AP NEWS

The Latest: Michigan panel OKs bill to limit ballot drives

December 19, 2018
1 of 2
Demonstrators gather at the steps of the Capitol before going inside to chant in the Rotunda as the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives consider bills during a "lame duck" session in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, Dec 12, 2019. Michigan Republicans moved Wednesday to curtail ballot initiatives by advancing a measure limiting how many signatures could come from any one region of the state, the latest proposal assailed by critics as an unconstitutional, lame-duck power grab from incoming Democratic officeholders or voters. (Dale G.Young/Detroit News via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Latest on the Michigan Legislature’s lame-duck session (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

A Republican-led committee in Michigan’s Senate has voted to make it harder to initiate ballot drives.

The bill approved Wednesday would allow no more than 15 percent of qualifying petition signatures to come from any one of Michigan’s 14 congressional districts. Michigan currently has no geographical requirements for initiating constitutional amendments, legislation or referendums.

Critics, including some Republicans, say the legislation is an unconstitutional attempt to put obstacles in front of citizens who already must collect hundreds of thousands of valid signatures. Supporters, including the business community, say there should be broader support for measures before they are placed on the ballot — particularly as many ballot drives are funded by out-of-state interests with anonymous donors.

The legislation was introduced after Michigan voters last month approved ballot initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana, curtail partisan gerrymandering and expand voting options.

The full Senate could vote later Wednesday.

___

1:20 p.m.

Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is racing to pass bills in the final days of a contentious lame-duck session, with the fate of several GOP-backed bills hanging in the balance before Democrats take over top offices in January.

Legislation that would make it harder to propose ballot initiatives faced resistance Wednesday from conservatives involved in major ballot drives in recent decades. They call it unconstitutional and echo Democratic criticism that limiting signatures by geographic region would restrict people’s right to petition the government.

Another measure would remove legal protections from many of Michigan’s wetlands and other inland waterways. Lawmakers also are weighing a spending bill and whether to legalize online gambling.

While Republicans will continue to control the Legislature, Democrats are taking over the governor, attorney general and secretary of state offices.