iOS app Android app More

Public Act 4, Michigan Emergency Manager Law, Marks First Anniversary

Public Act 4

The Huffington Post   Posted: 03/16/2012 12:19 pm

It's been a year since Gov. Rick Snyder signed Michigan's Public Act 4 of 2011, officially known as the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act.

The law upgraded the powers afforded emergency managers under Public Act 101 of 1988 and Public Act 72 of 1990, both passed to give the state some rights over governmental bodies facing bankruptcy. Public Act 4 increased the ability of the governor to intervene, and granted appointed emergency managers the power to break collective bargaining agreements, fire elected officials and privatize or sell public assets.

The governor argues desperate times call for drastic measures. "For too long in this state, we've avoided making the tough decisions," Snyder said when he signed the law on March 16, 2011.

A year later, four cities and two school districts are under emergency management. Inkster officials recently opted for a consent agreement with the state to avoid a full takeover. Likewise, pressure is mounting for the city of Detroit to consent to a state-backed financial restructuring plan or face an emergency manager by the end of the month.

Its critics charge Public Act 4 circumvents democracy, instating officials with complete power and no accountability to the residents of the communities they control. Others worry the emergency managers' mandate to focus on fiscal matters trumps all other concerns, like curricula in school districts and public services in cities.

And as the number of sitting emergency managers grows, pushback against Synder and state Treasurer Andy Dillon has increased, too.

The Detroit-based Sugar Law Center is backing 28 citizens in a lawsuit alleging Public Act 4 violates the state constitution. Snyder asked the state Supreme Court to fast-track a decision on the case, but the court has yet to decided whether to do so.

Meanwhile Detroit Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat, is seeking federal intervention. In December, he asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the law.

And on Feb. 29, organizers with a coalition called Stand Up For Democracy turned in 50 boxes of petitions to the Secretary of State in favor of freezing the Public Act 4 and putting it up for referendum on the November ballot.

On the anniversary of the law, HuffPost Detroit examines some key statistics from the past 12 months of Public Act 4.

Emergency managers currently in place: 6.

Michigan School districts currently under emergency managers: 2, Highland Park Schools and Detroit Public Schools.

Michigan cities under emergency managers: 4, Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and Flint. (Flint's emergency manager, Michael Brown, faces a restraining order from a judge issued Thursday and may have lost his power to run the city.)

State-appointed financial review teams investigating municipal bodies' finances: 2, Detroit and Muskegon Heights Public Schools.

Consent agreements adopted under Public Act 4: 1, Inkster. River Rouge has a consent agreement signed under the older law.

Municipal bodies already under emergency financial managers on March 16, 2011: 4, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Pontiac and Detroit Public Schools.

Municipal bodies that have emerged from emergency management since Public Act 4 was signed: 0.

Votes in favor of Public Act 4 in the Michigan House of Representatives: 62, all Republicans.

In the Michigan Senate: 26, all Republicans.

Votes in favor of Public Act 4 from lawmakers representing communities now under emergency management: 3, Republican State Sen. John Proos and Republican State Rep. Aric Nesbitt of Benton Harbor and Republican State Sen. Jim Marleau of Pontiac.

Approximate current combined total deficit of communities under emergency mangagers: $128 million

Highest individual deficit: $83.9 million in Detroit Public Schools.

Smallest individual deficit: Technically Ecorse has no deficit, and general fund surplus of $1 million.

Total combined emergency manager compensation: $809,000

Highest paid: Roy Roberts in Detroit Public Schools, who would make $250,000 but took a 10 percent pay cut along with the rest of the district's employees.

Michigan residents living under authority of emergency manager: 118,439

Including students in Detroit and Highland Park: 255,379

As percentage of Michigan's total population: 2.58 percent

Michigan residents who signed a petition to freeze Public Act 4 and put it up for a referendum: 226,637, according to the petition drive's organizers.

Be sure to check out our Public Act 4 anniversary news coverage and commentary from our HuffPost bloggers:

Brandon Jessup Pushes To Move Michigan Forward

Ecorse Fights To Emerge From Emergency Management

Cash-strapped Muskegon Heights School District Begs For Outside Manager

FOLLOW HUFFPOST DETROIT