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Activist groups complain that Michigan Legislature circumvents petition drives, elections

The group "Keep Michigan Wolves Protected" gathers signatures.
Keep Michigan Wolves Protected

A coalition of activist groups is trying to make an issue of the Legislature passing laws to bypass petition drives and ballot measures.

The groups say Republicans at the state Capitol have circumvented voters on questions including the emergency manager law, the minimum wage, and wolf hunting. In each of those cases, the Legislature passed laws that ran contrary to the results of an election or a petition drive.

Danielle Atkinson is with the campaign to increase the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. She says the Legislature acted legally, but violated the spirit of the Michigan Constitution’s power to use the ballot to initiate or challenge laws.

“This is not what the drafters of the state constitution intended when they gave people the right to petition their government.”

Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society says there are questions that Michigan voters should get to decide. The group pushed for a wolf hunting referendum on the November ballot. The Legislature later voted to navigate around potential passage of this referendum.

“There’s much more at stake than wolves. One of the most-important elements of our civil society involves voting rights and public confidence in government. This is undermining public confidence in government.”

A spokeswoman for the state Senate Republicans says lawmakers were also elected to do a job, and activists should not expect them to simply stand by on important policy questions.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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