Protests In Michigan Over ‘Financial Martial Law’

March 16, 2011 9:04 a.m.

Following the pitched political battles over public employee union rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere, another state’s fight over finances is heating up. In Michigan, new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has just passed a bill through the legislature to allow state-appointed financial managers to void municipalities’ union contracts.

As the Macomb Daily Tribune reports, the bill has been described by Republican state Sen. Jack Brandenburg, a supporter, as “financial martial law” for localities where finances have gone out of control: “He [an emergency financial manager] has to have the backbone, he has to have the power, to null and void a contract.”

Protests in opposition to the measure still don’t seem to have reached Madison levels — that is, the tens of thousands who turned out in Wisconsin — but there certainly remains the potential that some of Snyder’s tougher measures could trigger a backlash.As Reuters reports on the content of the bill:

The Michigan bill allows a governor-appointed emergency manager to modify or end collective bargaining agreements. With the governor’s approval, the emergency manager also could dissolve a city government or recommend consolidation.

The bill expands the powers for the state to name emergency overseers and gives them powers over academics and finances in the case of school districts. The emergency manager also could close schools and buildings.

In addition, protests have landed at the state Capitol over another component of Snyder’s financial proposals: To tax retirees’ pensions, which have until now been exempted from the state’s 4.35% income tax. On Tuesday, more than 1,000 seniors and activists turned out for a demonstration at the state Capitol.

Here is a video of the seniors protest, posted on Michael Moore’s YouTube account, featuring state Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D).

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