Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 25, 2012

Phil Power: Vote 'no' on Props 2 through 6

The Michigan Constitution should not be for sale.

And I urge voters across our great state to make a forthright statement at the polls that this is the case by voting "no" on Proposals 2 through 6.

Voting no on all these proposed constitutional amendments would stop special interest groups from hijacking the constitution, which is the state's basic governing document.

Whatever your politics, none of the matters addressed by these amendments belongs in the Michigan Constitution:

n Proposal 2 would insert collective bargaining rights for public employees into the Constitution. It is an attempt to roll back a bunch of recent legislation in Lansing, legislation that has limited union power and resulted in a wide range of public employee concessions.

If this amendment passed, it would undoubtedly result in years of costly lawsuits to determine exactly what this poorly worded ballot proposal actually means in practice. The proposal is supported by a wide swath of in-state and out-of-state labor unions.

n Proposal 3 would require 25 percent of the state's electricity to be generated by renewable energy sources by the year 2025. It builds on the state's 2008 renewable energy standard passed in the Legislature, which is where such policy debates belong. As the Citizens Research Council has noted, the Michigan Constitution does not direct any other sort of private sector industry to so specifically change their behavior or investment or business model.

Like Proposal 2, this one is destined for lengthy court battles if passed by voters. Proposal 3 is backed by a wide range of in-state and out-of-state environmental groups, with much of the proposal's funding coming from outside Michigan.

n Proposal 4 would provide for collective bargaining for home health workers, many of whom are family members. In the full scope of public policy, this is a low-level labor-management debate that belongs somewhere in a legislative committee or a state government agency. In the words of Center for Michigan steering committee member and journalist Jack Lessenberry, the Constitution is meant to "set broad outlines for government, not serve as a Christmas tree to be hung with goodies for various special interest groups."

n Proposal 5 would require a two-thirds vote in order to raise any taxes. Probably the most damaging of all of this year's proposals, this one would shackle elected leaders' ability to manage the affairs of the state. In effect, it makes it nearly impossible for the governor and legislators to reform the tax code over time. Had Proposal 5 been in place, last year's business tax reforms or the school tax reforms of Proposal A in 1994 never would have happened. This effort has been bankrolled in large part by funds connected to the Moroun family, the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.

n Proposal 6 would require a public vote to approve any international bridge or tunnel. This is an attempt by Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun to stop construction of a second international bridge over the Detroit River as agreed to by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Canadian government. Accompanied by a never-ending stream of highly erroneous and misleading political ads, the Proposal 6 effort is possibly the most cynical and self-interested political campaign in Michigan history.

Baking these special recipes for special interests into the state constitution is simply not good government in the public interest. In expressing these views, I'm also setting out the concerns expressed by a nearly unanimous majority of the Center for Michigan's steering committee, a bipartisan group of veteran public leaders, which I chair.

The terrible truth of these proposals is that most of the signatures that got them on the ballot were bought and paid for by special interests, using signature solicitation companies.

If they succeed, that means basic government policy as articulated in the Constitution can be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Michigan voters are the last line of defense against putting our government up for sale.

P.S. Proposal One is a simple referendum, not a constitutional amendment, and is beyond the scope of my discussion here.

Phil Power is a former newspaper publisher and University of Michigan Regent. He is founder and president of The Center for Michigan, a centrist think-and-do tank. The opinions expressed here are his own. By email at: ppower@thecenterformichigan. net.

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