Michigan initiatives miss deadline, will look to Legislature

·3-min read

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Organizers behind two high-profile proposed laws in Michigan skipped a deadline to potentially appear on November’s ballot and will instead look to get the initiatives approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Of the 10 ballot committees attempting to change state law, Michiganders for Fair Lending’s proposal to cap payday loan rates was the lone group to submit signatures by June 1. The petition’s signatures will be reviewed by the Bureau of Elections before the Board of Canvassers, a four-member panel, decides whether to certify them. If certified, the proposed law would first be sent to the Legislature before the possibility of it appearing on the November ballot.

Let MI Kids Learn, an initiative backed by former U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, failed to file by the deadline, although organizers say the petition exceeded the required number of signatures. The initiative would give tax breaks for donations to a private education fund that parents and students could use to pay for private school tuition and other education expenses.

Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for Let MI Kids Learn, said the group opted not to file because the number of signatures required “assumes all are valid but they are never all valid.” Instead, Wszolek said the group will continue collecting signatures in an attempt to build a cushion before submitting.

Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki said she believes the group has the signatures needed but never intended for the issue to be brought to voters.

“School voucher schemes have failed on the ballot twice. So instead the Legislature will just adopt it during the 40-day window,” Polehanki said in an interview with AP. “They know it isn’t the people’s will.”

Under Michigan law, citizen-led legislative petitions that receive enough signatures are sent directly to the Legislature. It then has 40 days from the time it receives the petition to either enact, reject or ignore the proposal.

If not enacted, the initiative goes before voters as a ballot proposal during the next general election. If the Legislature votes to enact the proposal it becomes law and the governor doesn't have the power to veto.

“The people of Michigan with their signatures can replace the governor (taking action). It’s in the constitution. It’s not a loophole in state law, it’s bold lettered in the constitution,” Wszolek said in response to the criticism.

The group Secure MI Vote, which aims to impose stricter voter ID requirements and restrict absentee voting, also chose not to file by June 1 after spokesman Jamie Roe said the group discovered over 20,000 fraudulent signatures on their petitions. Roe said the petition received 435,000 signatures in total — 95,000 more than required.

“We want to make certain that we have enough. And we believe the initiative will pass the Legislature and not even make it on the ballot so the June deadline was artificial to us,” Roe said.

Voting restrictions similar to what Secure MI Vote proposes were passed last year before Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed them.

Wszolek and Roe each said their groups hope to file signatures to the secretary of state's office as soon as possible and have the proposed laws brought to the Legislature before the end of the year.

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Joey Cappelletti is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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