Playlist: Michigan

Elisabeth Gerber: End-running the legislative process was not a successful strategy for Michigan ballot proponents

November 9, 2012 0:02:39
Kaltura Video

Elisabeth Gerber is a professor of public policy at the Ford School. Gerber's research focuses on intergovernmental cooperation, transportation policy, state & local economic policy, land use & economic development, & local political accountability.


Voters really think about the constitution as different than regular laws. They think about the constitution sort of the way they think about the U.S. Constitution, a bare bones framework for government and not something that a lot of special interest laws ought to be included in. And so that was really the message that those opponents of those measures put out there in their small amount of advertising and in the news media and that really seemed to resonate with voters that the constitution is really not the place for these laws.
Certainly in the case of the bridge, there have been many attempts to do all sorts of things, trying to block laws in the legislature and push laws and the governor have taken steps and so on. So there is really no easy solution but it is pretty clear that end-running the legislative process and trying to go directly to the voters was not a successful strategy this time around.
About $150 million was spent in total and on all sides for the six measures that were on the ballot. Now the measure for which the most was spent by a single side was Proposal 6, which was a bridge proposal, in which the proponents spent $33 million to try to pass the measure. Of course, the measure failed.
The emergency manager law was a referendum on a measure the legislature passed several years ago giving the Governor's office and his team powers to replace the elected government in a city to help solve their budget crisis, to help balance their budget and reduce some of their costs. The opponents really framed this as a sort of a power grab by governor and folks in governors office to take over city government. The supporters really framed it as an endorsement of Governor Snyder so I think in the voter's mind it really came down to just that.
There were certainly in the media discussions about how many measures there were and all these special interests trying to put more stuff in the constitution so certainly the information was out there the message was out there to voters that this is just too much and given that none of the constitutional amendments passed, it appears that maybe there were.