needed by July 11 in order for it to go on the ballot.
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