Editorial: Turkey shoot: 3 bills passed last week have earned Gov. Snyder’s veto

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Gov. Rick Snyder received three turkeys: ill-considered pieces of legislation. / www.sxc.hu

Courtesy of the Detroit Free Press:


Earlier this year, in an editorial applauding the dispatch with which Michigan legislators had adopted a budget for the coming fiscal, we nevertheless confessed some anxiety that the Republican majority’s efficiency would leave it too much time to make bad public policy.

That danger became manifest this past week when state lawmakers sent to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk three turkeys — raggedy, ill-considered pieces of legislation that would, if signed into law, deal a significant setback for his plans to reinvent Michigan.

In response, the governor should wield his veto pen like a hunter’s rifle. He needs to bring down all three bills.

The most far-reaching of the proposed laws would eliminate any limit on the number of for-profit charter schools that could be authorized to collect Michigan tax dollars. The cap on charter authorizations, currently set at 150, would double to 300 next year and disappear by 2015.

We recognize that many charter school advocates sincerely believe the legislation adopted by narrow majorities in the House and Senate is a victory for schoolchildren, and we reject the cynical view that lawmakers who supported it are merely shilling for out-of-state, for-profit school operators.

It is encouraging, too, that the legislation sent to Snyder includes some 11th-hour amendments designed to increase charter operators’ accountability, as well as a pledge to send bipartisan recommendations for improving options and outcomes for all students to the governor by March 31.

But this was last-minute lipstick for what remains a rash and reckless experiment, and the limited accountability measures attached by the House fall far short of the metric rigor Snyder has endeavored to apply to his own major initiatives.

Evidence shows that while some charters are outperforming their public school counterparts, far too many underperform as badly or worse. And in Michigan, which does a lousy job of holding schools accountable for failure, bad charters tend to stay open and have no oversight to force improvement.

Charter champions still have not made a strong enough case that charter schools outperform the public schools from which they divert students and financial resources, or that giving free rein to charter operators will improve educational outcomes for Michigan schoolchildren. In the absence of such evidence, Snyder should withhold his support from the charter bill.

A second, more mean-spirited measure that has earned Snyder’s veto would strip domestic partners of public employees of any health insurance coverage they currently receive. Though homophobic backers insist the measure is intended to exalt heterosexual marriage, the ban on partner benefits is nakedly designed to remind gay Michiganders that Republican legislators consider them second-class citizens.

Allowing this bigotry to become part of Michigan’s express employment policy would put the state’s public employers at a competitive disadvantage and mock Gov. Snyder’s oft-stated desire to make Michigan a magnet for the nation’s most talented, best educated workers.

If he sincerely aspires to move Michigan into the first rank of states, he’ll waste little time in rejecting this piece of hate legislation, whose enactment would signal a victory for Michigan’s most retrograde instincts.

The silliest of the three turkeys awaiting Snyder’s signature is a bit of legislative juvenile delinquency that would effect a state-sponsored Republican coup in Oakland County.

Purportedly intended to cut the expense of local government in Michigan’s richest county, the bill would eliminate four of the Oakland Board of County Commissioners’ 25 districts and reassign the authority to draw district boundaries (which Oakland voters recently awarded to Democrats for the first time in decades) to the Republican county commission majority.

Even if it were likely to survive a certain constitutional challenge (and it isn’t), the Oakland reapportionment legislation would constitute a power grab without precedent, and far more brazen than anything contemplated in the emergency manager law. Its sole purpose is to exploit the Republican majority in Lansing to subvert the Democratic majority in Pontiac.

Snyder may be tempted to indulge this parochial political mischief as a chit he could redeem later for some more noble legislative purpose. But to do so would license the sort of petty partnership he professes to abhor, while disappointing independent voters who share his impatience with such shenanigans.

By vetoing the Legislature’s clumsy attempt to bigfoot Oakland voters, the governor can uphold his own integrity and set a higher standard for his GOP colleagues.

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