Michigan election gag order law draws lawsuits

WARREN, Mich. – There is considerable frustration in the Michigan legislature that government agencies have for years been joining forces to gain millage and other tax increases.

However, the law passed at the last minute back in December is making a lot of enemies quickly. Lawsuits have ensued.

For instance, like most school districts, Warren Consolidated Schools has expenses. The district budgets for maintenance -- things like roof repair, changing out old furnaces for new ones, fixing pockmarked parking lots, etc.

When those costs bust the budget, districts like Warren Consolidated traditionally ask voters to raise their own taxes with a millage vote. If all goes according to plan, Warren will have just such a request and vote on May 4.

The Warren Consolidated superintendent, Robert Livernois, will be asking for $132 million. However, he must stop talking about it on March 4.

"Without question, it's a trampling of a rights to constitutional free speech," said Livernois.

That's the date, under the recently passed state law, which puts him 60 days out. Livernois could face criminal charges if he did this interview in mid-March.

He finds the restriction unimaginable.

"If this is based on some principal of law, how can it be illegal one day and not the next? For me, that does not pass the smell test," he said.

Livernois is so upset he joined more than a dozen other school administrators in a lawsuit against the state which seeks to have the last-minute law overturned as soon as possible.

"I cannot help but think it's an attempt to promote that sort of corporatized approach to education, and doing so further limits their ability to take care of themselves," he said.

No one is disputing one fact about this situation: This bill was slipped in at the last minute when many legislators didn't know the original legislation had been changed at the last minute in the House. What makes matters worse: When he signed it, Gov. Rick Snyder said the law needs some work.

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