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Published: Wednesday, 11/7/2012

Michigan voters turn down constitutional amendments

BY JACK LESSENBERRY
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE

DETROIT -- Michigan voters turned thumbs down on five proposed state constitutional amendments Tuesday, rejecting in the process Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel J. “Matty” Moroun’s expensive effort to prevent a new Detroit River crossing.

With nearly half the vote counted, Proposal 6, which would have prevented any new bridge or tunnel from being built without a statewide referendum, was behind nearly two to one.

The defeat was noteworthy because Mr. Moroun, a billionaire, spent more than $33 million of his private fortune to pay to collect signatures to put the proposal on the ballot, and then financed incessant TV commercials aimed at persuading voters that a new bridge would cost them money, something Gov. Rick Snyder denied.

The governor and the government of Canada announced plans last June to build a second bridge, called the New International Trade Crossing, two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, which was built in 1929 and which some fear is wearing out. Canada has pledged to cover all of cash-strapped Michigan’s costs, which would be repaid later out of the state’s share of any toll revenue.

Four other ballot proposals met a similar fate. Proposal 2, which would have guaranteed collective bargaining rights for workers in both the public and private sectors, was losing 3-2, despite heavy spending by the state’s labor unions, who fear an attempt by the legislature to pass right to work legislation.

Sara Wallenfang, a spokesperson for Protect Our Families, a union coalition supporting the amendment, said “Corporate special interests spent $32 million lying to voters to confuse them.

“Working people will continue the fight to ensure a voice for fair wages, benefits and safe working conditions.”

Proposal 3, which would have mandated that state utilities produce 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2025, was losing almost two to one. Proposal 4, which would have required the state help home health care workers unionize and require caregivers to join the union, was losing badly as well.

The most controversial of all the possible amendments, Proposal 5, would have prevented the legislature from ever raising taxes or changing tax rates by less than a two-thirds majority.

Leaders of both parties lobbied hardest against this proposal, which was also heavily funded by Mr. Moroun, who evidently thought it would also help keep any new bridge from being built. But Proposal 5 was rejected by the largest margin of all about 70 percent.

Michigan voters also were ask to approve or reject a law passed by the legislature last year, which enabled the governor to appoint all-powerful emergency managers to run cities or school districts that were failing to meet their financial obligations.

The state‘s unions also opposed this referendum, since under this bill the emergency managers have the right to break union contracts if necessary. But with half the ballots counted, 55 percent of voters seem to be approving keeping the emergency manager law.

Bill Ballenger, the longtime publisher of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics, observed last week that when voters are faced with multiple ballot proposals, they often vote no on all of them.

 



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