Gordon Smith, 56 of Detroit holds a sign in support of proposal 6 outside Southwestern Church of God where voters are casting their ballots in Detroit, MI on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012. ROMAIN BLANQUART/ Detroit Free Press / Detroit Free Press
(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - Six statewide ballot proposals were soundly defeated by Michigan voters.
Battered by incessant TV ads funded by $100 million in ballot issue campaign spending, Michigan voters soundly rejected five proposals to amend the state constitution to deal with issues ranging from collective bargaining to building a new bridge to Canada.
In a blow to Gov. Rick Snyder, they also rejected by a narrower margin a proposal that would have retained an emergency managers law he championed that gave state-appointed managers sweeping authority to cancel union contracts and oust elected officials overseeing insolvent local governments.
"They take the power too far," attorney Michelle Harrell, 46, said while voting against the proposal in Grosse Pointe Woods on Tuesday. "To suddenly say, 'I'm going to stop paying you,' is undemocratic."
Altogether, supporters and opponents of the ballot proposals reported they spent at least $105 million on the campaigns through Oct. 26. The rejected constitutional amendments included labor-backed Proposal 2 to guarantee collective bargaining rights, another to give bargaining rights to home health workers, and an anti-tax proposal to require a two-thirds legislative vote to raise state taxes.
Collective bargaining advocates "were unable to overcome the flood of corporate special interest money spent on ads riddled with lies, distortions and scare tactics meant to mislead voters," said Dan Lijana, a spokesman for the Proposal 2 campaign.
The rejected proposals also included Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun's efforts to require a public vote before any competing international crossing can be built with state money, as well as environmentalists' Proposal 3, which would have required that Michigan utilities get 25% of their power from renewable sources by 2025.
"It is clear the voters resisted amending the constitution," said Mickey Blashfield, a leader of the failed effort to restrict new bridge construction.
The collective bargaining measure also would have banned right-to-work laws which limit unions' ability to collect fees from nonunion workers and rolled back recent GOP lawmaker moves to take some public employee benefits and staffing issues off the negotiating table.
Passage would have given public and private workers in Michigan the constitutional right to organize in unions and collectively bargain contracts. The proposal states any current or future laws limiting such rights would be invalid. Opponents including Snyder argued that would have made union leaders more powerful than elected officials and erased state and local governments' ability to set employment terms and control budgets.
Another union-backed measure on the ballot, Proposal 4, called specifically for allowing home health care workers to unionize.
Proposal 1 asked voters to retain the sweeping law that allowed the state to appoint managers for municipalities and school districts deemed to be in fiscal emergencies. Snyder and others said the law was needed so Michigan could step in to help fix financially struggling Michigan entities. Critics argued it represented a power grab that usurps the rights of local elected officials.
The bridge proposal, Proposal 6, was one of most intensely debated ballot measures. It called for changing the constitution to require a statewide vote on plans for any new international crossing. It came in response to the proposed construction of a government-brokered Canadian-financed bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
Moroun instead wants to build a new span of his own, and spent millions of advertising dollars to support the ballot proposal, which would not allow the state to spend money on such projects without approval from a majority of Michigan voters.