Term limits proposal opponents ask Michigan Supreme Court to toss it from ballot

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

By Laina G. Stebbins, Michigan Advance

All three constitutional amendments whose supporters hope will be on the Nov. 8 ballot are now awaiting sink-or-swim rulings in the Michigan Supreme Court.

Michigan Legislative Term Limits and Financial Disclosure Amendment (Proposal 1) would reduce the state’s current system of term limits to a total of 12 years, while also allowing for six, two-year House terms, three, four-year Senate terms or a combination of the two. It would also require annual financial disclosures from legislators and state officers.

An opposing group filed suit in the Michigan Supreme Court on Aug. 30 and seeks action by Tuesday. In Anderson v. Board, the plaintiffs — Patrick Anderson, author of the 1992 constitutional amendment that established term limits; Republican former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who is now on the Wayne State University Board of Governors; and Republican former state Reps. Leon Drolet and Thomas McMillin — contend that Proposal 1 should be kept off the ballot because it “logrolls,” or contains multiple purposes and subjects.

Michigan has some of the strictest term limits in the nation. Land, Drolet and McMillin all served the maximum time allowed in their respective offices under term limits. Drolet did not return a call seeking comment.

The Michigan Legislature voted in May to directly place the constitutional amendment on the ballot after weakening some of its requirements. This allowed the ballot committee to bypass having to collect hundreds of thousands of valid signatures, unlike the other two constitutional amendments at play that are also facing challenges in the state’s highest court.

Those two proposed amendments are the Promote the Vote effort to expand voting rights and the Reproductive Freedom for All measure to enshrine reproductive rights in the Constitution.

In the complaint, plaintiffs claim that Proposal 1 does not comply with the requirement that it should be limited to one purpose or subject. It should instead have been split into two proposals, they argue; one to address term limits and another addressing financial disclosures.

Josh Pugh, spokesperson for Voters for Transparency and Term Limits supporting Proposal 1, has pushed back against the claims.

“As they concede in their complaint, there’s nothing in the Michigan Constitution, in statute, or in precedent banning multi-purpose amendments to the Constitution,” Pugh said.

“What’s most puzzling is [that] the 1992 term limits amendment was itself multi-purpose. Given the plaintiffs’ passion for this arcane legal issue, I look forward to reading their lawsuit against Michigan’s original term limits law.”

Anderson v. Board states that if the Michigan Supreme Court blocks Proposal 1 from the ballot now, the state Legislature still has until Friday to vote again and put a redrafted proposal or proposals on the ballot.

“Within a matter of days the Legislature could propose the same two subjects as separate amendments instead of improperly combining them,” the lawsuit reads.

The Michigan Supreme Court faces a tight timeline on all three measures. The Secretary of State’s deadline to certify general election ballots for county clerks is 5 p.m. Friday. 

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: [email protected]. Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.

close

Sign-up for our free daily newsletter to receive local news & culture in your inbox