Some critics see Michigan HB 4214 as the institution of financial martial law. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/J. Żołnierkiewicz/Wikipedia)

Critics suggest that legislation aimed at weakening labor unions – such as the ongoing collective bargaining fiasco in Wisconsin – has underscored the divide between lawmakers and the common man. The divide may be on the verge of becoming a chasm in Michigan, reports CBS News. Reports indicate that House Bill 4214, which would impose a kind of “financial martial law” on economically depressed areas of the state, is on the verge of being approved.

HB 4214 calls for emergency financial managers

Under HB 4214, the governor of Michigan would have the power to appoint emergency financial managers (EFMs) to oversee struggling cities. These EMFs would have the power to make sweeping financial changes without public input, including firing elected officials, breaking contracts, seizing assets, eliminating services and even dissolving cities and school districts entirely.

HB 4214 has passed the Michigan Senate and is now in the state House. Once two versions of the bill are reconciled, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder says he will sign the bill into law.

‘An assault on democracy’

Democrats call the Republican-sponsored bill a massive power grab a union-killer that cannot stand. Michigan AFL-CIO president Mark Gaffney didn’t hold back in his assessment.

“This is a takeover by the right wing, and it’s an assault on democracy like I’ve never seen,” he told local media.

Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Detroit warned that a financial czar (what Conyers calls an EFM) could “force a municipality into bankruptcy,” a level of power that Conyers believes could be used as a wedge to force additional labor concessions.

An EFM ‘has to have the backbone’

EFMs removing elected officials and breaking contracts would only be used as a last resort, said Republican Sen. Jack Brandenburg.

“(An EFM) has to have the backbone; he has to have the power to null and void a contract. … I think that in a lot of these places, there is no control,” said Brandenburg.

In addition to potential EFM action, Gov. Snyder has proposed $1.7 billion in tax breaks for individuals, while cutting $1.8 billion in business taxes to encourage growth.


CBS News:
Daily Tribune:
Detroit Free Press:

‘A race to the bottom’ with EFMs

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