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Michigan initiatives miss deadline, will turn to legislature

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The organizers behind two high-profile Michigan bills skipped a deadline to potentially appear on the November ballot and will instead seek approval of the initiatives through the controlled Legislative Assembly by Republicans.

Of the 10 voting committees trying to change state law, Michiganders for Fair Lending’s proposal to cap payday loan rates was the only group to submit signatures by June 1. The petition signatures will be reviewed by the Elections Office before the Board of Canvassers, a four-member committee, decides whether or not to certify them. If certified, the bill would first be sent to the Legislative Assembly before it can appear on the November ballot.

Let MI Kids Learn, an initiative backed by former US education secretary Betsy DeVos, did not file on time, despite organizers saying the petition has exceeded the required number of signatures. The initiative would provide tax breaks for donations to a private education fund that parents and students could use to pay for private school tuition and other education expenses.

Fred Wszolek, spokesman for Let MI Kids Learn, said the group chose not to file because the number of signatures required “assumes all are valid but they are never all valid”. Instead, Wszolek said the band would continue to collect signatures in an effort to build a cushion before submitting.

Democratic State Sen. Dayna Polehanki said she believed the group had the necessary signatures but never intended to take the issue to voters.

“The school voucher systems have failed the ballot twice. So instead, the legislature will just pass it during the 40-day window,” Polehanki said in an interview with AP. “They know it’s not the will of the people.”

Under Michigan law, citizen-led legislative petitions that receive enough signatures are sent directly to the legislature. He then has 40 days from receipt of the request to adopt, reject or ignore the proposal.

If not passed, the initiative is presented to voters as a ballot proposal at the next general election. If the legislature votes to enact the proposal, it becomes law and the governor has no veto power.

“The people of Michigan with their signatures can replace the governor (act). It’s in the constitution. It’s not a loophole in state law, it’s written in bold in the constitution,” Wszolek said in response to criticism.

The group Secure MI Vote, which aims to impose tougher voter ID requirements and restrict absentee voting, also opted not to file by June 1 after spokesman Jamie Roe said the group discovered more than 20,000 fraudulent signatures on their petitions. Roe said the petition received 435,000 signatures in total, 95,000 more than needed.

“We want to make sure we have enough. And we think the initiative will go through the Legislative Assembly and not even go to the ballot box, so the June deadline was artificial for us,” Roe said.

Voting restrictions similar to those proposed by Secure MI Vote were passed last year before Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed them.

Wszolek and Roe each said their groups hoped to file signatures with the secretary of state’s office as soon as possible and that the proposed laws would be presented to the Legislative Assembly before the end of the year.

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Joey Cappelletti is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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