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Michigan legislators have approved a bill authorizing state-appointed emergency financial managers to break union contracts that struggling cities and school districts have with their workers.
Following up on the state Senate’s passage of the bill last week, the House passed the bill 62-48 on Tuesday, sending the legislation to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder for final approval. Snyder, who asked for the expanded powers for emergency financial managers, is expected to sign the bill into law.
Supporters say the bill gives the state a way to step into distressed municipalities and schools before they collapse. It also gives emergency financial managers broad authority to end employee union contracts, and to nullify elected boards and councils.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Al Pscholka, said Tuesday that it would give the state the power it needs to dig important institutions out of financial holes. “For years we have allowed cities and schools to be on the verge of bankruptcy without any intervention,” he told Reuters. “When the state finally does arrive, in many cases we find the financial records in disarray and leave emergency managers with very few good options to balance the books.”
Republican Sen. Jack Brandenburg last week said emergency managers would be deployed only in communities that need “financial martial law.”
Democrats, meanwhile, consider the bill part of a broader attack on public sector unions and on collective bargaining that has also been the subject of debate in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and elsewhere.
“Michigan politicians have capitalized on our state’s budgetary woes in order to ram through legislation that rather than create jobs, takes away even more rights and resources from Michiganders and instead gives an unprecedented amount of power into those connected to the governor,” Michigan AFL-CIO president Mark Gaffney said in a statement. “As hundreds of thousands have chanted in Wisconsin, ‘This is not what democracy looks like.’”
The Detroit school system is currently under emergency financial management, and several Michigan cities have been under similar arrangements in the past.