Michigan board nixes citizen veto initiatives, punts on property tax elimination measure ⋆

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers took up several agenda items on Monday, including petitions to immediately suspend extreme risk protection orders and legislation passed that moved the presidential primary from March to February. Another petition was taken up to create a constitutional amendment banning property taxes.

The board had a long day, having started taking up items at 10:30 a.m. and ending with certifying candidates for two special elections for empty seats in the Legislature in metro Detroit around 4:30 p.m.

The board heard from several individuals, including those for and against a referendum that would suspend the law that moves Michigan’s presidential primary election date to the fourth Tuesday in February up from the second Tuesday in March.

Whitmer signs bill bumping up presidential primary date

The 2024 presidential primary will be on Feb. 27, two weeks sooner than it would have been under the former rules.

Paul Urben of St. Clair County, who submitted the referendum of legislation, spoke to canvassers who admitted they are not certain about the processes of referendums that would require a number of petition signatures equal to at least 5% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. In this case, that would be just over 223,098 signatures. After gaining the signatures, the legislation mentioned in the referendum would be taken out of effect until the next general election during which a majority of voters would have to approve of it, much like a ballot proposal.

“A referendum hasn’t been tried in the state for a long time, but it’s also the citizen’s ability to hold our legislative body accountable for laws that we don’t approve of,” Urban said. “When this law was passed, there was a lot of discussion within our county GOP on how this was going to affect the delegates going to the national convention and so on and so forth.”

The other referendum, also brought by Urben, seeks the same halt on the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act that was signed into law in May and allows courts to issue temporary prohibitions on owning or possessing firearms for individuals who are shown to pose a threat to themselves or others.

Board of State Canvassers members questioned why the referendums were submitted so close to the primary date. They also raised concerns over some of the language in the filing not making it clear what legislative year was being referred to and a lack of language that would make it clear whether the vote would be to keep the laws or scrap them. 

The board rejected both referendums, but Urben was confident that Monday marks a learning experience for him and others who are organizing behind the referendums.

“We appreciate going through this process because for us, we’re learning, right? When we come back again, and you will see more referendum petitions that will come … it’s good and I’m really glad that you guys will get to look at them and we’ll go through the process,” Urban said.

Another item on the agenda that didn’t gain the approval of the board was on a proposed 100-word summary for a petition to create a constitutional amendment to prohibit property taxes in Michigan, require any increase in local taxes to be approved by two-thirds of voters and require the Legislature to get a two-thirds majority vote to increase taxes.

Karla Wagner of AxMITax, the group presenting the proposal, said as a real estate agent she’s seen how property taxes have destroyed many peoples’ hopes for home ownership or owning a small business. She said they can afford the mortgage, but not steadily increasing property taxes which pay for public goods in local communities such as public schools and libraries.

“We have young people that aren’t buying houses, we have elderly people that are losing their homes or being forced to sell. We have people moving out of the state,” Wagner said. “People are going to have to ask… ‘Do we pay the property tax bill, do we feed our kids or do we pay for the zoo? Or for the museum?’ Those are on our property taxes. People are losing their homes because of a book in the library and people are losing their homes over the monkey in the zoo and that has to stop.”

Although the board did not reject or approve the summary for the petition, AxMITax can still try to get enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot, but they’ll need a number of signatures of at least 10% of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, which is just over 446,000 signatures.

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authored by Anna Liz Nichols
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F11%2F28%2Fmichigan-board-nixes-citizen-veto-initiatives-punts-on-property-tax-elimination-measure%2F

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