LANSING, Mich. — Reversing an earlier decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled recently that Michigan public school districts may not administer payroll deduction plans that funnel money to the Michigan Education Association political action committee, according to a report at a National School Board Association legal website.

The court ruled 4-3 that administering the plans constitutes a “contribution” of public resources to a political objective, which violates the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, the report said.

That is true even if the MEA reimburses the district for the cost to administer the plan, the report said.

The previous Supreme Court had ruled in December 2010 that such arrangements did not violate the campaign finance law, but the state asked for a rehearing which led to the new decision. In the new majority opinion, justices said one reason for granting the rehearing was that earlier treatment of the case was alternately “dilatory” and “accelerated,” the NSBA report said. That apparently was a reference to the fact that the earlier decision came on the previous court’s last business day of 2010, just days before two newly elected members were seated.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case arguing that state law clearly prevents school districts from administering payroll deduction plans for the benefit of union political accounts. The Mackinac Center also publishes Michigan Education Digest.

SOURCE:

National School Board Association Legal Clips, “Michigan Supreme Court reverses its previous holding that payroll deduction system for employees’ contribution to teachers union PAC violates the Michigan Campaign Finance Act

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Mackinac Center Amicus Curiae Brief to Michigan Supreme Court in Michigan Education Association v. Michigan Secretary of State

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