LANSING, Mich. – Rep. Holly Hughes, R-Montague, and Sen. Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth, each introduced legislation on Tuesday that would amend section 57 of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act and how public ballot information is shared.
House Bill 5249 and Senate Bill 721 would allow a public body to share detailed, factual information on any legislation up for a public vote. The legislation states no specific details can be stated or implied regarding a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.
“There has been a lot of confusion about SB 571, now Public Act 269 of 2015 recently and I think that HB 5249 addresses all of the key issues that I have heard from my local superintendents and township officials,” said Hughes. “Registered voters should know what’s on the ballot – and most of the time the only information is available through our local leadership. Local officials should be able to share unbiased information without concern.”
Among other key details that HB 5249 and SB 721 would allow are:
- Actual language of the local ballot question;
- Date of the election;
- Financial and tax information relevant to the ballot question, including what the funds will be used for and the average tax increase per homeowner (in relation to millages);
- A discussion of the local ballot question during a regularly scheduled meeting of a public body, provided proponents and opponents of the ballot question have an equal opportunity to discuss the question;
- Details regarding proposed community meetings where the ballot question will be discussed, allowing proponents and opponents an equal opportunity to participate, and;
- Any communication by radio or television advertisement, mass mailing or prerecorded telephone message allowed to be sent within 30 days of an election would have to be approved by the public governing body.
Violation of the bill, if signed into law, would also increase the maximum fine from $1,000 to $5,000 for an individual.
“I voted for the original bill, and firmly believe that taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used for campaigning,” said Horn. “But we went too far, and voters should be able to receive factual information on local ballot questions.
“Rep. Hughes and I are offering a common-sense, carefully drafted set of guidelines that allow schools and local governments to advise taxpayers of actual ballot language, election dates, and financial and tax information. I’m confident these bills strike a necessary balance between informing voters and protecting taxpayer dollars.”
HB 5249 has been assigned to the House Committee on Elections and SB 721 has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Elections and Government Reform for review.