Senate Bill 571 Signed by Governor, Creates Gag Order on Local Elections

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Jan. 13, 2016

On Thursday, the Governor signed Senate Bill 571 into law as Public Act 269 of 2015. As you know, this new law prohibits local and intermediate school districts from distributing factual and unbiased information for 60 days prior to an election. The 60-day gag order went into effect last Friday for districts and local governments that have a March 8 ballot issue.

This language will have a devastating impact on school districts across the state, severely hampering our efforts to educate voters on local initiatives such as millages, millage renewals, bonds, annexations or consolidations.

The following is the statement issued by MASB after the bill was signed:

“MASB is disappointed that Gov. Snyder signed SB 571 into law on Wednesday establishing a gag provision on local officials and schools from communicating information about local ballot elections within 60 days of an election. This provision was added last minute to SB 571 just before the Legislature adjourned for the year.

‘Those entities with items on the March 8 ballot will be within that 60-day window starting Jan. 8. Voters need access to accurate information on how the money would be spent and what the consequences will be for area childrenincluding their ownif school districts win or lose those elections,’ said Don Wotruba, Executive Director. ‘School and local officials already are banned from advocating for a tax increase or bond renewal. They shouldn’t be banned from giving voters the facts.’

The Governor has urged the Legislature to revisit the issue to address the problems that have been raised by schools districts and local governments. MASB is ready to assist the Governor and the Legislature in fixing this ill-conceived provision that was added at the last minute to SB 571.”

On Thursday, MASB joined with local governments and other school groups in calling for the repeal of the new language included in Section 57 of the law that institutes this gag order. We urge you to also contact your State Representatives and Senators and tell them to not support a fix, but to completely remove the new language and allow schools, libraries and governments to continue to distribute basic factual information about upcoming local ballot issues.

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