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Petitions to change Michigan term limits, financial disclosure laws move toward signature gathering


A petition to change term limits and require financial disclosures for Michigan state lawmakers could start signature-gathering next week.

The proposal from the group Voters for Transparency and Term Limits would allow lawmakers to serve a total of 12 years in the Legislature between both the state House and Senate. They can currently serve a maximum of three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate.

Mark Gaffney co-chairs the group.

“It’s a tightening up is the way I look at it. It gives an elected official the choice -- a better choice for that individual -- to serve … all of their 12 years in the Senate or all of their 12 years in the House,” he said.

The Board of State Canvassers approved summary language and the petition form itself for the proposed constitutional amendment at its meeting Wednesday.

During debate over the 100-word summary language, opponents like Patrick Anderson argued it should show that the petition would repeal term limits.

“This would strike those limits completely out of the constitution. It would repeal them and come up with a new, different, 12-year limit,” he said. “That’s not a minor change. It’s certainly not a reduction. That’s a repeal of the term limits that we adopted.”

But Gaffney argued that's not what the amendment would do.

“People of the state of Michigan do not want to repeal term limits. But, after 30 years, I found it very appropriate to amend term limits and actually reduce the total number of years that elected officials can serve,” Gaffney said.

After nearly 2 1/2 hours of debate, the parties reached a compromise using the word “replace” instead of “change,” as the original proposed summary did, or “repeal,” as opponents wanted.

“‘Replace’ is preferable to ‘change’ is preferable to ‘reduce.’ So, it’s a victory for the people,” attorney Kurt O’Keefe said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the Board of State Canvassers also revisited some petitions that failed to gain form approval when the board deadlocked at its last meeting.

The group had split along party lines over font in a union logo that Republican members worried was too small. A state Supreme Court ruling earlier this week decided the logo font was okay.

But another issue came up Wednesday during discussion over a ballot campaign to constitutionally protect abortion rights in the state. To gain conditional form approval, the group Reproductive Freedom for All, which also failed to gain approval at the previous board meeting, agreed to change another item on its form

The ACLU of Michigan is supporting the abortion rights ballot campaign. “We are holding off and taking a step back to revise our petition to remove that one technical word, ‘the,’ and we’ll be sending out new petitions very soon so that there’s no issues of compliance when it comes down to submitting our signatures in July,” The group’s Deputy Legal Director Bonsitu Kitaba said.

Board approval of the form is an optional step that would help shield the petition from some lawsuits. The group had started signature-gathering earlier this month.

Kitaba said new petitions should be out in the field soon.

“We are not concerned with this minor hurdle. We’re confident that we’re going to overcome it. Nothing’s going to stop us from moving this movement forward to protect reproductive freedom in Michigan,” she said.

Kitaba said the campaign is figuring out how to handle signatures it's already collected. They must collect at least 425,059 signatures to get the constitutional amendment on the November 2022 ballot.

Copyright 2022 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Colin Jackson | MPRN