Bill Amending “Gag Order” Law Moves From Committee Despite League Opposition

Posted on February 3, 2016 by Dene Westbrook

One of the numerous bills that have been introduced in recent weeks to “fix” the infamous SB 571/PA 269 was reported from House committee this afternoon despite opposition from local government organizations, including the MML.  House Bill 5219 was amended in the committee with an H-1 substitute and was sent to the House floor on a 6-1-1 vote.  The new version, while resolving some of the issues the League has highlighted with the new law, maintains an extra-regulatory structure over certain radio, television, mass mailing, or pre-recorded telephone message communications with residents.  Broad language identifying any of the covered communication methods that “references a local ballot question” was also retained.  New language was added in an attempt to define allowable communications as the actual ballot language, the date of an election, and “Factual and strictly neutral information concerning the direct impact of a local ballot question on a public body or the electorate, except if the communication can reasonably be interpreted as an attempt to influence the outcome of a local ballot question.”

The League continues to press for a repeal of the language added to Section 57 by PA 269 and stated the concern that attempts to define what is an allowable communication with residents has the potential to lead right back to the legal concerns that have put this new law in question in the first place, with local officials not knowing what is acceptable and what is forbidden.

It is not yet known when the House expects to take HB 5219 up for consideration.

Chris Hackbarth is the League’s director of state affairs. He can be reached at 517-908-0304and [email protected].

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