Ever since it passage, local government elected officials along with lobbyists for tax and spend interests groups have railed against SB 571. Recall that, within 60 days on an election, SB 571 prevents local governments from using taxpayer funds to promote tax increases.
If local government officials want to advocate for a tax increase they should use their own funds to do so. They shouldn’t be able to dip into your wallet to work against your interests as a taxpayer.
The tax and spend community has been pressuring the Legislature to repeal SB 571, thus allowing them to continue their past practice of advocating for tax increases using your tax dollars. The T and S folks have complained that the new law is too confusing and should be repealed altogether. Fortunately the Legislature seems to be holding firm and resisting this pressure.
However, the Legislature is considering a new bill, HB 5219, which would add further clarification as to what is a permissible expenditure under the new law. The Gadsden Center has reviewed an analysis of HB 5219 completed by the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency on January 20, 2016. Based on this review our conclusion is HB 5219, as written and posted on internet on January 20, 2016, provides additional clarification without repealing the taxpayer friendly provisions of SB 571.
Below is the summary of HB 5219 as provided by the House Fiscal Agency (HFA). HFA is a non-partisan agency of the Michigan House of Representatives which is responsible for providing concise summaries and analyses of bills.
House Bill 5219 would amend the Michigan Campaign Finance Act by clarifying that the act does not prohibit all communication about ballot questions by public bodies. Specifically, the bill provides that any limit on communication does not cover certain allowable activity already included in the law, as described below, and also that the term "communication" does not include:
- The language of a local ballot question,
- The date of an election, or
- A discussion of a local ballot question during a meeting of a public body, including a meeting that is broadcast using a public access medium, provided that both proponents and opponents of the local ballot question have an equal opportunity to discuss the local ballot question.
Other allowable activity cited in the bill that is already protected by the Campaign Finance Act includes:
- The production or dissemination of debates, interviews, commentary, meetings of a public body, or information by a broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical or publication in the regular course of broadcasting or publication.
- The use of a public facility owned or leased by, or on behalf of, a public body if any candidate or committee has an equal opportunity to use the facility.
- The use of a public facility owned or leased by, or on behalf of, a public body if that facility is primarily used as a family dwelling and is not used to conduct a fund-raising event.
- An elected or appointed public official or an employee of a public body who, when not acting for a public body but is on personal time, is expressing personal views, expending personal funds, or providing personal volunteer services.
MCL 169. 257
Note: The House Elections Committee was scheduled to discuss HB 5219 on January 20, 2016. The Gadsden Center will report any changes to this bill by amending this article and reposting it on our website.