Six contentious ballot proposals are before Michigan voters on Nov. 6, including several well-funded measures backed by special interest groups and five that would require amending the Michigan Constitution. Here's a breakdown of each:
This labor union-backed referendum asks voters whether to preserve a state law passed last year by the Republican-led Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Rick Snyder that allows the governor to appoint so-called emergency managers to run broke cities and school districts. The emergency managers have sweeping authority to cut spending, sell assets and tear up contracts without the approval of elected officials.
Where they stand:
Supporters of the law are urging "yes" votes on Proposal 1 because they say the law is a necessary to fix financially struggling communities and schools. Snyder has said he respects the public's right to have a vote but warned that solutions for distressed local governments will be even "more painful" if the law is suspended.
Critics of the law are urging "no" votes on the proposal because they say the law represents a state power grab that usurps local elected officials. A union-backed group called Stand Up for Democracy collected more than 200,000 signatures to get the referendum before voters.
Why it matters:
The proposal serves as a referendum on what Republicans in Lansing would consider a policy achievement. The law known as Public Act 4 is the third and strongest state law to date designed to let emergency managers take over local governments.
Neither side in the debate wants to see a local school district or municipality fail, but Snyder and others claim that's exactly what could happen without such a law. They present the law as a lifeline, rather than a takeover. But opponents argue the law leads to a loss of control and rights once shared by local leaders and laborers. They also argue that they deserve a seat at the negotiation table and have helped craft contracts that include sacrifices for the greater good.
Emergency managers are operating in Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac and Ecorse, as well as in school districts in Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights. The city of Detroit, struggling with record deficits for years, narrowly avoided such a takeover earlier this year but has entered into a so-called consent agreement with the state that's provided for under state law.
This ballot initiative seeks to strengthen collective bargaining in the state. It would amend the constitution to guarantee the right to organize for the purpose of collective bargaining with public and private employers.
Where they stand:
Supporters, including a group called Protect Our Jobs, say they want a voice to negotiate for fair wages, benefits and working conditions. Union leaders fear Michigan's GOP lawmakers eventually will make a push for right-to-work legislation, which bars unions from collecting mandatory dues from workers. They also object to further legislation they see as chipping away at union powers affecting benefits and school staffing.
Opponents contend the constitutional measure would make union leaders more powerful than elected officials. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has said it would impose rollbacks of state and local governments' ability to set employment terms and get budgets under control, wiping out some 170 laws and even invalidating other parts of the constitution. Another concern for critics is that it alters the constitution and therefore restricts lawmakers from being able enact any legislation affecting those rights. A pro-business coalition called Hands Off Our Constitution has fought the proposal, contending its wording was too broad.
Why it matters:
This ballot initiative's backers say it's essential in a state that's served as a longtime bastion for the labor movement. After Wisconsin recently stripped public employees of collective bargaining rights and Indiana approved "right-to-work" legislation, initiative supporters say the best defense is a one-of-a-kind offense. No other state has guaranteed bargaining rights through a statewide ballot initiative, though several did so in their constitutions decades ago.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit Citizens Research Council of Michigan says passage of the proposal could increase costs in a time of declining revenue for local and state governments. It also could have the "perverse effect" of increasing pressure on governments to move work to lower cost, private-sector companies, the council concludes.