A petition to change term limits and require financial disclosures for Michigan state lawmakers could begin collecting signatures next week.
The proposal by the group Voters for Transparency and Term Limits would allow lawmakers to serve a total of 12 years in the Legislative Assembly between the State House and the Senate. They can currently serve a maximum of three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.
Mark Gaffney co-chairs the group.
“It’s a crunch, that’s the way I see it. It gives an elected official the choice — a better choice for that individual — to serve … all of their 12 years in the Senate or all of their 12 years in the House,” he said.
The Board of State Solicitors approved the wording of the summary and the petition form itself for the proposed constitutional amendment at its meeting on Wednesday.
During the debate over the 100-word summary, opponents like Patrick Anderson argued that it should show that the petition would repeal term limits.
“It would completely remove those limits from the constitution. It would repeal them and come up with a new, different limit of 12 years,” he said. “It’s not a minor change. It’s definitely not a reduction. It is a repeal of the term limits that we adopted.
But Gaffney argued that is not what the amendment would do.
“The people of Michigan do not want to repeal term limits. But, after 30 years, I found it very appropriate to change the term limits and reduce the total number of years elected officials can serve,” Gaffney said.
After almost 2.5 hours of debate, the parties reached a compromise using the word “replace” instead of “change”, as the originally proposed summary did., or “repeal”, as the opponents wanted.
“’Replace’ is better than ‘change’ is better than ‘reduce’. So this is a win for the people,” attorney Kurt O’Keefe said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the Board of State Solicitors also reconsidered some petitions that did not get form approval when the board deadlocked at its last meeting.
The group had split along party lines on policing in a union logo that Republican members feared was too small. A state Supreme Court ruling earlier this week ruled that the logo’s font was correct.
But another issue arose Wednesday during a discussion of an election campaign to constitutionally protect the right to abortion in the state. To obtain conditional approval of the form, the group Reproductive Freedom for All, which also did not obtain approval at the previous board meeting, agreed to modify another element of its form.
The ACLU of Michigan supports the campaign for abortion rights. “We are waiting and taking a step back to revise our petition to remove that technical word, ‘the’, and we will be sending out new petitions very soon so there are no compliance issues when it comes to submitting our signings in July,” said Bonsitu Kitaba, Group Deputy General Counsel.
Board approval of the form is an optional step that would help protect the petition from certain lawsuits. The group had started collecting signatures earlier this month.
Kitaba said new petitions are expected to hit the ground soon.
“We are not affected by this minor obstacle. We are confident that we will overcome it. Nothing will stop us from advancing this movement to protect reproductive freedom in Michigan,” she said.
Kitaba said the campaign was looking to manage signatures already collected. They must collect at least 425,059 signatures to obtain the constitutional amendment during the November 2022 ballot.