FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Occupy Muskegon Protests “Referendum-Proof” Laws
MUSKEGON, November 11, 2011 – The Occupy Muskegon (OM) movement voiced opposition to the passage of “referendum-proof” laws in Lansing during a meeting with Senator Geoff Hansen (R – Hart) on Friday.
Approximately 30 members of the group launched a protest at the Senator’s “coffee hour” meeting with the
public at Tanglewood Park in Norton Shores. Article II, Section 9 of the Michigan Constitution provides for public referendum of laws with the verbiage
“The people reserve to themselves the power to propose laws and to enact and reject laws, called the initiative, and the power to approve or reject laws enacted by the legislature, called the referendum.” The constitution does, however, exclude appropriation laws from the referendum process. Through procedural slight of hand, the legislature has circumvented the Michigan Constitution by using appropriations (expenditures) to make policy laws referendum-proof.
Already this year the legislature passed three laws; individual item pricing, tax reform…including pension
taxation, and political redistricting with appropriation provisions that made them referendum-proof, and is in process of preparing to pass a fourth, (HB 4936) in a similar manner. HB 4936 significantly restructures the no-fault insurance law in a way that is surely beneficial to big business. That law, if enacted, would significantly reduce no-fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP,) while at the same time reduce liabilities for the insurance companies, in doing so, essentially transfer the burden of costly medical treatment and rehabilitation on the injured and other parties. Per the Michigan House’s own analysis, and the estimation of the Michigan
Catastrophic Claims Association, (MCCA) the passage of this law would result in 22.7% of the injured, well over 3,000 people each year, unable to receive needed and adequate care, due to limits included in the bill. To ensure the “referendum proof” nature of this bill the legislature has added a relatively small $50,000 appropriation to print brochures, something that could have easily been put in a separate appropriation.
Although not taking an official position on the pending law, Occupy Muskegon strongly objects to the use of
procedural slight of hand to circumvent the Michigan Constitution, and feels that these maneuvers by the Michigan legislature are an affront to democracy. Occupy Muskegon demands that no further laws be passed with this referendum-proof language, and that those laws already passed be revised to eliminate the offensive language.
To reinforce Occupy Muskegon’s position, protesters carried signs and chanted slogans such as “We are the 99% and so are you”, “Tell me what democracy looks like…this is what democracy looks like!” during their
march along Seminole Rd., and in front of the Tanglewood Park facility prior to, and during Senator Hansen’s visit. The group received support from many people in cars on Seminole Rd. through cheers and
The group subsequently joined the Senator’s meeting to voice their objections directly to the Senator, and
repeatedly asked the Senator for his support to:
1) ensure that no further laws are passed with this referendum-proof language, and 2) those laws that have
already been passed as such be revised to remove the appropriation language. Despite repeated requests from the movement’s representative, Dean Vanderstelt, the Senator was unable, or unwilling, to agree with the request.
After the meeting, Mr. Vanderstelt stated “We felt the questions were fair, our demands were reasonable, but felt Senator Hansen’s response was evasive and did not show likelihood that he would support these demands.” “We believe that the public’s trust in their legislators has been terribly violated. Further, the movement feels that all the citizens of Michigan should be enraged by this affront to their expectation that elected officials are there to represent them, not corporations. The movement will continue its efforts to rectify these violations of our democracy.”
One sign seen at the protest seemed to state the demonstrator’s views clearly: “Michigan Legislators: What
Part of Democracy Don’t You Understand? When you fear the citizens, you pass referendum proof laws – Have you no shame?”