What to know about Michigan's 2018 ballot drives

By David Eggert
Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Faced with an unreceptive Legislature, advocates for marijuana legalization, guaranteed paid sick leave and a host of other bills are banking that you will embrace them at the ballot box — if the proposals make it there.

Organizers so far have launched seven initiatives for the November 2018 statewide election and need to collect hundreds of thousands of valid signatures to qualify. Circulators are working the crowds at summer festivals, park concerts and other places with pedestrian traffic.

Not sure whether to sign? Here is a breakdown of what the proposals would do, their prospects and their source of funding:



Michigan already allows for the use of marijuana for medical reasons. A proposal that appears likely to go before voters next year would make it the eighth state to legalize the drug for recreational use.

Adults 21 and older could possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants at home. A 10 percent tax on marijuana would be assessed, in addition to the 6 percent sales tax.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol says it has collected 200,000 signatures in three months. It needs about 252,000 valid signatures in a six-month window.

The committee raised $518,000 through late July, including $200,000 from Troy-based tobacco retailer Smokers Outlet Management, which is now Wild Bill’s Tobacco, and $100,000 from pro-marijuana group MI Legalize 2018. Kevin McCaffery of Ann Arbor, the president of RBK Enterprises, has given $125,000 to MI Legalize.

The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol reported $189,000 in in-kind assistance from the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group that was the driving force behind successful legalization ballot initiatives in other states.

On Thursday, the state elections board approved the form of a second marijuana legalization petition filed by Abrogate Prohibition Michigan, which proposes no taxation or regulation of the drug. The initiative appears to lack enough financial or organizational backing to make the ballot.



Once a decade, Michigan’s congressional and legislative districts are redrawn by the Legislature. It results in gerrymandering, where parties draw the seats to favor themselves. Republicans controlled the process entirely after the 2010 and 2000 Census counts.

The ballot group Voters Not Politicians began circulating petitions Thursday for a constitutional amendment to create an independent 13-member commission to control redistricting instead. The commission of four Democrats, four Republicans and five others not affiliated with either party would be prohibited from providing a “disproportionate advantage” to a political party. Commissioners would be selected at random from a pool of applicants.

The committee raised $122,000 from nearly 1,500 citizens by late July. Organizers say they have “thousands” of volunteer signature gatherers. Collecting the required 315,000 signatures without paid staff will be difficult — partly because it is a tough issue to explain to people — but it is not impossible.

It is unclear if the Democratic Party or liberal interests will get involved in the initiative that has drawn criticism from conservatives.



Michigan has a 52-year-old law that requires workers on state-financed government construction projects to be paid local wage and benefit rates, which are based on union contracts. The prevailing wage law would be repealed under a measure that appears poised for eventual deliberation by legislators or voters.

Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, a ballot committee led by the nonunion Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan, has raised $808,000 for the effort — mostly by self-funding.

Organizers will push the GOP-led Legislature to pass the initiated bill if enough signatures are certified. And Gov. Rick Snyder, who opposes the legislation, will be unable to veto it.

ABC was involved in an earlier repeal push that surprisingly faltered in 2015 due to a shoddy signature-collection effort.



Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, a potential Republican gubernatorial candidate, is spearheading a constitutional amendment to make the Legislature part-time. It would require lawmakers to adjourn their regular session by April 15 of each year, slashing their pay from about $72,000 to an amount equaling half of the average teacher’s salary — roughly $32,000 based on 2015-16 data compiled by the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council.

The Clean Michigan Committee has collected $518,000, plus another $301,000 in in-kind media and advertising support from a Calley-connected independent political action committee. Much of the ballot committee’s financial support, $506,000, comes from a 501(c)(4) “social welfare” nonprofit, the Fund for Michigan Jobs, which is not required to disclose its donors.

A little over a month into gathering signatures, Calley’s group was forced to start over with a revised initiative that its lawyer said were “clarifying and technical in nature.” Calley has not asked the elections board to approve the new petition form, an optional but typical step that many groups use to better protect against later legal challenges.



Advocates for requiring paid sick days for employees are taking another crack at the ballot after a 2016 drive was unsuccessful. The proposal would ensure that workers earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked.

Similar Democratic-sponsored bills have stalled in the Legislature. MI Time to Care says 1.7 million Michigan workers in the private sector work without the ability to earn paid sick time to care for themselves or family members.

The measure could be a priority for labor interests and progressive groups in what will be a big gubernatorial election and would spark pushback from the business community.



Activists who want to shut down twin 64-year-old oil pipelines beneath the Straits of Mackinac hope to get voters to weigh in. The petition proposed by Keep Our Lakes Great would terminate a 1953 easement for Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 pipelines and require the company to no longer transport crude oil through them.

The committee raised just $3,000 through late July and seems to be a long shot to qualify.