Election RECAP

Mackinac Center analysts’ personal takeaways on ballot proposals

LABOR

Obama wins, unions lose – the 2012 election recap

By F. VINCENT VERNUCCIO — Michigan was among the states that sent President Obama easily back to the White House, not to mention a Democratic senator to Washington. The same voters who voted Democrat, however, rejected union overreaches and supported government labor reform. 

All five constitutional amendments on the ballot were defeated, but Proposals 2 and 4, both heavily backed by unions, attracted the most attention.

Besides the presidential election, Proposal 2 was organized labor’s first priority on November ballots. The proposal would have upheaved representative government in Michigan by enshrining collective bargaining in the state constitution, giving government unions an effective veto over elected officials. If unions had been successful in Michigan, they likely would have tried similar efforts in some of the 18 other states that allow ballot-initiated constitutional amendments.

Proposal 4, equally damaging in its own right, would have permitted the continued stealth unionization of home-based caregivers by the SEIU. The majority of these workers are friends or family members of their patients, and certainly not government employees. Prop 4’s defeat keeps about $6 million per year in the hands of caregivers – not in union coffers.

Both proposals received more “no” votes than the “yes” votes President Obama received in Michigan, meaning that many of his supporters were unwilling to rubberstamp the overreach by Big Labor. The New York Times went so far as to call the Proposal 2 defeat “an embarrassing loss for labor” in the “cradle of unionism.”

The defeats show that momentum is with the reformers. The tide is turning, and will potentially begin to favor workers, taxpayers and job creators above moneyed special interests.

FISCAL

Proposal Losses Invite Concerns for Taxpayers

By MICHAEL D. LAFAIVE — Voters on Nov. 6 said “no” to each of the six Michigan-specific ballot proposals presented to them. Those ballot proposals covered labor, energy, transportation and fiscal policies. While all topics ultimately involve taxpayer dollars of some sort and level, Proposals 1 and 5 hit closest to the fiscally minded.

Proposal 1 would have affirmed Public Act 4, the law that gave emergency managers more power to make financial changes in local units of government. Proposal 5 would have mandated a supermajority vote requirement for the Legislature to raise taxes.

Proposal 1 narrowly collected more “no” votes than “yes” votes and thus the state reverted back to the previous emergency financial manager law (Public Act 72 of 1990), a law that grants far less power to EFMs. Proposal 5 appears to have gotten swept up in anti-initiative enthusiasm and the pithy slogan “one is a yes, no on the rest” or some version of it.

Going forward, the Michigan Legislature has already introduced a new emergency manager law that gives locally elected officials more power over the process. Proposal 5’s failure could very well be an invitation to higher fuel taxes, a proposal floated in the past by Gov. Snyder.

LEGISLATIVE

GOP Retains “Trifecta-Plus” Control of Michigan Government

By JACK MCHUGH — Michigan will retain its “trifecta-plus” status for the next two years, where one party (the GOP) has control of both houses of the Legislature, the governorship and the state Supreme Court. Republicans did lose five seats in the House of Representatives, however, going from a 64-46 majority to 59-51 (the Senate was not up for election this year).

That was not unexpected following the Tea Party “wave” election of 2010. Importantly, no prominent legislative reformers were defeated (including Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, targeted for his identification with a grass roots right-to-work movement).

The most significant impact on future legislation was the sound defeat of Proposal 2, discussed elsewhere in this issue. While government employee unions have hardly become a paper tiger, even after this rebuke from the electorate, many Democratic voters showed themselves quite willing to diverge from union orthodoxy. This will make it easier for the Legislature to build on the financial reforms of the past two years.

Among other things, the Proposal 2 defeat meant that making Michigan a right-to-work state was possible — and legislators were able to pass that right-to-work law in December — a stunning development in a (previously) union-dominated state whose Legislature voted as recently as 2005 to name a highway after the 1936 Flint “UAW sit-down strike.”