22 Jul / 2016
Judge blocks Michigan ban on straight-party voting
Jennifer Chambers, The Detroit News 6:48 a.m. EDT July 22, 2016
(Photo: Detroit News file photo)
State election officials plan to appeal a court order striking down Michigan’s new law banning straight-ticket voting, potentially creating complications for the November election.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will file an appeal on Monday or Tuesday on U.S. District Court Judge Gershwin A. Drain’s decision to issue four preliminary injunctions against state election officials, Schuette spokesman John Sellek said Thursday.
“We have no further comment at this time other than to confirm that we will appeal in defense of this state law as passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor,” Selleck said.
In a passionate 37-page opinion announced Thursday, Drain said the new law will reduce African-Americans’ opportunity to participate in the state’s political process and puts a disproportionate burden on African-Americans’ right to vote.
Sarah Bydalek, Walker city clerk and president of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks, said the deadline in Michigan for final ballot language for the Nov. 8 election is Aug. 16 and all ballots must be ready by Sept. 24 to send overseas to members of the U.S. armed forces.
“We are under tight times constraints, and I would hope they would not appeal this and it can be looked into after November. Our general election is going to be 90 percent turnout, it’s a big ballot with two pages, front and back in some counties, and already long wait times,” Bydalek said.
Drain said the real question the court must answer is whether the burden caused by the law is “in part caused by or linked to ‘social and historical conditions that have produced or currently produce discrimination against African-Americans.’
“This question is unavoidably answered in the affirmative. African-Americans are much more likely to vote Democrat than other ethnic groups, and many feel this is largely due to racially charged political stances taken by Republicans on the local, state and national level since the post-World War II era,” Drain wrote.
Drain, a President Barack Obama appointee, cited a report by Kurt Metzger, a regional information specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau in Detroit, who found a direct correlation between the use of straight-party voting within a community and the African-American population within that community.
Metzger found 15 Michigan cities with a straight-party voting rate of 65 percent or higher. Of those, two were majority white. The five cities with rates greater than 75 percent were all majority African-American.
“It’s no secret that racial discrimination in the state of Michigan has had traumatic effects on education, employment and health in the African-American community,” Drain wrote.
“It is not difficult to imagine how these effects, particularly in the employment setting, have made it more difficult for African-Americans to participate in the political process. … The Court finds that the effects of discrimination hinder African-Americans’ ability to participate effectively in the political process.”
Aug. 2 primary unaffected
Drain’s injunctions are an early win for the three Michigan residents and the state chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute who sued Johnson over the law on May 24.
The case continues on Aug. 1 when both sides are expected to meet in Detroit before Drain for a scheduling conference to discuss future deadlines and hearings in the case.
The order does not affect the Aug. 2 primary, said Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams.
Gov. Rick Snyder defended the elimination of straight-party voting in a Thursday interview at a Cleveland event he hosted for Michigan Republicans attending the GOP national convention.
“The reason I signed it is I think it’s a good part of the process that people look at each individual office and they look at each candidate,” Snyder said. “It’s not just about partisan politics, but they review the people in that particular and make a decision as who the best one is.”
Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature approved the elimination of straight-ticket voting in December, with supporters arguing it would encourage a more informed electorate and end a policy holdover from the days of big party bosses.
But the effort seeking an injunction against it — argued orally last week by Mary Ellen Gurewitz and Mark Brewer for the plaintiff, the Michigan chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute — asserts the state’s ban on straight-ticket voting would have disproportionate harm on minority voters in “an election of great consequence” in November.
If each voter is filling out 18 or 30 bubbles rather than just one, the argument went, each voter will take longer to vote, which would have a ripple effect resulting in longer lines and, for impatient voters or those without the time, possible disenfranchisement.
Brewer, the former Michigan Democratic Party chairman, welcomed the judge’s decision.
“It’s a great victory for the voters of this state,” he said. “They’ve had the right to vote straight-party for 125 years, and they’ve twice, in referendum, overwhelmingly said they want to keep it. And that’s what this is.”
House speaker weighs in
But House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, called the judge’s ruling “bizarre” because residents vote for individual candidates, not necessarily parties.
“The court’s opinion did not focus enough on the needs of voters, instead fighting odd rhetorical battles over which party deserves to win the trust of certain voters,” Cotter said in a statement. “An objective evaluation of the constitutionality of the more modern ballot, already adopted by 40 other states, would have resulted in a very different outcome.”
In their argument, state election officials said measures were taken to combat long wait times by adding a $5 million appropriation.
In his opinion, Drain said the appropriation presumably was to be spent on more voting booths and staff, but the state had not provided that information on a county-by-county basis.
“There is evidence that it would actually take $30 million, six times the amount appropriated, to adequately combat long lines,” he wrote.
Assistant Attorney General Erik Grill, representing Johnson, argued last week the elimination of straight-ticket voting wouldn’t prevent anyone from voting down the party line — they’d just have to fill in more bubbles.
“Voters are absolutely able to vote for whichever party they choose to, be it Democratic, Republican, Socialist or Communist,” Grill said.
He said in Ottawa County, which is 93 percent white, about 60 percent of voters vote straight-ticket. Grill also criticized what he called Metzger’s “cherry-picked” study for focusing on nine out of Michigan’s 83 counties. Ottawa County was not one of them.
“If they’re being affected, too, it’s not disparate impact, just impact,” he said.
Drain noted in his decision, which came a week after hearing oral arguments, that the matter had been pending for seven weeks and “time is of the essence.”
“The election is less than four months away, and election officials need to have adequate opportunity to prepare,” Drain wrote.
Staff Writers James Dickson, Jim Lynch and Chad Livengood contributed
19 May / 2016
LANSING — In a case involving a contractors’ group and the City of Lansing, the Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that local prevailing wage laws — which require union-rate pay and benefits on city jobs — are constitutional.
The Associated Builders and Contractors sued Lansing in 2012 in an attempt to overturn the city’s prevailing wage ordinance as unconstitutional.
The Ingham County Circuit Court ruled in favor of the contractors, but that decision was reversed by a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals, which in a split decision upheld the right of the city to pass such an ordinance.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court said the Court of Appeals was wrong in the way it dealt with the prevailing wage issue, but it said the result the appeals court arrived at was the correct one.
“The City of Lansing has the authority … to enact an ordinance that established a prevailing wage,” the Supreme Court said.
The 6-0 opinion, written by Chief Justice Robert Young Jr., reflected a unanimous view of the court since Justice Brian Zahra agreed with the result, but wrote a separate concurring opinion.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero issued a statement praising “a landmark ruling for working people not just in Lansing, but across Michigan.”
Lansing’s ordinance, adopted in 1992, requires contractors to agree to pay a prevailing wage before the city will approve development agreements.
A 1923 Michigan case said cities didn’t have the authority to set third-party wages.
The Supreme Court ruled that the Court of Appeals was correct in concluding that the legal landscape has changed since then, since the 1963 state constitution gives cities more authority than the one in effect in 1908, which the 1923 decision was based on.
But the Court of Appeals should have struck down the 1923 decision, not just ignored it, the Supreme Court said.
The City of Detroit has a living-wage ordinance that also has been challenged in the courts.
Chris Fisher, CEO of ABC, said a 2015 law passed by the Legislature prevents local governments from enacting new prevailing wage ordinances. But the law allowed Lansing and about 30 to 40 other communities that already had one, to keep them.
“The court ruled they can have a prevailing wage, even if it’s a bad idea,” Fisher told the Free Press.
The ABC contractors also have been trying to repeal the state prevailing wage law — which requires payment of union-rate wages and benefits on state-funded or state-sponsored construction projects — through a petition drive they have backed. Their earlier efforts to have the law repealed by the Republican-controlled Legislature stalled after Gov. Rick Snyder said he would veto a bill to repeal the prevailing wage law.
Petitions asking the Legislature to repeal the law, which ABC says adds to the cost of public construction jobs, are to be turned in by June 1, Fisher said. If the Legislature failed to act on a valid petition drive, the question would go on the November 2016 ballot.
Protect Michigan Jobs, the group formed to fight the ballot drive to repeal the prevailing wage law, issued a statement Tuesday praising the court ruling.
“Prevailing wage policies help ensure Michigan has sufficient numbers of skilled construction workers by providing for training schools, fair pay that attracts good workers and benefits that keep them on the job,” said Bart Carrigan, cochair of Protect Michigan Jobs.
READ MORE: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/michigan/2016/05/17/city-prevailing-wage-laws-ruled-constitutional/84500186/
19 May / 2016
Supremes: Lansing Can Have A Prevailing Wage Ordinance
The Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) today ruled that the city of Lansing is allowed to enact a prevailing wage ordinance, overcoming a challenge brought by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC).
While ABC prevailed at the trial court level, a split state Court of Appeals (COA) disagreed, saying the old MSC decision that ABC relied on for its argument — Lennane v. Detroit — had been rendered “obsolete and inapplicable” (See “Appellate Court Upholds Lansing’s Prevailing Wage Law,” 5/28/14).
That decision, made in 1923 and based on the state’s 1908 constitution, said Detroit couldn’t enact a similar ordinance and related city charter provision.
The MSC opinion released today, written by Chief Justice Bob YOUNG and joined by five of his colleagues, affirmed the COA’s result, thus upholding Lansing’s ability to have a prevailing wage ordinance.
At the same time, the MSC opinion also struck down that Lennane case, as subsequent changes to the state’s constitution have undercut its viability.
“It is certainly incongruent with the state of our law as reflected in our current Constitution,” the MSC opinion stated, later adding, “Under our current Constitution, there is simply no room for doubt about the expanded scope of authority of Michigan’s cities and villages.”
However, the MSC noted Lennane wasn’t superseded by the 1963 constitution or the Legislature, and hadn’t been overruled by the MSC until now, and reminded the COA to follow decisions by the MSC except where those decisions have been clearly overruled or superseded.
So while the MSC agreed with the COA’s result, it vacated the decision.
Justice Brian ZAHRA wrote separately in concurrence with the MSC, saying he agreed that Lansing’s ordinance is a valid exercise of a specific grant of authority, and that Lennane should be overturned, and stressed that municipalities “may only act pursuant to express grants of power.”
ABC of Michigan spokesperson Chris FISHER said the MSC’s decision really only affects cities with existing prevailing wage ordinances, which he said makes up “only about 1 percent” of the communities in the state.
As for other cities, Fisher noted that a bill signed by Gov. Rick SNYDER last year took away the ability for cities to adopt prevailing wage ordinances that exceed state or federal requirements after Dec. 31, 2014 (See “Snyder Signs Off On Preempting New Local Wage, Sick-Leave Requirements,” 6/30/15).
Fisher noted that the MSC ruled that cities could enact ordinances regulating wages paid to third-party employees working on municipal construction contracts, but subject to the constitution and the law.
Lansing Mayor Virg BERNERO issued a statement today calling the MSC opinion a “landmark victory for working people not just in Lansing, but across Michigan.”
Protect Michigan Jobs, a union-backed coalition working to defend prevailing wage, also released a statement celebrating the ruling.
“Prevailing wage policies help ensure Michigan has sufficient numbers of skilled construction workers by providing for training schools, fair pay that attracts good workers, and benefits that keep them on the job,” said Bart CARRIGAN, co-chair of Protect Michigan Jobs. “We are pleased to see the highest court in the state agree with our position supporting prevailing wage policies at the local level.”
The case is No. 149622.
09 May / 2016
We are saddened by the news that member Keith Delano has passed….
October 13th, 1960 to May 6th, 2016
Keith Robert DeLano, 55, of Kimball, died unexpectedly Friday, May 6, 2016, as the result of a work related accident.
He was born October 13, 1960, in St. Clair.
Keith was a 1980 graduate of Marysville High School. He was employed as a roofer and sheet metal worker for many years, and also worked for his father, Gerald DeLano at G.E.D. Used Cars in Kimball Township.
He was a member of the Port Huron Fraternal Order of Eagles #3702, enjoyed golfing, bowling, traveling, camping and loved being with his family and friends.
He is survived by his three children, Eric M. DeLano, Brian K. DeLano (Stephanie Layle) and Missy J. DeLano; grandson, Alexander DeLano; his mother, Sharon L. DeLano; his three brothers, Jerry (Renee) DeLano, Greg (Brenda) DeLano, and Tim DeLano; his sister, Michelle (Kevin) Cates; his fiancé, Michele Rickert; and several nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins; and his puppy, Nakita. He was preceded in death by his father, Gerald E. DeLano and his grandmother, Theresa A. DeLano.
Funeral service will be held 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 11, 2016, in the Karrer-Simpson Funeral Home. The Reverend Max Amstutz will officiate.
Visitation will be 2-4 and 6-9 p.m. Tuesday in the funeral home.
Memorials may be made to the Justin L. Evans Memorial Fund (JLEMF)
06 May / 2016
When is $500 million worth nothing?
When you throw it away on a plan designed to fail, to prove an ideological point that has nothing to do with helping children.
Fifteen hours Michigan Republicans spent, pulling an all-nighter on Wednesday, to work out a plan to “save” Detroit Public Schools. The outcome? A package of bills that provides the framework necessary to execute Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed reforms — absent the cash required to make the plan work. It’s a set-up, one that allows state legislators to swear that they really tried to help DPS, while all but ensuring that the district will continue to fail.
Where to lay the blame for this legislative failure? Votes on the package broke down largely on party lines. And that means our gaze is focused sharply on Republican House Speaker Kevin Cotter, a leader under whose guidance of that chamber has produced little of value, and whose rhetoric grows more cloyingly sanctimonious by the day.
Snyder’s plan would create a new school district in Detroit, leaving DPS with its debt and operating millage; the new district would educate kids, using the funding the state allots to each district on a per-pupil basis. But that won’t resolve all of the district’s financial problems, so an influx of state cash — and remember, the vast majority of DPS’ debt was incurred during the district’s prolonged stint under state oversight — is required to ensure the new district can do its business.
In March, the state Senate passed a reform package aligned with Snyder’s plans, including $515 million to help pay down the district’s deficit and $200 million for transition costs, funds that would come from the state’s tobacco settlement.
The House’s plan allots DPS just $467 million to pay down its deficit — that’s not nearly enough to leave the district on firm financial footing.
The House legislation offers only the opportunity for a $33 million loan to handle transition costs – nowhere close to the $200 million the new district would require. Because of the way schools are funded, the new district won’t have cash on hand to launch. It needs operating funds until the first wave of state money comes in. Some DPS buildings need immediate repair. And there are costs associated with the work of forming the new district. Worse, saddling the new district with new debt means it won’t start with a clean balance sheet.
Provisions that would limit collective bargaining and lower standards for teacher certification in Detroit are almost as obnoxious. Notably absent from the House package is the Detroit Education Commission, a new body supported by Snyder, the Senate, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and a coalition of business, civic and labor leaders in Detroit that would serve coordinate the opening of most traditional public and charter schools and develop accountability standards for schools in Detroit.
Charter school advocates oppose the new commission, which they suggest offers a backdoor route to eliminating or severely restricting those schools. With 40,000 students enrolled in Detroit charter schools, we don’t think this is a likely scenario.
We’re also unsure why low-performing charters should continue to siphon sorely needed tax dollars — the premise of school choice being that choice is supposed to offer superior, not identical, outcomes.
We’ve yet to hear a rationale for lower teacher standards in Detroit that doesn’t involve rank condescension — Detroit kids, the theory seems to go, should take what they can get. Detroit kids, lawmakers say, need innovation to produce better outcomes, regardless of whether said innovation has been proved to work. Detroit kids, lawmakers would have you believe, are different — deserve less — than children in every other part of the state.
Because those same lawmakers are not ramming the ideology of choice through their home districts.
It’s ideological malice in the guise of noblesse oblige, and we’re hopeful that the Michigan Senate — under the more even-handed leadership of Republican Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof — will stick to its guns.
But we’re concerned.
The roads deal reached last year offered a template we hope Meekhof does not follow — the Senate passed a reasonable package of bills, the House passed a terrible deal, and the Senate caved.
That can’t happen again.
We’ve said this before, and we can’t say it enough: There are 46,000 children enrolled in Detroit Public Schools. Michigan cannot be a successful state if we allow them to become collateral damage.
They are counting on you.
18 Apr / 2016
Abramczyk, Joseph Andrew April 15, 2016 Age 79Beloved husband of Mary (nee Mayette). Loving father of James (Terri), Thomas, William (Carol), Robert (Christa), Joseph(Diane), Anne Marie (Xavier) Corpel, Barbara (J.D.) House and Katherine (Monte) Huber. Proud grandfather of 12. Joseph was an Army Veteran in the Cold-War Defense of Europe.Visitation Tues. 3-9 pm at Wujek-Calcaterra & Sons Inc. (Shelby Twp.) 54880 Van Dyke @ 25 Mile Rd. Rosary Tues. 7:00 pm. Instate Wed. 10:30 am until 11:00 am time of Mass at St. Kieran Church 53600 Mound (Bet. 24 & 25 Mile Rd.). Interment Resurrection Cemetery. Memorials to the American Red Cross appreciated. Share memories with the family at their “On-Line Guestbook” @ WujekCalcaterra.com
24 Mar / 2016
It is in our deepest sympathies to notify you that member Joe Olech has passed away. Details will follow soon…