School leaders concerned about tax proposal bill which would prohibit providing ballot info to voters

A sign hangs in the door of an Armada school days before residents approved a bond issue in November. Under the new law, placement of such signs or distribution of literature within 60 days of a ballot proposal could be outlawed. (Digital First Media file photo)

By Frank DeFrank
frank.defrank@macombdaily.com

Legislation that would prohibit school districts and other public bodies from disseminating information about tax proposals within 60 days of the vote was panned recently by school and government officials.

Michigan’s election laws prohibit the use of tax dollars to advocate a position on bond issues, millage proposals and other tax-related ballot proposals.

But school districts, municipalities and other entities historically provide information about the upcoming election to voters. The new law would require that practice be halted two months before the vote.

Proponents contend its passage will prevent overzealous public bodies from trying to influence voters.

“We already have laws that prohibit us from using public funds for propaganda,” said Stacey Denewith-Fici, superintendent of Warren Woods Public Schools. “(The proposed law) would make it illegal to share factual information. Why would we not want voters to have factual information?”

Many of Denewith-Fici’s colleagues voiced similar concerns, some in pointed language.

“It’s a sad day when we cannot send unbiased, factual information to our constituencies,” said Ron Roberts, Chippewa Valley superintendent. “It’s un-American.”

Lakeview Public Schools Supt. Karl Paulson was even more harsh in his criticism. He called the measure an attempt by the “one-party, central government in Lansing … to have a desire to control all aspects of the local systems of government.”

The proposed law flies in the face of wide-sweeping efforts in recent years to provide residents more transparency about their government, said David Richards, Fraser superintendent. Continued…
Attached to an unrelated bill, the legislation was passed by both the state House and Senate. It now awaits the signature of Gov. Rick Snyder.

Michigan’s election laws prohibit the use of tax dollars to advocate a position on bond issues, millage proposals and other tax-related ballot proposals.

But school districts, municipalities and other entities historically provide information about the upcoming election to voters. The new law would require that practice be halted two months before the vote.

Proponents contend its passage will prevent overzealous public bodies from trying to influence voters.

“We already have laws that prohibit us from using public funds for propaganda,” said Stacey Denewith-Fici, superintendent of Warren Woods Public Schools. “(The proposed law) would make it illegal to share factual information. Why would we not want voters to have factual information?”

Many of Denewith-Fici’s colleagues voiced similar concerns, some in pointed language.

“It’s a sad day when we cannot send unbiased, factual information to our constituencies,” said Ron Roberts, Chippewa Valley superintendent. “It’s un-American.”

Lakeview Public Schools Supt. Karl Paulson was even more harsh in his criticism. He called the measure an attempt by the “one-party, central government in Lansing … to have a desire to control all aspects of the local systems of government.”

The proposed law flies in the face of wide-sweeping efforts in recent years to provide residents more transparency about their government, said David Richards, Fraser superintendent. Continued…

 

Source: School leaders voice concerns about tax proposal bill – News – Source Newspapers

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