Why Michigan Needs Electioneering Reform

MLive publishes Mackinac Center policy analyst’s take

There is a need to prohibit local governments and school districts from campaigning with taxpayer money, Mackinac Center policy analyst Jarrett Skorup writes in an op-ed recently published by MLive.

In the piece, Skorup weighs in on efforts to change state advocacy laws. Earlier this year, Gov. Snyder signed Public Act 269, preventing public officials from advertising ballot issues within 60 days of an election in an attempt to stop localities and school districts from advocating for tax increases on the public dime.

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The need for this bill is easy to see. Even though it is technically illegal for local officials to use taxpayer resources to advocate for a yes vote on a proposal, local governments routinely fund messages that appear to be advocacy, and there's little recourse for taxpayers when they do cross the line.

In response to backlash from school districts and local governments and an injunction on the new law, the Legislature is now considering a bill that Skorup says “goes too far in the other direction” and “reestablish(es) the fuzzy line between informing the public and persuading the public” that necessitated a policy change in the first place.

A middle ground is needed to prevent advocacy while still allowing local governments to provide information. The Legislature should clarify that government officials, if asked, still could provide citizens with the date of an election and the exact language of the proposal. But that's it. The standard should be that if it's not a message a government official could provide to a voter while at the polls, it shouldn't be allowed.

Read the op-ed in its entirety at MLive.

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