HB-4214 – the “local government and school district fiscal accountability act” – passed the Senate yesterday. This is such a strange & sweeping bill that vests power in the executive branch to exercise extra-ordinary powers of finance, administration and even the very existence of municipalities and schools that we’re still trying to come to grips with the implications. You can read stories from the right (Detroit News or any suggestions?) and left (Michigan Messenger or AFL-CIO). The Messenger version says (in part):
According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare â€œfinancial emergencyâ€ in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.
Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.
An amendment to require Emergency Managers to hold monthly public meetings to let people know how they are governing was rejected by Senate Republicans, along with proposals to cap Emergency Manager compensation and require that those appointed to run school districts have some background in education.
Hrum. Thoughts? If you’re thinking that the above paragraph is hyperbole, I urge you to click to read the text of the bill. Page 34 for example. The fact that the proposed 2011 budget includes big cuts for already struggling school districts and municipalities pretty much guarantees that the Emergency Managers will see action.
FYI, Michigan law already allows for Emergency Managers, but their authority is nowhere near what it will be when these bills become law.