Townsend's Plan Protects Residents' Voice, Referendum Rights

Resolution ensures lawmakers can't circumvent voters' rights
Thursday, April 28, 2011

LANSING - In an effort to create a more transparent and accountable government, State Representative Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak) today introduced a resolution that will protect the right of residents to repeal laws they disagree with. Townsend’s plan comes on the heels of Republican lawmakers using a loophole in the state constitution to circumvent the public’s right to referendum.

“Residents’ right to repeal flawed laws is crucial to the health of our democracy and lawmakers have no business trying to undermine those rights,” Townsend said. “Right now legislators can make any law referendum proof simply by tacking a small appropriation to it. That’s unacceptable and we need to put a stop to it. Lawmakers who are working in the best interest of the people should have nothing to fear because their legislation should stand on its own under any attempt to repeal it.”

Under current law, any bill with an appropriation is not subject to voter referendum. Townsend’s resolution strengthens the right to referendum by clarifying that only general appropriation acts that substantially fund one or more state departments can be free of referendum. Republicans recently attached appropriations to separate legislation to repeal Michigan’s item pricing law and raise taxes on senior pensions, essentially making the bills referendum proof and undermining residents’ right to repeal them.

“The intent of the state constitution was to protect budget bills from referendums in order to avoid the shutdown of state departments because doing so could have serious consequences and disrupt services for residents across the state,” Townsend said. “Unfortunately, some lawmakers have used this loophole to strip away voters’ rights and pass laws that voters can do nothing about. That violates the basic principles of our democracy and this legislation will prevent such abuses from occurring in the future.”