House Democrats are apparently stuck between competing agendas – helping Detroit Public Schools escape state-appointed emergency management and repealing the emergency manager law.
The 17-mill operating levy that raises $87 million annually for the Detroit school district’s budget is up for renewal this year.
But Public Act 4 of 2011 restricts school districts like DPS with an emergency manager to holding its millage renewal vote in the November general election – when the schools would be competing for voters’ attention with everyone from the presidential candidates to potential constitutional amendments.
At the same time, a union-lead effort to put a repeal of the emergency manager law before voters on the November ballot is pending before the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Legislation to let DPS move a bond millage renewal vote from November to the August primary is reportedly stalled in the House because of disagreements among Democrats over whether amending Public Act 4 could put jeopardize repeal of P.A. 4.
State Rep. Shanelle Jackson, D-Detroit, had planned to amend House Bill 4884 to allow an earlier DPS millage vote, but said she backed off while Democrats and labor union attorneys study the legal impact to repealing P.A. 4 (which assumes the referendum gets on the ballot).
“It’s important that that ballot question go before voters and I don’t want to do anything to impede that,” said Jackson, who signed the P.A. 4 repeal petitions that are now in legal limbo over the font size of the petitions.
Legislation designed to help Detroit Public Schools get around a requirement in the Republican-authored emergency manager law would likely need strong support from House Democrats in order to get enough votes from the GOP majority.
House Republican leaders were willing to amend election law to allow for the late change in the primary election, said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.
“Once again, the Democrats said ‘yes’ to unions and ‘no’ to kids,” Adler said in an email. “Doing something for Detroit is hard enough when the House Democrats offer half-hearted support most of the time, but in this case we also ran into a union-built brick wall.”
Jackson believes there’s room for a possible compromise on the issue soon.
“At the end of the day too, we don’t need DPS losing $87 million a year,” Jackson told The Detroit News. “We don’t want to leave that to chance.”