Thursday, September 07, 2006

State says government spending proposal is short on signatures

Oh, happy day. Please let this be true.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit state government spending did not collect enough valid signatures to put the measure on the November ballot, elections officials estimated Wednesday.

The secretary of state's office said estimates show petitions turned in by the Michigan Stop Overspending Committee have only 305,403 valid signatures. At least 317,757 valid signatures are needed to go before voters.

Officials recommended that the Board of State Canvassers on Friday vote against putting the measure on the ballot.

Supporters turned in more than 500,000 signatures. But a sample reviewed by the secretary of state's office found duplicate signatures and signatures from people not registered to vote in Michigan.

The measure would tie state spending to a combination of inflation and population growth, require voters to approve more aspects of local budgets and prohibit future state payments into retirement plans for lawmakers.

The Stop Overspending group said it would go to the courts if the bipartisan, four-member elections board does not put the measure on the ballot. Spokesman Scott Tillman criticized the state's policy of automatically tossing both signatures when someone signs twice.

"To throw out people's signatures, both of them, because they inadvertently signed twice is not right," he said, adding that other states invalidate only the duplicate signature, not both the duplicate and the otherwise valid original.

But a spokesman for Defend Michigan, a coalition of groups opposing the ballot proposal, said there is concrete evidence that backers broke the law.

"The out-of-state extremists behind (the proposal) abused the process that protects citizen access to our ballot, and they should be ashamed," Roger Martin said. He added that Michigan courts have upheld the policy of declaring all duplicates invalid.

These "out of state extremists" and their TABOR amendment were just thrown out in Oklahoma for doing the very same thing- producing fraudulent signatures and engaging in "illegal activities".

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the proposed "taxpayer bill of rights" petition to reduce growth in government spending.

In a one-page order written by Chief Justice Joseph M. Watt, the court unanimously held the petition lacked sufficient valid signatures to send it to the ballot.

The proposal was aimed at creating a constitutional amendment to limit increases in state government spending to the growth of inflation and population.

The order indicated the justices agreed with a referee's report that tens of thousands of signatures were gathered illegally by out-of-state circulators.

"An official opinion will follow specifically addressing the issues of signer- numerical insufficiency and of illegal activities of out-of-state circulators," Watt wrote.

Between the fraud committed by the MCRI/Affirmative Action people, and now the fraud committed by these Norquist "drown the state government" people, it's obvious that there needs to be stricter rules and regulations on the groups that gather signatures that would profoundly change our state. Heavy fines? Felony charges? Bar out-of-state activists and groups? I don't know the answer to this one, but the system is definitely broken.

The Free Press agrees-

Make it a misdemeanor with the added penalty of invalidating signatures on petitions gathered by anyone found guilty of such tactics. Hard to prove, sure, but would the mercenaries hired for petition drives and paid per signature take the chance? It would certainly be a deterrent. Petitioners who want to force an election on the state and change laws that affect 10 million people ought to be required to have some integrity. Interestingly, there are such safeguards in place for petition drives to recall public officials.

And the South Bend Tribune weighs in- and talks about yet another scam in the dove hunting proposition-

A majority "no" vote on Proposal 3 would reinstate the ban permanently. Momentum was strong. But the opposition wasn't giving up without a fight. With a goal to raise $3.2 million for an advertising blitz, the pro-dove hunting group Citizens for Wildlife Conservation staged a lottery. Problem is, it is illegal in Michigan for anyone but the state to conduct a lottery, and Michigan law expressly forbids running lotteries to support or oppose ballot proposals.

After investigating for two months -- while the lottery continued -- Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox declared it illegal. But instead of requiring that the ill-gotten gains be returned, the agreement Cox reached lets the group keep the money unless ticket-buyers ask for it back by Sept. 30.

The other side, the Committee to Restore the Dove Shooting Ban, is considering its options: to seek action from the Michigan Secretary of State or to seek criminal charges at the county level.

With the election just two months away, the shenanigans surrounding both of these proposals need to be addressed thoroughly and quickly. Moreover, the system for conducting ballot initiatives in Michigan bears a close examination. There is something very wrong when it is possible to break the law, get caught and, as seems likely in these two cases, get away with it.

This has got to stop.