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Subverting the Spirit of the Law?

October 31, 2011

Michigan’s Constitution provides voters with avenues for direct participation in the legislative process. The ‘initiative’ and the ‘referendum’ are methods for voters to either pass laws that the Legislature has been unwilling or unable to enact, or to repeal laws passed by that body that are repugnant to the will of the people.  Article II, S. 9 specifically exempts appropriations bills from the purview of referenda:

“The power of referendum does not extend to acts making appropriations for state institutions…”

The new trend in Michigan legislation seems to be that controversial bills are written to include small appropriations connected to the subject matter of the legislation.  So, in the case of a bill repealing Michigan’s single-item price sticker law, nearly unique in the nation, the legislation includes a small appropriation of funding for the Attorney General’s office to pay for public education efforts related to the change in policy.  The presence of this appropriation renders this new law immune from repeal via referendum.

This is an example of government subverting the rights of the people by acting in a manner that renders their rights null and void.  (The infamous Kelo v. City of New London decision is another example of this trend, as the Supreme Court’s decision makes the ‘takings’ clause of the Fifth Amendment less of a protection of property than was intended by the Founders.)  What conclusion should interested citizens draw when their rights are deliberately abridged by their elected servants?  An informed citizenry might choose to have recourse to another of their rights – while they still have it:  The power of recall, also guaranteed to Michigan’s voters by their Constitution (Art. II, S. 8), as any legislator who would deliberately defraud them of their right of referendum through back-door means does not deserve to hold their office and cannot be trusted to refrain from still-greater assaults on their liberty.

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