Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

October 18, 2012

Forum: Constitution not the place for energy policy

Bipartisan cooperation among elected and appointed officials is such a rare occurrence these days that we're often surprised when members of rival political parties concur on hot-button issues.

This happens to be one of those times.

Proposal 3 — the renewable energy ballot initiative — is without a doubt one of the most egregious affronts on the Michigan Constitution that we've seen in some time. Michigan voters beware. If this proposal passes, Michigan would be the only state in the entire country to include an energy mandate in its constitution.

There's a very good reason why we have a Legislature: our Constitution is not the place for energy policy. Michigan has a renewable energy standard — Public Act 295 — in place to produce 10 percent of the state's electricity from renewable sources by 2015. It would be wise for the fiscal and constitutional health of this state to stay that course. Once that 2015 deadline is reached, the Legislature can review whether additional changes are needed.

To change direction now, before the law has had a chance to run its course, would be both premature and irresponsible.

There's no clear reason why voters should consider a measure that would embed a rigid and costly mandate into our state's foundational document. Consumers Energy estimates this measure would saddle the public with a $12 billion price tag for years to come. A recent Public Sector Consultants study pegged the current cost of renewable energy at levels runningat least 67 percent higher than existing sources or energy.

You'd better believe this cost is going to end up draining Michigan residents' pocketbooks.

We agree with former Democratic Attorney General Frank Kelley and former Republican Attorney General Mike Cox, along with businesses, labor organizations, agricultural groups and other local leaders, that the Michigan Constitution is not the place to begin experimenting with energy law.

The state's constitution was designed to protect people's rights and define the role of government, not to make and dictate energy policy. Raising the renewable energy standard to 25 percent by 2025 would eliminate the flexibility that is so essential for modern energy policy and indispensable when it comes to ensuring that the average consumer has safe, reliable and affordable electricity.

Out-of-state special interests funding this effort to hijack Michigan's constitution do not fully comprehend the negative effect it would have on Michigan families and businesses. And because they don't live or work here, why should they care?

To change Michigan's energy law by way of ballot initiative, or referendum, would bypass a more deliberative, well-informed and informative legislative process that fully engages the citizens of Michigan and enables them to understand why these changes are necessary and what the consequences of a constitutional amendment would mean.

The constitution is our founding document. We encourage all Michigan citizens to think of it that way.We're part of the growing opposition to this costly mandate and encourage voters to go to the polls and vote "no" on Proposal 3.

About the authors: Bill Schuette is Michigan's Attorney General; Conrad Mallett is a former Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing letters@record-eagle.com. Please include biographical information and a photo.

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