Mich. governor signs new emergency manager law

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law Thursday that's a revised version of one voters struck down in November's election.

He says it gives distressed communities more control over their fiscal future.

The bill was approved by lawmakers after voters repealed Public Act 4, an emergency-manager law, in the fall election. Snyder's office said Thursday that the law is among 19 signed by the governor, just a portion of the dozens of bills that still are on his desk.

After the legislation goes into effect in late March, struggling cities will have a say in what happens -- something that before was solely up to the governor.

They'll be able to choose between accepting a financial manager, filing for bankruptcy, entering mediation or entering a consent agreement with the state.

"I think that's fine, but I still think the law itself does not allow or does not have enough in it addressing capacity building for communities," said Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower. "I think that in terms of walking out the process for a city, like Benton Harbor, in terms of how you move back to local control, there's really nothing in there that outlines how that is done."

Hightower says he feels the legislation was rushed and lawmakers didn't get enough input from cities living with an emergency manager.

Unlike Public Act 4, the new law won't be subject to a referendum because it comes with a $770,000 appropriation.

The money will be used to pay emergency manager's salaries, which was previously left up to the cash-strapped cities.

"I think that's great because one of the greatest bones of contention with Benton Harbor is [Joseph Harris] is being paid by the citizens, but felt he didn't' have to speak to them publicly or do any public hearings to give an account as to what he was doing or where we are as a city."

The new bill does, however, contain one of the more controversial provisions in Public Act 4 -- it allows emergency managers to change or cancel contracts.

But, the new legislation allows local leaders to propose alternative cost-cutting measures.

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