LANSING, Mich. — Republican Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed a law making it harder for groups to put proposals on the Michigan ballot, imposing a geographical-based requirement that could prevent them from gathering signatures for petitions mainly from the most populated areas.
The move followed voters’ passage of three Democratic-backed proposals last month and Republicans’ unprecedented tactic — enacted by the term-limited governor two weeks ago — to weaken minimum wage and paid sick time laws that began as ballot initiatives. Legal challenges are expected.
Also Friday, Snyder vetoed a bill that would have automatically empowered the GOP-led Legislature to intervene in certain lawsuits, which had been seen by critics as an attempt to hamstring incoming Democratic Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel. He also vetoed a measure that would have blocked future attempts to force the disclosure of donors to nonprofits, including political groups whose sway has grown in elections.
He signed a law requiring Democratic Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer and future administrations to have a “clear and convincing” need to adopt environmental and other state regulations that are tougher than federal standards.
Snyder acted days before he leaves office after a frenetic lame-duck session in which Republican lawmakers passed measures criticized as power grabs.
The ballot drive measure will affect groups initiating constitutional amendments, bills and referendums by capping the number of signatures that can come from an individual congressional district at 15 percent. There is no geographic threshold currently.
Democrats, along with Republicans involved in past anti-abortion and tax-limiting citizen initiatives, had urged a veto and had called the legislation blatantly unconstitutional. But Snyder’s office said the law will promote “geographic diversity” in support of ballot drives.
The legislative intervention bill had been criticized by opponents as an attempt to undercut Nessel, who will be the first Democratic attorney general in 16 years and who has said she may not defend state laws she believes are unconstitutional. Republicans had disputed the allegation, saying the legislation would ensure that the legislative branch has a voice as more laws are challenged in the courts.
In a veto letter to legislators, Snyder said the “well-intentioned” measure would have complicated a governor’s ability to manage litigation, adding that it would not have been “prudent” for him to sign it as his term comes to an end.
“We are grateful to Gov. Snyder for demonstrating his integrity and commitment to upholding the Michigan Constitution,” Nessel said in a statement.
GOP legislators previously abandoned an attempt to strip Democratic Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson of her campaign oversight authority and instead shift it to a new bipartisan commission.