Bieda: Bills would leave voters in dark
Lawmakers in Lansing recently worked late into the night to pass a series of controversial bills, one of which grew from 12 to 53 pages in the span of an hour. Republicans barred Democrats’ staff from the Senate floor to make it harder for us to review the amended legislation, and immediately forced a vote. It’s ironic that they eliminated straight-ticket voting on the pretext of helping voters make educated decisions, and yet failed to allow educated voting in their own chambers.
Before the Republican Majority stuffed Senate Bill 571 with 40 pages of provisions that open a portal to dark money, it was a noncontroversial bill that reduced paperwork for political action committees’ (PACs) contributions — without letting up on disclosure requirements.
Now? The governor is sitting on a piece of legislation that tightens the chokehold that anonymous third-party donors have on elections in this state, and threatens the solvency of schools and local governments.
This hits closer to home than you might realize. You’ve probably voted for, or against, a millage in your community. Maybe it was a small tax to build a new high school gymnasium or to provide additional health care screenings for low-income residents. In fact, most schools and local governments rely on those sorts of local ballot questions to fund needed improvements or provide basic services.
The amended version of SB 571 would prohibit schools, local governments and other public entities from using taxpayer dollars to educate you about those proposed millages. Proponents say they’re afraid that public entities will use public dollars to mislead the voting public. In reality, there have been few, if any, abuses. It would be far more responsible to combat misuses of funds on an individual basis rather than take away all educational opportunities.
Republicans are willing to let corporate Super PACs run rampant through our state, but are afraid of letting public entities explain how tax dollars could be used to improve your community.
SB 571 also would make it harder for unions to collect political action monies through payroll deductions. In a fitting double standard, Republicans are comfortable with anonymous donors and big corporations, but not with organized labor.
The bottom line is when lawmakers vote to confuse the elections process, make it harder for you to get the information you need, and give corporations and Super PACs a louder voice than yours, there’s a serious problem.
Sen. Steve Bieda is a Democrat who represents Michigan’s 9th District.