Mich. ballot issues address referendums, fracking

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm •  Published: February 15, 2013
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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Two new groups will start collecting signatures for statewide ballot measures, including one that would allow Michigan voters to repeal laws made referendum-proof with appropriations.

The Board of State Canvassers on Friday approved the petition form for Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum, which does not have much financial backing. It will need nearly 323,000 valid signatures to put the constitutional amendment on the November 2014 election.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan — another grassroots organization without much money — also cleared the procedural hurdle. It will need about 258,000 signatures to initiate a bill and put it before voters if legislators do not act.

Michigan currently does not permit referendum drives if a law includes an appropriation, or spending measure. Lawmakers have added appropriations to controversial legislation, such as the right-to-work and revised emergency manager laws approved in December.

Critics say laws that have very little to do with spending money are being purposely shielded from a public vote.

Bill Lucas of Ferndale, who is leading the effort to make spending bills subject to referendum, said the right-to-work law was the final straw.

He already was upset that voters cannot repeal the 2011 laws that redrew congressional and legislative districts and did away with a price tag requirement for retail items. He also is worried grocers could push to eliminate Michigan's 10-cent deposit on bottles and cans.

The item-pricing repeal "got through and it was unchallengeable because there's a hole in the system," Lucas, a Democrat, said in a phone interview. "I didn't see anyone taking action and I decided to do it myself."

Collecting signatures to qualify for the ballot is difficult without paying circulators or having a large number of volunteers. Lucas, who said he is on leave from a systems analyst job, said he hopes to receive some financial support for the ballot drive and plans to talk to "good government" groups. He declined to elaborate.