HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 18Issue 28Michigan Supreme Court Issues Ruling on Constitutional Ballot Proposals

On Wednesday, September 5, 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court filed an opinion and order in the case of four pending ballot proposals that seek to amend the state constitution. As part of its ruling, the Court held that a proposed amendment that would authorize an additional eight commercial casinos throughout the state did not meet the technical requirements to be placed on the November 2012 ballot. Because of this failure, the Court refused to issue an order of mandamus to the Board of State Canvassers directing the board to include the proposal on the ballot.

The opinion focuses on creating a clear set of guidelines to provide “the certainty and precision that is reasonably possible [to determine] what is required to properly petition to amend the Constitution.” In this respect, the Court focused on defining when a proposal would “alter or abrogate” an existing section of the Constitution. If a proposal would be considered to alter or abrogate an existing section of the Constitution under the opinion’s definitions, then “the petition supporters must fully comply with the requirement that the petition republish any existing constitutional provision that the proposed amendment, if adopted, would alter or abrogate.”

At issue with the proposed casino expansion ballot initiative was whether the initiative’s requirement that each new casino be granted a liquor license from the state altered or abrogated the Constitution’s provision that provides that the liquor control commission “shall exercise complete control of the alcoholic beverage traffic within this state.” Citizens for More Michigan Jobs, the creator of the proposal, argued that the proposal did not alter or abrogate the existing Constitution because the language did not render the existing provision wholly inoperative. However, the Court disagreed, holding that “[b]ecause the complete control necessarily communicates the exclusivity of control, anyinfringement on that control abrogates that exclusivity.” Because the Court held that the proposal abrogated existing portions of the Constitution, the Court concluded that the proposal did not fully comply with the republishing requirements and, therefore, was not eligible to be placed onto the November ballot.

In addition to the ruling on the casino expansion proposal, the Court directed the Board of State Canvassers “to proceed as necessary to place the proposed constitutional amendment on the November 2012 election ballot” for the proposed amendments regarding voter approval for international bridge projects and for a supermajority vote in the legislature to raise taxes. Regarding the proposal to protect certain collective bargaining rights, the Court refused to overturn a lower court ruling that directed the Board of Canvassers to place the proposal on the November 2012 ballot. As such, the casino expansion proposal will be the only one of the four proposals considered in the opinion that will not be on the ballot.


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