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Michigan Ballot Bill Clears Senate Despite Democrats' Opposition

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A bill making it harder to put issues on the statewide ballot has cleared the state Senate on a party-line vote.

Republican state lawmakers arefast-tracking a bill making it harder to put issues on the statewide ballot.  The legislation would set a hard 180-day limit for collecting petition signatures.  Right now, campaigns can argue that older signatures are valid and should be counted.

Senate Bill 776 passed on a party-line vote.  Republicans say it makes the law more clear.  “Everybody knows it’s going to be within those 180 days,” said state Senate Majority Leader ArlanMeekhof (R-West Olive).  “And the Legislature sets the rules by which, and everybody will play by the same rules.”

Democrats blasted the bill.  “Instead of dealing with the pressing issues that we are here to deal with on an everyday basis, once again we are here passing legislation to block the vote,” said state Senator Coleman Young II (D-Detroit).

A state elections board is considering a policy change that would make it easier to count signatures outside the 180-day window.  That effort was launched by activists hoping to legalize marijuana in Michigan.  “You cannot block the vote just because you don’t like what those people are standing for,” said Young.

The legislation now goes to the state House.

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— Jake Neher is the State Capitol Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

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