Proposed law could change controversial millage law

LANSING, MI (WLNS) – Some bills are being introduced at the state Capitol that would change a controversial law about millage votes that the governor signed earlier this month.

Public Act 269 restricts municipalities and school districts from using public money to send out information 60 days before a vote.

But State Senator Dale Zorn (R) says that the law hinders local government entities.

“They need to have the tools to communicate to the public, uh, what their needs are and why they’re having, uh, an election,” Zorn said. “And I don’t want to see them lose that ability to be able to get that message out.”

And Zorn’s message is picking up steam. He submitted legislation on Wednesday to repeal the law – something a coalition of civic and education leaders are supporting.

Steve Currie of the Michigan Association of Counties says, “…the existing laws were working fine; this obviously rushed and vaguely worded law actually works against government transparency; and there is no apparent reason to impose these restrictions.”

Other public bodies supporting Zorn include the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Association of School Administrators.

Representative Lisa Lyons (R) introduced a bill this week to the House which clarifies the law, instead of repealing it.

Lyons says that her bill, “…expressly allows the election date and ballot language to be included in publicly funded mass communication. Let’s make no mistake that local officials are indeed able to do their public duty… but they will not be permitted to cross the line from informing citizens into influencing voters….”

But political counselor Steve Mitchell says clarifying the law won’t get it more support.

“If the Senate and the House agree to make changes in it, they’ll iron out the differences,” Mitchell said. “But at this point, Senator Zorn’s is more acceptable to the libraries and to the school districts than, uh, Representative Lyons’.”

And with March and April elections just around the corner, the bills have to move fast if any changes are to be made.

Both Zorn and Lyons expect to continue meetings with various committees on their proposals next week.

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