FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2016
Contact: LuAnne Kozma, Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan
(231) 944-8750 luanne AT letsbanfracking DOT org
Michigan ban fracking ballot initiative proponents continue campaign, say bill that would restrict signature collecting to 180 days is unconstitutional
Charlevoix, Michigan – The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a statewide ballot initiative (www.letsbanfracking.org), continues the signature-gathering campaign to get a ban on fracking on the ballot, despite late-in-the-game passage of Senate Bill 776 by the Michigan House, which would restrict signature gathering for both statutory and constitutional amendment ballot initiatives to an absolute180 days. If Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signs the bill into law, the Committee vows a court fight.
Since January, the Committee’s attorney and campaign director have provided evidence in testimony to the Board of State Canvassers, the Bureau of Elections and the House Election Committee, proving that the current law (MCL 168.472a), and the change to it proposed in SB 776, is unconstitutional as it applies to statutory initiatives. The proposed law also cannot be applied retroactively to an ongoing campaign.
Senate Bill 776 passed the Senate earlier this year and on May 18, it passed the House.
“Michigan has both a fracking problem and a democracy problem,” said campaign director LuAnne Kozma. “The Legislature’s attack on our campaign and on the state constitution, aided by our opponents in the oil and gas industry, will not stand. The people’s constitutional right to initiate a statute must be followed by the Bureau of Elections, which must adhere to the Supreme Court decisions on this constitutional point. The Bureau should not continue to ignore these important decisions, nor misapply the 1986 Consumers Power decision, and ignore an attorney general opinion as to the constitutionality of MCL 168.472a as it has, erroneously, these last 30 years.”
“If the bill is signed into law by Governor Snyder,” Kozma said, “the Committee to Ban Fracking will litigate.”
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 1971 in Wolverine Golf Club that the right of the people to initiate laws (statutes) as provided in Article 2 Section 9 of the Michigan Constitution is “self-executing” and the Legislature may not act to impose additional obligations to a self-executing constitutional provision. Attorney General opinions in 1974 and 1979 relied on this, saying the length of time to collect signatures for statutory initiative is four years, the time period in between two elections for governor. From 1976 through 1986, that was the way initiatives were done in Michigan.
In 1986, the energy industry sued to stop a constitutional amendment ballot initiative. The Supreme Court ruled in Consumers Power that the 180-day statute was constitutional, “but only as it applied to constitutional amendment initiatives under Article 12, Section 2, not statutory initiatives such as the Committee to Ban Fracking’s under Article 2, Section 9,” said Ellis Boal, the Committee’s counsel. Also in 1986, the Board of State Canvassers imposed an onerous policy not found in state statute. The policy required ballot initiative proponents to prove voters were valid twice, at the time of signing the petition and during a later period. Thereafter, the Bureau of Elections inexplicably applied the Consumers Power decision to statutory initiative, even though the parties in the case argued in the courts that Article 12 Section 2, and Article 2 Section 9 are different.
“That should never have happened. Consumers Power was only about constitutional amendment initiatives,” said Kozma. “The state has gone rogue on this issue for a long, long time.”
The Committee to Ban Fracking started collecting signatures in May 2015 under the belief (shared by all recent ballot statutory initiative campaigns) it effectively had only 180 days to collect signatures. In the fall, the Committee came to realize that the presumption against old signatures in the current law could be rebutted using the Qualified Voter File established in the 1998. The campaign resumed collecting signatures to put the proposal on the November 2016 ballot. Meanwhile, the Committee unearthed the constitutional and court history of the statute.
“No court has ruled against statutory initiatives,” added Boal. “Now that the Legislature amended 168.472a to impose an even more severe time restriction, it is still the same problem. It is time restrictions that were the basis of the AG opinions and Wolverine Golf Club.”
Boal explained that Wolverine Golf Club found that, “Article 2 Section 9 of the constitution is not to be ‘meddled with’ by the Legislature. The Court held ‘It is settled law that the legislature may not act to impose additional obligations on a self-executing constitutional provision.’”
Kozma added, “Many volunteers in our campaign as well as the voters who sign our petition are extremely weary of attempts that thwart, derail and deny democracy. More poisoned water from fracking and more costs to the state fighting its own people in court, is not what Michiganders want. The industry knows the tide is turning against them so they are resorting to this.”
A nationwide Gallup poll in March found that 51% of adult Americans now oppose fracking as to 36% who support it.
The Committee’s testimony is available on the Committee’s website, www.letsbanfracking.org.
To volunteer with the Committee, register on the campaign’s website (www.LetsBanFracking.org). The ballot language can be found at the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s website and also on the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.
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