Proposed constitutional amendment would change state’s recall lawPublished 6:25pm Wednesday, December 7, 2011
With a struggling economy and political unrest, recalls have been all the rage in Michigan.
Currently, state law allows a recall of an elected official to be attempted for any reason, including an official’s votes and opinions on policy. But a recently proposed constitutional amendment would limit the reasons for which a public official can be ousted from office.
The proposed law change comes on the heels of Genesee County voters recalling state Rep. Paul Scott from office for his education policy and votes. State Senator John Proos, R-St. Joseph and Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, both have faced recall efforts as well.
Michigan is one of 19 states that permit the recalls of state officials, according to the National Conference of State Legislators.
Recall attempts of local government officials have also been prevalent, especially in Berrien County.
The Niles area has seen its share of recall efforts recently with Bertrand Township Supervisor John Mefford and Trustee Dick Haigh both removed from office in May. Also this year, a group of Niles Township residents attempted to recall Supervisor Jim Ringler, while another group organized an effort against Treasurer Jim Ringler, Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt and Trustees Dick Cooper, Dick Noble.
In the past 20 years, more than 340 recall wordings have been filed in Berrien County, or about 17 a year, according to statistics from the county clerk’s office. But only 26 of them led to the removal of a candidate in office.
The proposed amendment would limit recall attempts to reasons such as misconduct, criminal convictions or incompetence.
Proos said, although he didn’t co-sponsor the measure, he would support it.
“It’s been a very expensive statute both at the state and local levels,” Proos said. “This has cost taxpayers’ tens of thousands of dollars in Berrien County with the number of recall efforts.”
Proos believes elected officials shouldn’t be recalled based on their opinion on policy or the way they vote on issues; that’s what elections are for, he argues.
“We should not be subject to recall when we’re doing our job,” he said.
In a Daily Star story in April, several local public officials, who have been targeted for recall, expressed frustration with the current recall law.
“My thought about the whole issue is it’s way too easy for a recall to be started to begin with,” Niles Township Supervisor Jim Kidwell said. “It’s just a matter of putting some words down. It doesn’t even have to be truthful.”
Changing the current recall law would be a tall task. Proos said a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote by the Senate and House to have the issue put on the ballot for Michigan voters.
Proos said Michigan legislators may pass the measure, considering the “angst, frustration and even anger” the recent recall of Scott has caused.