Ohioans heading to the polls will decide just two low-key statewide ballot issues, while Michigan electors will cast ballots for as many as six statewide questions. What follows is a brief summary:
Ohio Issue 1
Every 20 years, voters in Ohio are asked to convene a constitutional convention to make possible changes to the state Constitution. If voters agree to convene a convention, the Ohio General Assembly will elect delegates and assemble such a convention to consider possible state amendments. But any such constitutional changes approved at such a convention still must pass muster with voters in a future election.
Ohio Issue 2
An Ohio Redistricting Amendment, also known as Issue 2, would create a 12-person citizen commission to draw legislative and congressional district maps. Supporters of the measure claim such a commission would create districts that would better reflect the state's geographic, racial, ethnic and political diversity. The ballot initiative would also bar lobbyists and elected officials from joining the commission.
The statewide issue came about after controversy surrounded the redrawing of the lines for congressional and state Senate and House districts following the 2010 Census. GOP leaders controlled the process, forcing Democrats in the legislature to cry foul over how some of the redistricting process went. For example, the new Ninth congressional district is ribbon-thin, running along the Lake Erie shoreline from portions of Toledo to portions of Cleveland.
Such district maps are redrawn every ten years due to population shifts. The group Voters First spearheaded the ballot issue, claiming it gives citizens an opportunity to take back the process from partisan politics. The group claims every decade the party in control makes backroom deals out of the public eye so they can rig the system in their favor.
Opponents have lined up against Issue 2 including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, the Ohio Judicial Conference, and the Ohio Manufacturers Association. Critics claim the ballot issue would create an unelected, unaccountable, citizen commission with unlimited funds and its members would be given the power to set their own salaries and hire unlimited lawyers and political consultants.
12-01 Referendum on Public Act 4 of 2011, the Emergency Manager Law
If passed by voters, this referendum would keep in place a state law first passed in 2011 granting Michigan’s governor the authority to appoint an emergency manager of a local city government or school district in a fiscal crisis. The law also lays out criteria state officials follow in declaring such a financial emergency.
The emergency manager would be allowed to act in place of the local government’s governing body and chief administrative officer. The emergency manager would be required to develop a financial plan and issue orders to resolve the financial emergency, including modification or termination of contracts and collective bargaining agreements. The emergency manager also would be authorized to, under certain conditions, sell city assets or make major changes to departments and staffing.
Supporters contend that appointing emergency managers is a temporary measure necessary to steer a local unit toward more stable financial waters. Cities and school districts deemed to need emergency management often have had years of fiscal mismanagement that has resulted in the financial crisis, making such a law necessary. Critics, on the other hand, claim that emergency management does not work -- the forces that led to the emergency in the first place are deeply rooted and not subject to a quick fix. Critics cite reduced state revenue sharing and declining property values as factors beyond the reach of an emergency manager.
A ‘yes’ vote keeps the law in place; while a ‘no’ vote repeals the state law.
12-02 Proposal to Amend the State Constitution Regarding Collective Bargaining
Proposal 2 would give constitutional protection to the right of public and private-sector employees to form unions and negotiate with their employers their wages, hours and conditions of work with their employers. The ballot issue also would invalidate any existing or future state or local laws that limit collective bargaining, and override state laws that regulate hours and conditions of employment to the extent that those laws conflict with collective bargaining agreements.
Proposal 2 also states that it would not prohibit public employees from striking, and protect an employee’s right to provide financial support of their labor unions. The ballot proposal, in sum, gives public employees many of the same protections already granted private union workers under federal law.
Supporters claim recent laws enacted by the Michigan legislature have eroded workers’ ability to negotiate working conditions and compensation with their employers, such as making it more difficult for teachers to achieve tenure and requiring state workers to contribute 4 percent of their salary to remain in the pension system. One of the other effects of a Proposal 2 passage would be to prevent the legislature from enacting “right-to-work” legislation — laws that make it illegal for unions to require workers to financially support a union as a condition of employment.
Opponents contend having the freedom to enact right-to-work legislation makes Michigan more competitive and attractive to industry and would bolster Michigan’s economy. Because Indiana recently enacted right-to-work legislation, there’s concern new employers would opt to locate plants there rather than Michigan. Opponents further claim that a constitutional amendment is an overreach of union power, could lead to uncontrolled wage increases and lavish pensions at the expense of taxpayers, and is divisive and unnecessary.
12-03 Proposal to Amend the State Constitution to Establish a Standard for Renewable Energy
Proposal 3 would amend the state constitution to require that 25 percent of Michigan’s energy be generated by renewable sources by 2025, and that facilities used to satisfy this standard be located in Michigan or within the retail customer service territory of the utility (which would include parts of Indiana and Ohio). In addition, the proposal would require the legislature to pass laws encouraging the employment of Michigan residents and of the use of equipment made in Michigan in the production and distribution of renewable energy.
The ballot proposal would limit yearly electric utility rate increases to one percent to achieve compliance with the renewable energy standard. The proposal implies that the 25 percent standard be implemented incrementally and allows for annual extensions of such deadlines to meet the standard to prevent rate increases over the one percent limit.
Supporters contend the proposal would have significant economic benefits for Michigan. They argue the state could be a leader in the alternative energy field because clean energy is expected to be a growing market that will drive economic growth. Opponents counter that not only are projected job numbers highly inflated, but the ballot issue will create new jobs only temporarily—and when new wind turbines and solar panels installed, jobs likely will end, leaving Michigan workers out of work.
12-04 Proposal to Amend the State Constitution to Establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council and Provide Collective Bargaining for In-Home Home Care Workers
Medicaid-eligible individuals who cannot care for themselves currently may choose to hire a home health aide to assist them with bathing, dressing, meal preparation, and administering medications, among other tasks. These aides often are family members who are paid, through state Medicaid dollars, a wage that averages $8 per hour.
Medicaid-eligible seniors and the disabled who choose not to hire a relative may turn to a state-managed registry for a list of eligible home health aides. This registry is overseen by the Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQ3C), which requires workers to have passed a criminal background check.
Home health workers voted to unionize in 2005 and have union dues withheld from their Medicaid-funded paychecks. A state law passed earlier this year exempted them from public employee status for the purposes of collective bargaining and eliminated the withholding of union dues. A federal judge issued a temporary injunction against enactment of the law through February 2013.
Supporters contend Proposal 4 would rectify that situation, by amending the constitution to, among other things, allow in-home care workers to bargain collectively with MQ3C, require the agency to provide training for in-home care workers, create a registry of workers who pass background checks, and provide financial services to patients to manage the cost of in-home care.
The proposal also would preserve patients’ rights to hire in-home care workers who are not referred from the MQHCC registry who are bargaining unit members and authorize MQ3C to set minimum compensation standards and terms and conditions of employment.
Opponents call the proposal an attempt for a union to collect dues from the almost 50,000 home care workers in Michigan and cite an estimate that, since 2006, the SEIU collected more than $32 million in union dues that could have remained with home healthcare workers. Opponents also take issue with home care workers being defined as public employees and contend the issue doesn’t rise in importance enough to be codified in the state constitution.
12-05 Proposal to Amend the State Constitution to Limit the Enactment of New State Taxes by State Government
Proposal 5 would amend the state constitution to require a two-thirds majority in both houses of the state legislature to approve any new tax, increase a current tax or expand the tax base; or to require such a tax increase to be approved by a statewide vote of citizens at a November election. The ballot language and the proposal’s placement in the constitution likely mean it would apply only to state taxes (sales tax, personal income and corporate income, and many others) and not to local taxes.
Supporters contend the proposal would provide for taxpayer protections. Proposal backers claim Michigan’s taxes already are too high, and a low-tax environment could improve the business climate in the state, leading to economic growth and benefits for all Michigan residents. If it were more difficult for the state to raise taxes, supporters believe businesses and households would be more likely to stay in or relocate to Michigan. Opponents counter that the proposal would create gridlock in the legislature. Historically, very few measures are passed with a supermajority vote. Furthermore, opponents argue most tax reform frequently includes raising some taxes in order to lower others.
12-06 12-06 Proposal to Amend the State Constitution Regarding Construction of International Bridges and Tunnels
Proposal 6 comes in response to Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to build a new international trade crossing two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. The debate centers on the degree of power that state government should exercise over commerce, trade and infrastructure. The proposal would require the state to hold an election asking voters to approve a new international crossing before state funds could be spent on any part of it.
Supporters contend the proposal would give citizens a stronger voice in public works expenditures. Requiring a vote of approval for expensive bridge projects would ensure that people know how the government is spending their tax dollars, and would prevent politicians from approving an expensive bridge to serve their own, rather than Michigan taxpayers,’ interests. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family, argue they have successfully owned and operated the 83-year old Ambassador Bridge without government intervention and the proposal would hurt their business. They have plans to build a second, six-lane span next to the current bridge to reduce truck congestion and allow the original bridge to be improved when the time is right.
But the governor believes the ballot issue will not be able to undo the current progress and a signed agreement between Michigan and Canada to build a new international bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor. The signed agreement contains specific language in which Canada agrees to pay for the construction of the bridge, even the portion built in Michigan, with private industry contributing to the remainder of the cost.
Opponents of the proposed amendment also argue the current bridge cannot handle the volume of truck traffic that crosses between the two countries. Michigan’s manufacturing sector, especially, depends on “just-in-time” delivery of parts to keep operations running smoothly and minimize costs. They believe building a new span would greatly reduce delays on the bridge.
A ‘yes’ vote sets in motion a statewide referendum on the governor’s bridge proposal, while a ‘no’ vote keeps the signed agreement in place without further interference.