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Sunday, 24 December 2017 15:20

Marijuana, redistricting and prevailing wage: Ballot initiatives underway for 2018

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Marijuana, redistricting and prevailing wage: Ballot initiatives underway for 2018 Courtesy Photo

At least nine campaigns are in various stages of development to put questions before Michigan voters in 2018. 

The initiatives are setting up what could be major policy changes on issues like legalizing recreational marijuana, repealing the state’s prevailing wage law and establishing an independent redistricting committee.

The Secretary of State’s Office lists nine active initiatives or constitutional amendments, although none have been formally cleared to appear on ballots. 

As part of the process, the state Board of Canvassers must approve petition language. The campaign then has 180 days to gather about 252,000 qualified signatures to get on the ballot. If the Board of Canvassers verifies the signatures, the Legislature then has 40 days to enact or reject the proposed law, or to “propose a different measure on the same question.” If the Legislature does nothing, the proposal goes before the voters.

According to the Secretary of State, the following proposals were filed as of Dec. 7:

  • The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol is the primary effort to legalize, tax and regulate recreational marijuana for those age 21 and older and control its commercial production and distribution. On Nov. 20, the campaign submitted 360,000 signatures, well beyond the 252,000 necessary to get on the ballot, to be verified by the state Bureau of Elections. The regulatory structure is modeled after rules that took effect in 2017 for medical marijuana. The proposal has backing from major national and statewide groups, including the Marijuana Policy Project and the ACLU of Michigan.
  • Protecting Michigan Taxpayers would repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law of 1965 for state-financed construction projects. Similar initiatives and efforts in the Legislature to repeal prevailing wage have failed in recent years, although the campaign submitted more than 380,000 signatures in early November and could be verified by January. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have a position on the initiative, but hopes lawmakers will take up the issue on their own to repeal the law. If so, the plan could avoid a veto from Gov. Rick Snyder, who supports keeping the current law.
  • Voters Not Politicians is a proposed constitutional amendment to create the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, which would have the authority to redraw congressional, state Senate and state House districts in a way that doesn’t benefit one political party over the other. New boundaries would be drawn up every 10 years by four Democrats, four Republicans and five members randomly selected by the Secretary of State. The group said it submitted more than 315,000 signatures to the Bureau of Elections on Dec. 18.
  • Michigan One Fair Wage seeks to gradually increase the state’s hourly minimum wage from $10 in 2019 to $12 in 2022 for regular minimum wage earners and by 2024 for tipped workers. As of mid December, the campaign said in a statement that it’s still collecting signatures and hopes to have the necessary number by spring 2018.
  • MI Time to Care is a campaign to allow workers the right to earn sick time for “personal or family health needs, as well as purposes related to domestic violence and sexual assault and school meetings needed as the result of a child’s disability, health or issues due to domestic violence and sexual assault,” according to petition language. The proposals are backed by progressive groups in Michigan who failed to get the issue to voters in 2016. The proposals face opposition from many state business groups. Petition language for the proposals was approved in August.
  • Clean Michigan seeks a constitutional amendment to create a part-time Legislature, a plan supported by gubernatorial candidate and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. The idea has faced opposition from business groups. Additionally, in December The Detroit News issued a scathing editorial railing against the plan after the committee distributed petitions in the mail asking residents to collect signatures.
  • Abrogate Prohibition Michigan is a proposed constitutional amendment that would legalize marijuana for “agricultural, personal, recreational, commercial or other purposes” but, unlike the other marijuana proposal, does not include a 21-year-old age restriction. As of late November, the campaign was in the early stages of collecting signatures.
  • Protect Michigan Jobs is the most recent petition filed with the Secretary of State, in late November. The initiative would create the Construction Workers Fair Wage Act, requiring prevailing wage and fringe benefits on state projects. Organizers have called it a counter-petition to the effort of repealing the state’s prevailing wage law, which could be taken up by the Legislature in early 2018.
  • Keep Our Lakes Great would enact the “Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Regulation Act” to terminate a 1953 easement allowing for an oil and gas pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. The proposal looks to shut down Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline. While the state Board of Canvassers approved petition language in April 2017, the campaign announced in early November that it was drafting a revised proposal for the spring.
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