By Jennifer Page on March 10, 2011

In an extreme move to take away power of local governments, the Michigan Senate voted yesterday to allow the appointment of so-called emergency financial managers to take control of cities and school districts that the newly elected Republican governor in the state unilaterally declares to be "financial emergencies."

The new bill was passed 26-12 by the Republican-controlled Senate in Lansing and allows newly-appointed financial managers a broad range of powers over local governments. Newly elected Republican Governor Rick Snyder's new budget bill slashes aid to local governments and many towns are expected to fall into the financial emergency zone as a result. Governor Snyder will then appoint financial managers to oversee these towns.

Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer spoke on behalf of the Senate's democrats, calling the bill an "unfair and unjust power grab."

"This bill represents bigger government, more bureaucrats (and) less accountability and less transparency," said Whitmer.

Much of the attention in wire stories and state media outlets has focused on the potential loss of union bargaining rights and this related extreme measure by Snyder has flown under the radar screen. The union-busting efforts are only one part of the potential privatization of local governments in Michigan.

Mirroring the intense debates started in Wisconsin, hundreds of union members protested before the vote, fearing a Wisconsin and Ohio-type crack-down on union bargaining rights and the implementation of the "Right to Work" initiative, which would limit labor agreements. It was unclear though how much the union protesters knew of the Governor's bid to take away local governments' powers and accountability as well.

The authorized financial managers will be given a slew of all-encompassing powers that The Nation's Naomi Klein, speaking on the Rachel Maddow show, says are an effort to privatize (corporatize) public governance.

"The first stage is to consolidate power, but that's not the end goal. That [the end goal] is to auction off the state."

The bill was passed first in Michigan's Congress and will now await some changes in wording before being sent to Snyder's desk for his signature. After the bill is put in effect, the financial managers will be allowed to "reject, modify or terminate the terms of an existing contract...or a collective bargaining agreement."

They will also be able to "suspend or dismiss local officials, "disincorporate of dissolve entire city governments" and "recommend...that a school district be reorganized with one or more contiguous districts."

As with Wisconsin, Ohio, and 14 other states that are fighting similar battles to stave off the destruction of local government starting with the dissolution of union rights, the workers who protested in Lansing are aware of the consequences of such action.

Some supporters claim union restrictions will allow non-union workers to compete in some industries, but critics of the bill are worried that some politicians are going too far by giving unchecked powers to a corporation or person chosen by the governor.

According to Naomi Klein, the unions are the backbone of the modern democratic process.

"Unions are the ones that fight the privatization of the school systems and water and energy systems. And there is a lot of money to be made in these croonie deals that can be rammed through when you have all that power consolidated in the Governor's office."

Comments

Speaking for truth so that we work with all the facts as anyone of us can bring to the table, let me bring these facts to the table.

1) All government and taxing authorities in the state exist from the power of laws as passed by the state legislature and signed by the Governor, or through ballot initiatives or referendums. The State Constitution gives these powers to the Legislature, Governor and the People. These are incontrovertible facts of how lower governing entities come into existence and maintain their existence within our state.

2) The State Constitution confers power of removal upon the Governor of any elected or appointed official, except legislative (city councils?) or judicial, for gross neglect, etc. See Article V, Section 10.

3) Home rule cities may levy taxes. Revenue sharing was instituted in exchange for not taxing; but as I understand it, home rule cities can levy taxes. I raise this last point because if cities take a hit from revenue sharing, then they may be in a position to levy a tax or raise a current tax or some other set of budget and fiscal changes.

I'm personally most concerned about the conditions upon which a financial review may be initiated. The wording in the bills will no doubt be used for political purposes and not financial – by any party in power.

Michigan residents most certainly can initiate a referendum on this legislation when it passes, or they can pursue a constitutional initiative to disallow or curtail this type of legislative and executive branch power.

SpaceDog, it's real simple and I know that there are those who wish things are as you described, but, in fact, the government gets it's power to do anything from the consent of the governed. "We the people" is the supreme authority in Michigan, as in any government.

The GOP can keep pushing, grabbing and looting, but the people are beginning to awake, and shame on the GOP when they do. I'm truly hoping things will not be bloody, but that depends on how thick-headed the GOP is.

After 235 years of government being tweaked into what we've had, now the GOP is recreating "governor" into "king" (or !tyrant!). Will the citizenry stand for it? I'd bet not, for they will no longer have any illusion they have anything to lose. The GOP will not even have the Tea Party followers when this round of looting is over.

This reminds me of the freezing snake story in which the snake begs to be saved, then bites it's rescuer and justifies the action by saying"you knew what I was when you picked me up". The Republican party promises that everything will get better, and it turns out that things WILL be better for Big Business, and the wealthy and ONCE AGAIN---- screwed the "lower classes".

I will pray everyday that Gov. Snyder develops testicular cancer and dies a slow horrible death.

While I'm not much of a fan of this guy either, you're telling all of us that you stayed awake until 3:48 in the morning, and that was the best you could come up with??

When Rick Snyder finally has his AUCTION date in place, Which big ass OIL COMPANY will be bidding for the great lakes?? I've noticed that this bill has NOT been publicized in any major media in Michigan. These guys are a bunch of criminals! we need the federal government here rounding them up and throwing them in prison where they belong!

Bill Moyers presents "United States of ALEC," a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of -- ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.