The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, August 04, 2017

No action yet on anti-lying legislation for petitioners

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING — Michigan House Democratic Whip Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) introduced legislation on May 22 that would amend Michigan election law to prohibit a petition circulator from lying or misrepresenting the contents of a petition for a ballot question, initiative, referendum, recall petition, and constitutional amendment. 

Their legislation is in part targeting petition circulators seeking to repeal the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act of 1965. Numerous posts on the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council's "Decline to Sign" the petition effort on Facebook have revealed that petitioners have falsely claimed that signing the prevailing wage repeal petition would lower taxes, increase minimum wage, or save money on construction projects.

“Our democracy encourages citizens to call attention to issues that they care about through petition drives that can enact or change public policy, but that process must be an honest one,” Moss said. “This legislation will allow us to continue supporting and protecting this Constitutional right, while also ensuring that petitioners accurately reflect what is in their petitions. A person should be able to grow support for their cause based on its own merit, not by deceptively misrepresenting what the petitions will do.”

House Bill 4635 and Senate Bill 395 would establish punishment for misrepresenting the content of  petition language as a misdemeanor.

In 2015, the lawmakers said a Michigan news outlet reported that individuals were circulating petitions under the guise of promoting increased transparency in government when the petition language would actually repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law. 

“We’ve reached the point where citizens’ trust in their government to do the right thing is at an all-time low,” Hertel said. “Unfortunately, we’ve also seen claims that ballot initiatives — which are a last stand for direct democracy — are being treated with the same disrespect of citizens’ wishes that cause their necessity in the first place. We need to make our government work for the people again, and ensuring correct representation on ballot initiatives is a good first step.”

Jeannette Bradshaw, the registrar for IBEW Local 58, said the bills were introduced in May but have not moved in their respective committees in the state House or Senate. 

"Now is a good opportunity for our members to be proactive, and contact your state senator or representative, and tell them that not only do you support this legislation, you support prevailing wage," she said.  

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