Gov. Rick Snyder signs controversial senate bill

Posted at 5:03 PM, Jan 06, 2016

Gov. Rick Snyder has signed the controversial senate bill that would make it illegal for government workers to talk publicly about a ballot issue 60 days before an election.

Related: Bill on Governor Snyder's desk could act as gag order on public officials before millage elections

7 Action News first exposed how this bill passed through the house and senate. It was initially only 12 pages, and its sponsors say is intended to regulate campaign dollars. But the last day of last year's session, lawmakers added 41 pages, including what critics says is essentially a gag order on public officials and many have asked Snyder not to sign the bill. 

In a written statement issued today, Snyder said:

"The bill also includes a provision that many municipalities and public institutions that rely on millages have concerns with: prohibiting the use of taxpayer dollars being used for mass communications pertaining to local ballot questions 60 days before an election.

The intent was to prohibit the use of advertisement-style mass communications using taxpayer dollars, not to impact the expression of personal views by a public official or the use of public facilities for debates or town halls on ballot questions.

To address the concerns, Snyder is calling on the Legislature to pass clarifying legislation in time for the March 2016 election. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Speaker Kevin Cotter are both supportive of moving this legislation through their respective chambers quickly."

If public officials violate the law they may have to pay thousands of dollars in fines and a year in jail.

Some groups are already responding to Snyder signing the bill. 

The Michigan Association of Counties released a statement calling the signing "disappointing."

Rep. Tim Greimel, the house democratic leader, released this statement:

“For the second time in two days, Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law a bill designed to tamper with our democracy. Senate Bill 571 is designed to keep voters in the dark about important issues in their community, including school millages and bonds to fund police and fire departments. Because of Gov. Snyder’s actions, local governments and school districts will not be allowed to pay for materials to educate voters on these issues. Meanwhile, corporations face few limits on their influence on elections. Gov. Snyder should remember he was elected to serve the people of Michigan, not the special interests who will benefit from this new law.”