Michigan Supreme Court Upholds 3 of 4 Proposals to Amend Michigan’s Constitution

In a very thorough opinion (attached below), especially considering that oral argument was just presented on August 30th, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld three of four rulings by the Court of Appeals allowing the placement of proposed constitutional amendments on the November 2012 ballot.

The opinion upholds the proposals to amend the Constitution by popular vote through the procedures authorized by Michigan Const. 1963, art. 12, sec. 2.  The four proposals would amend the Constitution to (1) constitutionally “enshrine” the right of collective bargaining; (2) require the decision to construct a new bridge between Michigan and Canada to be submitted to popular vote; (3) require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people before any tax increase can be approved; and (4) allow for the construction of eight new casinos in Michigan and designate their locations.

The latter amendment proposed to require the casinos be granted liquor licenses.  This provision was the only one that was struck down by the Court because of the technicality that such an amendment would remove the constitutional authority granted to the liquor control commission to grant liquor licenses.  As such, the proposed amendment would have abrogated an existing constitutional provision; specifically, Mich. Const. 1963, art. 4, sec. 40, because that provision gives to the commission “complete control” of the “alcoholic beverage traffic” in Michigan.  Thus, the proposed “casino amendment” failed to include the republication of art. 4, sec. 40, which was subject to abrogation as required by the procedures of art. 12, sec. 2.

The majority opinion was authored by Justice Zahra.  It was joined by Justices Mary Beth Kelly, Young, and Markman.  Justices Marilyn Kelly, Cavanagh and Hathaway concurred in that part of the majority opinion concerning the first three proposals, i.e., the “collective bargaining” amendment, the “bridge” amendment, and the “2/3 or popular vote to raise taxes” amendment.  However, they dissented from the Court’s decision concerning the fourth proposal; the “casino” amendment.  The dissent reasoned that the liquor control commission’s control over alcoholic beverages was neither complete nor exclusive, but subject to limits the Legislature might place upon it concerning the traffic of alcoholic beverages in Michigan.  The dissent reasoned that if the Legislature could place limits on the liquor commission’s authority, then so too could the people.  Thus, the dissent concluded, in this regard, that the proposed amendment did not abrogate an existing constitutional provision and did not fail on the technicality that the initial proposal did not include the text of the  provision the majority concluded would be abrogated by the “casino” amendment.

This is a very informative opinion, which is especially prescient in light of the upcoming election and in light of recent movements concerning the power and significance of state constitutions in our federalist system of government.

Read the opinion here:  Protect Our Jobs Opinions

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