Editor’s Note: Repealing ‘gag order’ is best option

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

The “gag order” saga continues, and the best way to put the matter to rest is for state lawmakers to admit they screwed up and start over. In December, the Legislature passed a campaign finance bill with a last-minute amendment that has caused lawmakers grief. It’s caused grief for local governments and school districts, too.

Senate Bill 571, which Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law last month, includes a section that prohibits governments and schools from communicating with the public about proposed tax increases 60 days before an election.

The GOP lawmakers who advocated the change thought this would be a win for citizens, as it would prevent the government from using taxpayer dollars to encourage approval of tax hikes.

But it’s already illegal for government officials to use tax dollars to solicit support for or against a proposal. A lawsuit against the state was filed two weeks ago by local government and school officials, claiming the new law infringes on their constitutional rights by limiting the factual information they can give residents.

A judge last week issued a preliminary injunction on the provision.

Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, has introduced a new bill to offer a compromise (she also wrote the section that sparked the lawsuit). It would remove the 60-day limit and clarify that “factual and strictly neutral information be used in mailers and advertising paid for by public resources,” according to Lyons.

The backers of the lawsuit, including the Michigan Municipal League, think this bill still doesn’t go far enough and that a full repeal is in order. At this point, the Legislature should do just that.