HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 25Appeals Court Decision Could Bar Casino Expansion Proposal from Ballot

On Tuesday, August 14, 2012, the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the Secretary of State to remove the initiative to expand casino gaming in the state of Michigan from the November ballot. Proponents of the casino expansion effort, Citizens for More Michigan Jobs, reportedly plan to appeal the issue to the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers was scheduled to vote on certifying the casino initiative at its meeting on Wednesday, but the matter was ultimately removed from the agenda following the Court of Appeals decision and order.

The lawsuit, filed against the Secretary of State on July 25, 2012 in the name of “Protect MI Constitution,” alleged that the presented ballot proposal is unconstitutional and, therefore, cannot be placed on the November ballot. Protect MI Vote, the group opposing the casino expansion, asserts that the proposal language violates Michigan law by seeking to directly amend voter-initiated legislation as well as to amend the state constitution.  The group has taken the position that the petition must be properly submitted as two separate questions, one that amends the state constitution to allow for expanded gaming activity and one that amends the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act (“Act”), in order to be constitutional.  Additionally, the group successfully argued that when amending voter initiated legislation (such as the Gaming Control and Revenue Act) that a number of technical requirements must be met to properly communicate the proposed change to voters. 

The one-page Court of Appeals Order cites article 4, Section 25 of the Michigan Constitution which provides that a law may not be revised, altered, or amended without a republishing of the affected statutory language.  The court determined that the drafted constitutional amendment fails to properly educate voters as to what specific laws will be altered by the amendment because it does not state specific provisions of the statute and convey the revisions in their entirety.  To view the Order and Opinion, please click here.

The proposal sought to add eight casinos in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Birch Run, Romulus, Clinton Township, Cadillac, Pontiac, and Lansing.  In addition, the proposal sought to increase the wagering tax from 19 percent to 23 percent.

This issue of how to treat a ballot initiative that seeks to modify both constitutional as well as existing statutory law was acknowledged by both sides, as well as the court, to be one of first impression. 

 

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