Senate Passes Emergency Financial Manager Bill with a Party Line Vote

By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
By: Sherene Tagharobi Email
Two days of debate and many defeated amendments later, the Senate approves a bill giving more power to emergency financial managers.

The Michigan Capitol is shown at twilight Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, in Lansing, Mich. Lawmakers continue work on budget bills that deal with a $2.8 billion shortfall before an Oct. 1 deadline. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

Union workers watched in disbelief outside the Senate chamber, at times chanting so loudly they could be heard inside as that body shot down amendment after amendment to a bill they say strips them of their union rights.

"What's disgusting? Union Busting!" they chanted in anger.

"These are amendments that the public out here, the constituents, have been supporting and our elected representatives don't want to hear the voice of the people," said Doug Withey of Teamsters Local 580.

The bill in question would give broad new powers to emergency financial managers. Among the changes shot down: requiring the EFM to hold open meetings once a month and saying he or she can't make more money than the governor. The salary cap was defeated only by the Lt. Governor's tie breaking vote.

"You can debate the DHS workers' meager compensation then dole out taxpayer-funded salaries bigger than our governor's? I can't help but wonder maybe you're looking out for your next job after term limits," said Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, Democratic Leader.

"By limiting the salary I think we're taking an opportunity that removes very qualified people from coming in under very extreme conditions with the knowledge to turn the community around," said Sen. Phil Pavlov, a republican of St. Clair.

"The emergency superintendent in detroit making over $420,000 a year," said steelworker Pamela VanLue. "Where are they getting that money from?"

VanLue calls the whole thing ludacris -- and one Detroit senator made it clear he agrees.

"You want me to go back to my constituency Mr. President and tell them, don't worry, the state's got your back, don't worry, we'll take care of you? In the words of my great great grandfather, 'Is you crazy?'" said Senator Coleman Young II, a democrat from Detroit.

Eight amendments were adopted Wednesday, none of them proposed by Democrats. Some changes they included will make it so that the EFM could not touch police and firefighters' death benefits, the payment entitled to their families if they are killed in the line of duty, in a collective bargaining agreement. The senate also decided the EFM should not have a conflict of interest.

The bill was approved in a 26-12 party line vote.

Now it's up to the house to approve this version before it hits the governor's desk.

The governor did not commit today to signing it but has said he favors the package of bills.

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  • by Anonymous on Mar 11, 2011 at 10:06 AM
    John, you are thinking of a republic in which our country is built upon. Democracy is truly a majority rule. The people get to have their voice heard every year at lection time and this time it was the convservative voices and practical that was overwhelming.
  • by Bob Location: Haslett on Mar 10, 2011 at 12:57 PM
    The real question is who voted for these people? And for that matter who didn't get out and vote for more representative alternatives?
  • by John Ensink Location: Big Rapids on Mar 10, 2011 at 09:03 AM
    The sky is falling, the sky is falling! Oh no wait, it's just Democracy • Democracy is government in which power and civic responsibility are exercised by ALL ADULT CITIZENS, directly, or through their freely elected representatives. • Democracy rests upon the principles of majority rule and individual rights. Democracies guard against all-powerful central governments and decentralize government to regional and local levels, understanding that all levels of government must be as accessible and responsive to the people as possible. • Democracies understand that one of their prime functions is to protect such basic human rights as freedom of speech and religion; the right to equal protection under law; and the opportunity to organize and participate fully in the political, economic, and cultural life of society. • Democracies conduct regular free and fair elections open to citizens of voting age. Read more at
  • by Doug Location: Lansing on Mar 10, 2011 at 06:19 AM
    In the Middle East they are risking their lives to remove dictators in favor of a democratic government, while here in Michigan our elected officials are voting to remove democratic processes and controls to appoint local or regional dictators... I hope the reasonable, thoughtful people in this state wake up and remove the current legislators that are working hard to take our democratic rights away.
  • by Bill Location: Delta Twp. on Mar 9, 2011 at 08:03 PM
    As usual lawmakers not listening to the public they were elected to serve.
  • by Jeff Location: Haslett on Mar 9, 2011 at 04:01 PM
    Let me get this right... The Republicans are cutting budgets that will put muncipalities and school districts in financial crisis, leading to EFM take overs. They are at the same time attacking pay, benefits, and various unions via various bills and budget proposals because they are saying middle class income earners are earning too much. They are underfunding people in schools and muncipalities, hindering their ability to deal with serious and important issues, again increasing their chances of being taken over by EFM, or these so called Czars. Then these Czars are going to get outrageous salaries (2,3, 4, 5 or more times a middle class income)because to do any less would led to not being able to attract the best people to be EFM's. These EFM's wont have to answer to the normal local democratic processes and mechanisms. Am I missing something here? We are on the road to local depotism at the hands of a ruling elite...the current republican dominated Legislature and governor.
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