A proposed constitutional amendment to allow eight new Michigan casinos remained off the Nov. 6 ballot today. / PATRICIA BECK/Free Press file photo
LANSING (Detroit Free Press) - A proposed constitutional amendment to allow eight new Michigan casinos remained off the Nov. 6 ballot today after the Board of State Canvassers fell one vote short of the three it needed for approval.
The absence of Republican Norm Shinkle meant that the yes votes of the two Democratic board members weren't enough to certify the ballot proposal. The other Republican member, Colleen Pero, voted no. Democrats Julie Matuzak and James Waters voted yes.
For a 2-1 motion to pass, the yes votes would have had to include one Democrat and one Republican. Jonathan Raven, an attorney for Citizens for More Michigan Jobs, the group backing the casino expansion, said appeals will be filed within 24 hours with requests that the case be sent directly to the Michigan Supreme Court.
Today's vote followed a ruling Friday by the Michigan Supreme Court that appeared to give the proposal a green light for the ballot. Friday's ruling overturned an earlier decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals that said the wording of the petition did not comply with constitutional requirements.
But attorneys argued today the Supreme Court had not ordered the proposal onto the ballot but had only struck down one of the challenges made. Citizens for More Michigan Jobs is proposing new casinos in or near Detroit, Romulus, Clinton Township, Pontiac, Lansing, Birch Run, Grand Rapids and Cadillac.
Friday's Supreme Court ruling related to a controversy related to whether the proposal violated the constitution by amending the state Gaming Control Act without publishing the parts of the state law it would change. The two sides made lengthy presentations to the board today. John Pirich, a Lansing attorney representing Protect MI Constitution, a group backed by existing casinos which opposes casino expansion, today raised other objections.
For one, he said the proposal would change a section of the constitution which gives the Liquor Control Commission control over the issuance of liquor licenses. The proposal says the eight new casinos shall be issued liquor licenses. "These are significant matters; they're not technical matters," Pirich argued.
But Raven argued Friday's ruling dispenses with the objections raised. The casino group had advised the Supreme Court of other objections raised by Protect MI Constitution, even if that group hadn't raised the arguments in court filings, he said.
"The Supreme Court issued a very clear ruling rejecting the arguments of the adversaries of this proposal," Raven told the board. Pero said she voted against the proposal because she couldn't reconcile a requirement that all eight casinos receive liquor licenses with a provision of the Michigan Constitution that says the Liquor Control Commission has total control over the issuance of such licences.
Shinkle, one of the two Republicans, was absent today attending the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
Based on earlier ballot proposals involving casinos, campaign finance experts expect tens of millions of dollars to be spent for and against the proposal over the next two months - if the proposal makes the ballot.
The canvassers also are to consider today proposals to require a two-thirds legislative supermajority for new tax increases and to require a statewide vote on any new public bridge or tunnel to Canada. An initiative to repeal Michigan's toughened emergency manager law was earlier approved for the ballot by the Michigan Supreme Court. A union-backed proposal from Protect Our Jobs to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution is before the Michigan Court of Appeals, with a ruling expected today.
The Board of State Canvassers earlier approved proposed constitutional amendments to increase to 25% by 2025 Michigan's renewable energy standard for electricity and to provide limited collective bargaining rights to Michigan home health care workers, among other changes.
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or firstname.lastname@example.org