Traverse City Record-Eagle


October 14, 2012

George Weeks: A dangerous batch of ballot proposals

More is on the way, but a whopping $30 million in mostly misleading TV ads has already been spent since August on the most dangerous batch of ballot proposals yet to face Michigan voters.

I say "dangerous" because of the folly of putting in the constitution restrictions such as building a Detroit-Windsor bridge — or possibly other bridges — and other proposals that should best be decided by those in the Legislature elected by folks who can yank their chains under representative democracy if they don't reflect voter wishes.

An example is the "25 by 25" proposal mandating that utilities provide at least 25 percent of their annual retail sales of electricity from renewable sources by 2025. It might be a good goal — but not one to lock into the constitution, especially considering all the current problems of siting windmills.

The nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a valued watchdog in great need these days, said last week that beyond the $30 million weekly ad spending by sponsoring committees "will be at its heaviest yet in the four-week run-up to the election." There are six Nov. 6 ballot proposals, including Prop. 1 that is a referendum, not a constitutional issue, on whether Michigan's emergency manager law should be retained. It should. Detroit and other troubled cities need such managers as wisely sought by Gov. Rick Snyder.

My votes (and those of Snyder who was splashed across a half-page Saturday in the Wall Street Journal that said "Ballot Measures Test" him) are against the other proposals, all of which would be locked into the constitution:

n Proposal 2: Enshrine in the constitution collective bargaining for government and private-sector unions. Supporters spent $6.4 million; opponents $6.6 million.

In the Detroit Free Press Saturday, Snyder said it "would be by far the most devastating to the reinvention of Michigan."

n Proposal 3: Establish a standard for renewable energy. Spending of supporters: $3 million downstate but about to spend in Traverse City and Marquette markets; opponents $5.7 million.

n Proposal 4: Establish a home care unionization system for home-based caregivers. Proponents have spent $3 million so far, in all markets except Marquette, where ads start this week.

n Proposal 5: Mandate a two-thirds thirds vote of the state House and Senate or a statewide vote before new or additional taxes could be imposed. Much of the support comes from the same prime supporter of Proposal 6.

n Proposal 6: Require approval of votes in a statewide election and in each municipality where "new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles are to be located " before the state can expend funds.

The proponents, financed by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun, have spent $5.1 million since the August primary in all markets except Marquette and will start there this week. They spent $3 million earlier this year, and $6 million for similar ads in 2011.

Their ads have many false claims about costs to Michigan taxpayers that would, in fact, be borne by Canada under an agreement that Snyder worked out for the second bridge.

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