(Source: MIRS.news, Published 05/31/2022) The deadline for citizen-backed initiative ballot proposals is Wednesday, June 1 and six campaigns will be required to turn in signatures by 5 p.m. to the Secretary of State, after Unlock Michigan II announced the end to its campaign and two others failed to gather the amount needed.
Citizen-backed initiatives require 340,047 valid signatures and, if approved by the Board of Canvassers, can be passed by the Legislature into law or, if voted down or not taken up, would be put on the November ballot for a vote.
The nine citizens initiatives instigated this year were: Secure MI Vote (picture ID to vote), Unlock Michigan II, Audit Michigan ("forensic audit"), One Fair Wage ($15 minimum wage for tipped workers), Michiganders for Fair Lending (36% interest cap on payday loans) Liberty and Justice for All (good time prison credits), Let MI Kids Learn (scholarships to private schools paid for through donations), Let MI Kids Learn Tax Credit (donations to private school scholarships would be tax deductible), and The Michigan Initiative for Community Healing (psilocybin mushrooms). (See, “Michigan Mid-Terms Could See 16 Ballot Proposals” 2/7/22).
Audit Michigan and the mushrooms will not make the ballot for sure. Secure MI Vote backers say they believe they have enough. The signs are pointing toward One Fair Wage and the payday loan proposal having enough.
The future of the private school scholarships initiative launched by former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is still unknown as is the good-time credits proposal, but it's presumed the latter, for sure, isn't going to make it.
But the big news was the demise of Unlock Michigan II, which started with great fanfare in 2020 and 2021. It came about when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) director make mask mandates and other COVID-related public health orders. This occurred after the State Supreme Court ruled that Whitmer herself could not roll forward indefinitely with her COVID-related executive orders.
“We’ve collected more than the minimum required signatures at this point, but we’ve not collected a sufficient number of additional signatures to withstand the expected challenge by those who insist on the current rule-by-decree law,” said Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for Unlock Michigan II.
He said the group would instead be focusing on legislation in 2023 and is confident of a win in the Legislature and governor’s office, presuming a change, that would help them with reform. The initiative would have required legislative approval of any state or local health order after 28 days.
Public Health Over Politicians, the group opposed to Unlock Michigan II, lauded the demise of the initiative.
“Protecting public health isn’t the easiest job in the world and for months, Unlock Michigan 2.0 stoked fear and intimidation of our public health officers and others in the health care field,” said Linda VAIL, Ingham County health officer. “I want to thank every single doctor, nurse, public health officer and everyone working in Michigan health care for raising their voices because they all made the difference in stopping this dangerous ballot initiative.”
Wszolek said Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton) and Rep. Matt Hall (R-Comstock Township) are backing proposed legislation that could be introduced in 2023.
“There is a lot out there that covers the gamut,” said Citizens Research Council of Michigan Research Director Craig Thiel.
The Voter ID Initiative is a proposal that would set a law requiring an ID card to vote in-person or by absentee ballot.
Jamie Roe, a spokesperson with Secure MI Vote, said petitions were being circulated by volunteers over the Memorial Day weekend and the group was planning on turning in signatures to the Secretary of State.
“We’re dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s now,” Roe said. “We are feeling good about it.”
“Bureaucrats should not have free rein to run our state and run it into the ground. The elected representatives of the people must be involved when so much is at stake,” Nesbit said.
Audit Michigan would have created a process for an independent “forensic” audit of Michigan elections starting with the November 2020 election. Jon Rocha told The Detroit News the campaign failed to receive approval to form from the Board of State Canvassers and collected no signatures.
One Fair Wage was working to create a minimum wage of $15 per hour by the year 2027 that would include higher wages for tipped workers. The increase would start at $11 per hour in 2023 and increase by $1 per year until the $15 cap. Spokesperson Chantel Watkins said the campaign would be making an announcement on Tuesday, but was not able to give out information about submission of signatures.
Michiganders for Fair Lending would limit the annual interest rate charged by payday loan businesses at 36% for payday lenders. It would also create a consumer warning for payday loan businesses. Josh Hovey, a spokesperson for Michiganders for Fair Lending, said the campaign is expected to turn in its signatures before the deadline.
The Michigan Initiative for Community Healing would decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelic plants. Myc Williams, co-director of Decriminalize Nature Michigan, told the Detroit News the group would be focused on the 2024 ballot, but would not make the 2022 ballot.
The Let MI Kids Learn initiative would create public and private funded scholarships for children to attend private schools. The second piece would allow any private funding to the scholarship program to be tax-deductible. (See, “DeVos Speaks On Let MI Kids Learn: ‘It Will Survive Scrutiny" 2/2/22)
The campaign did not return calls by deadline, but is expected to file by deadline.
This Liberty and Justice for All initiative would incentivize good behavior in prison with credit for time served, regardless of the prisoner’s sentence date. Under current legislation, according to the ballot language, only prisoners sentenced after April 1, 1987, are eligible to have time reduced for good behavior.
Michigan United, the group behind the campaign, did not return calls or emails by deadline.
The Michigan Board of State Canvassers next meets June 23.
The petition campaigns for the Michigan constitutional ballot initiatives are due July 11.