What to make of a bill making its way through Michigan’s assembly:
Michigan lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that would enable the governor to appoint “emergency managers” — officials with unilateral power to make sweeping changes to cities facing financial troubles.
Under the legislation, the Michigan Messenger reports, the governor could declare a “financial emergency” in towns or school districts. He could then appoint a manager to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services – and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input.
The measure passed in the state Senate this week; the House passed its own version earlier. The two versions of the bill are expected to be reconciled next week, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill the bill into law.
On the one hand, concentrating that much executive power in a governor’s office is almost certainly unprecedented — and probably undesirable as well.
On the other hand, what’s going on in Michigan economically is unprecedented. A major industrial state has seen its manufacturing core become a hollow shell of itself, while the population flees for everywhere — anywhere — else. We’ve seen many states in relative decline as the West and South steal businesses and people from the Northeast and the Midwest. But I’m not sure we’ve ever seen anything like Michigan’s absolute decline — it’s eerily like Dagny and Hank’s road trip through the ruins of the midwest in Atlas Shrugged.
What’s most striking is that the new state government seems, at least for now, to be more concerned with managing Michigan’s fall instead of trying to reverse. And, for now, maybe they should be.