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Term limits petitioners seek legislative help in getting on ballot

Michigan Capitol building in Lansing on a summer day.
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio
The Michigan Capitol building in Lansing.

The bipartisan group working to replace Michigan’s term limits law is asking state lawmakers to put its proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

That would require a two-thirds vote of both chambers of the Legislature.

The alternative would be for the effort to gather the 425,059 signatures needed to put the proposal before voters.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is working with the coalition, called Voters for Transparency and Term Limits. He said he has no doubts they’ll get to the signature threshold. But he has concerns about timing.

“If this were on the ballot now, we can start the conversation today to talk to voters about why this is important. If we have to wait till mid-July to submit them and they don’t get counted and certified till August, you’ve significantly shortened the campaign,” Duggan told reporters Monday at a press conference.

The proposed amendment would allow lawmakers to serve a combined total of 12 years in the state Legislature. That’s opposed to the current system which caps legislators at serving three elected terms in the state House and two in the state Senate. In many cases, that’s 14 years in office.

Patrick Anderson helped get Michigan’s existing term limits passed in 1992 and now opposes the effort to replace it. He argued the petition would weaken the term limits in Michigan.

"It's clearly not bettering what we did 30 years ago," Anderson said. "The citizens actually adopted this ... and 59% of the voters put it into the constitution."

Supporters argued their change would give lawmakers enough time to better serve in their respective chambers rather than jumping between the House and Senate.

Another piece of the proposal would require legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, and attorney general to file annual financial disclosure reports. It would require disclosure rules at least as strict as those members of Congress must follow.

“Michigan voters have a right to know where their statewide elected officials get their income from. We should know whether they have a conflict when they are voting on an issue that affects our communities,” former League of Women Voters of Michigan President Judy Karandjeff said.

Anderson agreed Michigan needs financial disclosure policies. But he said they should be specific to Michigan instead of being based on a federal law.

“We should have better disclosure laws in Michigan adopted by the Michigan Legislature, signed by the Michigan governor and implemented in Michigan. That’s what we should have. Unfortunately, this proposal is not that,” he said.

Michigan is one of two states that does not require financial disclosure for lawmakers. The other is Idaho.

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