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Lansing — A conservative committee seeking to make Michigan’s Legislature a part-time body is calling it quits for this year after failing to meet petition signature requirements to qualify for the fall ballot, a key organizer said.

Norm Kammeraad said Wednesday the group does not intend to file signatures with the Michigan Bureau of Elections but will instead keep names on file to contact supporters again for another potential petition drive in 2019 or 2020.

The committee collected roughly 325,000 signatures — more than the 315,654 required — but could not use 40,000 of them that were collected outside a 180-day window required by state law, Kammeraad told The Detroit News.

“We had enough signatures on this where there’s no doubt in my mind it would definitely have passed” if it had made the ballot, he said.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley launched the petition drive in May 2017 but stepped down from the committee on Nov. 10 as he prepared to launch his campaign for governor, which the Portland Republican made official Nov. 28.

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The effort struggled out of the gate. In early July, Calley announced the committee was revising its petition language, a move that required it to scrap thousands of signatures that had been collected and begin anew.

Kammeraad suggested the group had difficulty finding a signature gathering company that would work with it because of “threats” by political action committees that opposed the effort. Mailing petitions directly to potential supporters, which the group began in December, proved more effective, he said.

State disclosure reports show the “Clean Michigan” committee had raised more than $1.3 million through Feb. 10. The nonprofit Fund for Michigan Jobs, which has ties to Calley but does not disclose donors, contributed $1.05 million.

While he is no longer running the committee, Calley has faced criticism over the petition drive. GOP strategist Stu Sandler, who leads a super political action committee supporting Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette for governor, said the effort “started as a clown car and ends as clown car.”

“I support the concept of a part-time Legislature, but this was just done so sloppily and for such purely political reasons that it was endangered from the start,” Sandler said. “All (Calley) did was waste a lot of people’s time, energy and momentum on it.”

But Kammeraad defended Calley and credited him with spearheading the petition drive fundraising.

“He really put in a heck of an effort on this, which is why I support him so much,” Kammeraad said. “If anybody actually puts his money where his mouth is, it’s Brian.”

Calley’s gubernatorial campaign declined comment on the end of the petition drive, saying the lieutenant governor defers to the “decisions of the volunteer conservative leaders who are running the effort.”

“He continues to support Michigan switching to a part-time Legislature and is hopeful that it will pass in the future to give taxpayers a better Legislature at a lower cost,” said Calley spokesman Mike Schrimpf.

State Board of Education member Tom McMillin, who took over as chairman of the committee in November, confirmed by email that organizers are no longer collecting signatures and do not have enough to turn in.

“We're databasing everything and will be ready for another push in the future,” McMillin said, suggesting Calley brought “much needed attention to this issue.”

Kammeraad, who helped lead a 2014 part-time Legislature petition drive that also fell short of signature requirements, was part of a revamped 2018 committee that included former Republican National Committee member Dave Agema, along with GOP strategists Dave Dishaw and CJ Galdes.

joosting@detroitnews.com

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