Michigan ban fracking ballot initiative petition format approved
*New ballot language for the 2016 ballot
*Signature-gathering begins this May
Charlevoix, Michigan – The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a statewide ballot initiative campaign (www.letsbanfracking.org), received approval today from the Michigan Board of State Canvassers for a new ballot initiative petition. The vote was 3-0. The Committee will begin signature-gathering in late May 2015 for a six-month period.
After sufficient valid signatures are collected, the measure will appear on the November 2016 statewide ballot. The required number of valid signatures is 252,523. The Committee plans to collect at least 340,000 signatures to ensure placement on the 2016 ballot.
“Michigan voters understand that fracking and frack wastes are causing serious harm to people’s health and to the air, water, land, property and businesses in every state that is fracking or taking in toxic frack wastes. Everyone who wants to see this get on the ballot should step up now by contributing to or volunteering for the Committee to Ban Fracking campaign at www.letsbanfracking.org. Lend support all the way to a ‘yes’ vote in 2016,” said LuAnne Kozma, campaign director for the grassroots group.
The Committee improved the language of the proposal for 2016. The proposal amends the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act of 1994, in “part 615,” which controls oil and gas drilling. “In addition to a better definition of frack wastes, we made a better connection to Michigan’s constitutional language of protecting air, water and other natural resources from ‘pollution, impairment and destruction.’ We remove the state’s mandate of fostering the oil and gas industry ‘along the most favorable conditions’ and maximizing oil and gas production, and replace it with protecting human health and the environment. We also include a prohibition of acidizing in horizontal wellbores in addition to horizontal hydraulic fracturing. The two processes have similar chemicals, waste streams, and harms to human health, water, land, air, and climate,” said Kozma.
The new ballot language can be found at the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s website www.letsbanfracking.org and also on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce's legal counsel appeared before the board to oppose approval of the petition for a variety of issues mainly relating to the ballot language itself, over which the Board of Canvassers has no authority. "It was frivolous," said Kozma. The Committee's petition had been reviewed by the Secretary of State's legal staff as meeting all statutory requirements as to form.
Media alert 1: The Board of State Canvassers approves petitions only “as to form.” It does not review, approve, or have any control over the ballot language itself. The form of the petition refers to required boilerplate language and format of various parts of the signature and circulator sections of the petition.For more information about the legal requirements of the petition, please see the Michigan Secretary of State’s memo: “Sponsoring a Statewide Initiative or Referendum Petition”: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Ini_Ref_Pet_Website_339487_7.pdf
Media alert 2: Initiatives and referenda are not the same. Legislative initiatives are proposals to create new statutes or amend existing statutes (or a combination), or those that amend the state constitution. Each type of initiative has a different signature requirement. Legislative initiatives go first to the State Legislature for an up or down vote with no changes; if the Legislature fails to act or votes no within 40 session days, the initiative goes to a statewide vote of the people. This is not a “loophole” as has often been reported. It is the only, and required, path to the ballot for a legislative initiative.
A referendum occurs when a new law is passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor, and is immediately challenged by a ballot question committee using a similar petition process. Referenda erase (or uphold) a law and do not replace it with any new language.
Media alert 3: An initiated law cannot be easily “undone.” The governor cannot veto it. The entire ballot language becomes the new law of the state, extinguishing and replacing any language to the contrary. It is forever protected from amending except by ¾ supermajority votes in both House and Senate.
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