Redistricting supporters worried bill would alter voter-approved plan

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

A lame duck bill addressing the selection process for the state’s newly adopted citizens redistricting commission has the initiative’s backers crying foul.

The proposal by Republican Sen. Phil Pavlov of St. Clair details rules and procedures for the selection of the commission, items already outlined in the Proposal 2’s language and, to some degree, left up to the discretion of incoming Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

State Sen. Phil Pavlov says shifting decisions about what’s best for our children from local schools to distant bureaucrats has failed miserably.

Another set of bills introduced by GOP Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake the same day clarify some rules surrounding items approved in Proposal 3, such as same day voter registration and no-reason absentee voting.

The bills arrived on the Senate floor amid furor over other GOP-introduced proposed changes to Proposal 1, which legalized recreational marijuana, and changes to petition-driven initiatives dealing with minimum wage and paid sick leave.

The GOP Senate majority maintains the bills addressing the redistricting commission and voters rights are “enabling legislation” that clarify new responsibilities for Benson, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 1.

But the ballot committee that spearheaded the ballot initiative, Voters Not Politicians, argued the bill would “interfere with the voice of Michigan voters” who supported the initiative in November.

“Given past activities by the legislature this week, we expect this bill may only be a shell and that lawmakers will use (it) to alter the fair, impartial and independent nature of the commission that was overwhelmingly approved by voters,” said Katie Fahey, executive director for Voters Not Politicians.

Pavlov was not available for comment.

The legislation implements statutory changes that allow the proposals to be “properly executed” according to the “intent that voters had when they passed them,” said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for GOP Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof of West Olive.

“It’s not to alter, because that would require us to have a super majority in both chambers,” McCann said.

The redistricting ballot initiative calls for a 13-member commission made up of four self-identified Republicans, four Democrats and five people not affiliated with any party.

The selection of the commissioners would fall to the secretary of state, who would solicit applications, process them and randomly select members. The House and Senate majority and minority leaders would have the option of vetoing up to five applicants each before the secretary of state makes the final random selections.

The constitutional amendment prohibits a wide swath of applicants from being selected, including individuals who in the past six years were candidates, elected officials, consultants to a political party, employees of the Legislature or registered lobbyists. It also bans close relatives of those individuals.

Pavlov’s bill calls for the secretary of state to promulgate rules regarding the application process for commissioners, including how applicants would attest to their political affiliation.

The bill identifies a person’s party affiliation based on whether they’ve done anything to further the purpose of a party, if they’re a member of the party, if they contributed to the party within six years or if they swear an oath attesting affiliation to a certain party or as an independent. The bill would fine people for lying about their political affiliation.

The bill also requires the secretary of state to make applications available online, in all secretary of state offices and through the mail to people selected from a pool of all registered Michigan voters.

The legislation would bar a politically affiliated person from providing services, including legal and accounting, to the commission.

The bill has been referred to the Senate government operations committee, which is chaired by Meekhof and meets on Tuesdays.


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