A Government Affairs Expert Explains the November Ballot Proposals
For the upcoming November general election, a trio of ballot proposals will be considered by Michigan voters. While the Chamber does have stances on these three proposals, our primary objective is to ensure that our members are educated on what exactly these proposals entail for our community.
“The Chamber takes our positions on public policy very seriously. It’s truly a member-driven process,” said Andy Johnston, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber. “With the marijuana legalization proposal, for example, that went to our Healthcare & Human Resources Committee, the Public Policy Council, and the Board of Directors for review before we determined our position. Along the way, many members had the opportunity to engage in crafting this position.”
Educating Employees on Politics & Public Policy
As an employer, you have the opportunity to encourage your employees to vote, as well as the credibility to educate them so they can make informed choices at the polls. “Sometimes employers can be hesitant about sharing information on election issues with employees, but it’s important to have educated voters,” said Johnston. “Employers are a great resource of information when it comes to educating employees about public policy issues.”
Studies conducted by the Harvard Business Review show that a growing number of employees appreciate receiving political information through the workplace. Furthermore, the study showed that 60% of employees trusted the information provided by their employers and that the information provided helped them decide how to vote.
Note that it is legal to provide facts that inform employees how certain proposals will impact their places of work, but it is illegal to intimidate employees for not voting a certain way or to reward employees for voting a certain way.
For more information on communicating with employees about public policy, visit grandrapids.org/ballot.
Q&A: The November Ballot Proposal
PROPOSAL 1: THE LEGALIZATION OF RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA
This is a proposed initiated law to authorize and legalize possession, use, and cultivation of marijuana products by individuals who are at least 21 years of age and older, and commercial sales of marijuana through state-licensed retailers.
This proposal would:
- Allow individuals 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles, and grow up to 12 marijuana plants for personal consumption.
- Impose a 10-ounce limit for marijuana kept at residences and require amounts over 2.5 ounces to be secured in locked containers.
- Create a state licensing system for marijuana businesses and allow municipalities to ban or restrict them.
- Permit retail sales of marijuana and edibles subject to a 10% excise tax, dedicated to implementation costs, clinical trials, schools, roads, and municipalities where marijuana businesses are located.
- Change several current violations from crimes to civil infractions.
If passed, Proposal 1 would make Michigan the 10th state to legalize recreational marijuana.
The Chamber Stance: VOTE NO
Johnston: Our members were very concerned with this proposal. Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. There’s a lot of uncertainty with how the federal government will move forward – and that creates a lot of workplace issues.
LIKE WHAT ISSUES?
Johnston: One issue is that there is no accurate on-demand impairment test for marijuana. If an employee comes to work and you suspect that they are high on marijuana, there’s no good test that shows impairment at that moment, unlike with alcohol. THC stays within your system for a long time, so while a test may show that there’s a presence of marijuana in your system, it does not prove present impairment. It could be that the person was using marijuana over the weekend or several weeks ago. It also creates issues if you have a workplace with a drug policy. If employees are casually talking about going to a marijuana retail store, what do you do as someone from Human Resources? Do you take action against them? We’re also very concerned about public health impacts since there haven’t been good long-term studies on marijuana usage. Lastly, by making it legal, you will increase access to it – so it will show up more in schools and with the youth.
PROPOSAL 2: LEGISLATIVE DISTRICT BOUNDARIES
This proposal is a Constitutional Amendment to change how the state determines boundaries for Michigan Senate, Michigan House of Representatives and Congressional districts. If adopted, it would create an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission and would transfer the authority to draw Congressional and State Legislative district lines from the Legislature and Governor to the Independent Commission. The selection process will be administered by the Secretary of State. Thirteen commissioners will be randomly selected from a pool of registered voters, and consist of four members who self-identify with each of the two major political parties, and five non-affiliated, independent members. Current and former partisan elected officials, lobbyists, party officers, and their employees are not eligible to serve.
The Chamber Stance: VOTE NO
Johnston: There’s a lot of requirements you need to meet in order to be on the Commission. From our standpoint, it really limits the pool and we wonder who would actually be able to serve on this Commission. By having an independent commission with all these requirements, we’re putting the power of redistricting into an unaccountable, unelected body administered by the Secretary of State, which will still be a politically-elected position. On top of that, it will break up current Michigan communities to create politically-based districts based upon the undefined “communities of interest” criteria. An unaccountable commission with undefined criteria means a NO for us.
Johnston: We set a very high bar when it comes to constitutional amendments. In our minds, this doesn’t meet the standards. We encourage people to do research past the headlines of, “We’re against gerrymandering.” The current system we have has served Michigan really well. We’ve swung back and forth between Republicans having power to Democrats and back again. States with similar commissions do not have better outcomes. Looking at the legislative maps of California and Arizona, states with independent commissions, it’s clear that their districts don’t look much different than ours in how they’re shaped. It’s hard to argue that we’re going to achieve better outcomes.
PROPOSAL 3: VOTER REGISTRATION & OPTIONS
The third and final proposal is a Constitutional Amendment that seeks to change voter registration and election law by allowing:
- Straight-ticket voting.
- No-reason absentee ballot voting.
- Automatic voter registration when applying for, updating or renewing a driver’s license or state-issued personal identification card.
- Voters to simultaneously register to vote and obtain a ballot in the two-week period prior to an election, up to and including Election Day.
The Chamber Stance: NO POSITION TAKEN
Johnston: This proposal got on the ballot after our process date and the Chamber wasn’t being asked to weigh in. However, everyone needs to take Constitutional Amendments very seriously. The only way to change it moving forward is through another Constitutional Amendment. Once something is enshrined in the constitution, it’s a very difficult process to change it. That’s why we set a very high bar when it comes to supporting or opposing constitutional amendments. Do your research before voting!
Questions about the ballot proposals or the Chamber’s stance on each? Contact Andy Johnston at [email protected]
With marijuana legalization on the November 6th ballot and medicinal marijuana facilities moving into Grand Rapids, cannabis is a hot topic on the minds of many in West Michigan. Register for our Cannabis Summit and hear from Chris Woods, Owner, Terrapin Care Station in Boulder, Colorado, on how marijuana legalization has impacted their state and city, and what it could mean for Grand Rapids and your workplace. Panel discussions will include human resources issues, local and out-of-state business impacts, legal implications and more.
The Cannabis Summit
Thursday, October 18, 2018
8:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Grand Rapids Chamber – 250 Monroe Ave NW, Suite 150