GOP ballot limits sponsor slams AG, SOS efforts to challenge law

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The Republican who sponsored legislation making it harder to get citizen-backed questions onto the ballot is slamming efforts from Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to challenge the new law.

State Rep. James Lower (R-Cedar Lake) sponsored legislation during the final weeks last year in which the GOP had control of all branches of state government.

James Lower

Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed the bill that makes it harder for citizen-led petitions to make it onto the Michigan ballot.

As the Advance reported this week, Benson asked Nessel to offer a legal opinion of the law. Both are Democrats.

They have each expressed concern over the constitutionality of the new law. Nessel’s opinion isn’t the same as a legal ruling, but would bind the Department of State unless it was reversed in court, the Associated Press noted.

In a statement Thursday, Lower slammed that effort.

“The simple truth is this isn’t justice,” he said. “As the attorney general’s remarkably biased statement yesterday made clear, this is a forgone conclusion worked out in secret among politicians and party leaders. It is wrong, and it needs to stop.”

The law was one of the last Snyder signed before leaving office and creates new requirements for groups trying to get questions onto the statewide ballot. It requires that no more than 15 percent of signatures for such a petition could come from one of the state’s 14 congressional districts.

Jocelyn Benson (left) and Dana Nessel (right)

“The people of Michigan absolutely have a right to know if out-of-state millionaires and billionaires are paying for signatures and trying to rewrite Michigan law. That’s common sense, and it is the reason I introduced this bill. I believe in greater transparency in our elections,” he said. “But it’s hard to make it a reality when Dana Nessel and Jocelyn Benson are plotting together in back rooms to keep the people of Michigan in the dark.”

He continued in an extended statement, saying attorneys general are “not supposed to game the system” based on “their personal political preference” and “ignore the same Constitution that they recently swore to uphold, which expressly provides that ‘no person exercising powers of one branch shall exercise powers properly belonging to another branch.'”

Bill Schuette

Lower’s arguments mirror those of Democrats during the Lame Duck session about other laws.

In the last weeks of session, Republicans passed laws that gutted two ballot initiatives raising the minimum wage and mandating paid sick leave for workers.

Prior to the Nov. 6 election, the GOP-led Legislature had adopted the two measures, which prevented them from going before voters. The Legislature had never adopted and amended a citizen-backed initiative in the same session.

However, then-Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, issued an opinion that gave the Legislature the green light to do so. Democrats vociferously objected, citing long-standing precedent and a 1964 opinion from Attorney General Frank Kelley.

But Snyder signed the bills anyway.

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