Michigan Passes Bill To Impose "Financial Martial Law"

March 11, 2011 4:03 pm ET — Kate Conway

Under new laws currently headed for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's (R) desk, state-appointed emergency financial managers (EFMs) will be able to dismantle local control over cities and school districts by ousting locally elected leaders, nullifying union contracts, and laying off employees, all without input from the public.

Though Gov. Rick Snyder says he is not interested in hurting unions, yesterday's Senate approval of a package that gives Emergency Managers complete power over financially troubled towns and school districts means he will soon be asked to sign off on measures that are expected to eliminate union jobs across the state.

In a party line vote, and despite impassioned speeches of protest by the body's Democratic minority, the Michigan Senate approved legislation that threatens to take over and even dissolve local governments that refuse to balance their budgets by breaking labor contracts.

According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare "financial emergency" in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officals, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.

EFMs are sent in to clean up school districts and municipalities that are failing financially. Currently, only a handful of places are under the direction of an EFM, but the Associated Press reports that the expanded law could apply to "many more communities and schools."

According to Michigan's Daily Tribune, Michigan state Sen. Jack Brandenburg (R) — who voted in favor of the bills — likened them approvingly to "financial martial law" before revealing his disdain for local autonomy. "Local control?" he said. "I'll tell you what, I think that in a lot of these places there is no control."

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