Questions About Ballot Issues? New Law Signed by Snyder Prevents Discussion

essentialTOPtempQuestions About Ballot dinos02sidelogo3Issues? New Law Signed by Snyder Prevents Discussion

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 6, 2016)

Cities, school districts, libraries, police departments and other groups rely on tax funding that comes from millages, which must be voted on by the public.  There are also ballot proposals that directly impact governing bodies, for example, the recent local ordinances for marijuana decriminalization, or the proposal to have voter approval on a new city logo in Berkley.  These matters can often be difficult to explain and getting people to the polls is a big challenge.

That will now all be even more difficult as Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that limits Sahara ad with winethe ability of officials and government bodies from being able to discuss or disseminate factual information about ballot proposals.

One section of the 50+ page law states “Except for an election official in the performance of his or her duties under the Michigan election law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.1 to 168.992, a public body, or a person acting for a public body, shall not, during the period 60 days before an election in which a local ballot question appears on a ballot, use public funds or resources for a communication by means of radio, television, mass mailing, or prerecorded telephone message if that communication references a local ballot question and is targeted to the relevant electorate where the local ballot question appears on the ballot.”

Previously, government bodies and officials were able to answer questions, explain the bills, and inform the public about upcoming elections as long as they did not advocate one way or another.  This meant that residents might receive mailings or fliers alerting them to an Judy_Palmer30yearselection and informing them about what was being voted on, or they might turn to the city or school district website to get the facts.  Their elected representatives might be on the television giving explanations.  Not any longer.

Proponents of this law say people should do research on their own to find out about elections. The question remains of where the public and the media are to get information if those most familiar with local governance are limited in communicating about it.

According to The Detroit Free Press, Snyder explained his decision by stating in a letter “the new language does not impact the expression of personal views by a public official, the use of resources or facilities in the ordinary course of business and that it is intended only to prohibit the use of targeted, advertisement style mass communications that are reasonably interpreted as an attempt to influence the electorate using tax dollars.”

The law passed only with Republican legislators voting in favor of it.  Local officials from both ctechadparties spoke against the bill before it was signed, urging Snyder to veto it.  For video of a Michigan Municipal League press conference see

Other Republicans questioned the bill after voting on it, according to a Detroit News article. Representative Mike McCready of Bloomfield Hills told The Detroit News, “This deserves far more debate than what we gave it.  We didn’t get enough information on it.”

Snyder has asked the Legislature to draft a bill to clarify the new law for municipal leaders.

The law also deals with other matters of campaign finance, creating exemptions, limits, penalties etc.  The full law can be read at

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