The Gongwer Blog

by Alethia Kasben, Managing Editor

Payday Lending, Abortion, Scholarship Program Props Spending Big

Posted: May 2, 2022 10:47 AM

Ballot proposals to change payday lending regulations, legalize abortion and establish tax credits for grants to nonpublic school students are spending big as they seek to collect sufficient signatures to move their initiatives forward.

Campaign finance reports for ballot committees were due Monday for the first quarter of the year.

Several proposals, some on the progressive side and another championed by conservatives, reported spending serious money on signature gathering. Others did not appear as serious as the deadline to turn in signatures looms for those that want to make the November ballot (see separate story). Those hoping to have the Legislature certify an initiated act have more time.

One proposal, from Voters for Transparency and Term Limits, to change term limits and require financial disclosure from elected officials, does not have to file a report until May 2.

Let MI Kids Learn reported $1.64 million in contributions, making its overall funds raised this election cycle upwards of $3.3 million. It is ending the period with just over $1 million still on hand.

It also spent nearly $1.9 million during this same window and noted about $27,596 in in-kind contributions. Virtually all its expenses were on paid signature gathering services, though it did shell out at least $37,438 in radio advertising and $29,346 in video production.

Four ranked among Let MI Kids Learn's top donors, each of which gave $250,000: The financial services firm Oberndorf Enterprises, Autocam Medical Chairman John Kennedy, Founder and Chairman of 42 North Partners Michael Jandernoa and the State Government Leadership Foundation, a group based out of Washington D.C.

The foundation also gave an additional $140,000 donation during this period as well, making it the top donor of Let MI Kids Learn for the first quarter of the year. Additional high-dollar donors include: Dan DeVos, brother-in-law to former U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and chairman of the NBA's Orlando Magic; Tony De Nicola, chairman of the private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe; Richard Haworth, chairman emeritus of the furniture manufacturing company Haworth Inc.; and David Fischer, chairman of Suburban Collection Holdings.

Each gave $100,000 to the initiative. Altogether, Let MI Kids Learn raised more than $1.6 million off just 32 donations.

Michiganders for Fair Lending is sitting on $1 million as it continues to collect signatures in an effort to cap payday lending annual interest rates at 36 percent.

With quarterly campaign finance reports for some committees due Monday, the ballot committee reported raising $2.6 million.

Of that, the committee reported spending $1.5 million so far, leaving it with roughly $1.1 million on hand as it works to collect the 340,047 required signatures by June 1. It also has a $12,000 loan and reported $45,728 in in-kind contributions.

Most of its spending has been on signature gathering.

The ballot proposal's money came from the national American Civil Liberties Union and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, which supports progressive causes and does not have to disclose its donors.

The ACLU has contributed $1.7 million, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund has provided nearly $1 million.

Supporters of the effort have said payday lenders are currently allowed to charge interest rates that exceed 370 percent APR.

There has been a legislative effort to reduce the interest rates, but they have not gotten traction.

Promote the Vote 2022 is also raising and spending millions. The coalition seeking to put a constitutional amendment before voters that would enshrine the current voter identification rules within the document along with other things, like requiring early voting, spent $1.4 million this quarter.

In all, it raised $2.5 million and has $1.3 million on hand. Its top donors include the Sixteen Thirty Fund and Lynn Schusterman, a billionaire philanthropist.

Reproductive Freedom for All, the organizers of a petition initiative seeking to legalize abortion under the Constitution, raised $1.4 million, spending most of it in the first quarter of the year on signature gathering.

The group has about $200,000 on hand, according to its latest campaign finance report, which was due Monday.

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and Michigan Voices is leading the effort to collect 425,059 signatures to put the constitutional amendment before voters. Those signatures are due July 11.

The effort to legalize abortion in the state stems from the anticipation that the U.S. Supreme Court might overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. That ruling mostly nullified Michigan's 1846 law banning abortion and making it a felony for anyone to perform one on a woman. Should Roe fall, the question of abortion will return to the states and Michigan's ban will come back into full effect.

Mainly, the proposal would put into the Constitution that "every individual has a fundamental right to reproductive freedom." That includes making decisions about pregnancy.

The national branch of the ACLU and the Center for Reproductive Rights were two key contributors to the effort, as well as the ACLU of Michigan.

The opposition group, Citizens to Support MI Women and Children, reported raising more than $100,000, nearly all of that from Right to Life of Michigan.

Most of that was spent on polling and consulting.

The proposal to raise the state's minimum wage is spending heavily, $1.8 million so far this year, nearly all of that to the company K2K Consulting to pay for collecting signatures.

The source for Raise the Wage MI's funds is One Fair Wage Action, which has pumped $1.8 million into the campaign. Their proposal would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2027 and bring the tipped minimum wage to $15 by then as well. There would be an inflation-adjusted annually for the wage after 2027.

Michigan's minimum wage is currently $9.87 per hour and under existing statute schedule to rise to $12.05 per hour by 2030.

What Can Lansing Get Done In Early 2022?

Posted: January 5, 2022 2:10 PM

2022 is an election year, and as such we are entering the relatively brief window where legislators will be more focused on working inside the Capitol before the filing deadline in April kicks off a summer campaign season.

So, what could the Legislature do during the first half of 2022 when it returns to session next week?

We are in the dynamic of shared power where Republicans in the Legislature are unlikely to want to give Governor Gretchen Whitmer large amounts of policy victories ahead of her reelection campaign. Even without that dynamic traditionally, election years can be a bit sleepier.

There were 168 public acts in 2021, a record low since the adoption of the 1963 Constitution. In 2020, there were 402, in 2019 there were 178 and in 2018, the activity-filled lame duck led to 690 public acts for the year.

Heading into 2022, the governor and Legislature already agreed to a $1 billion economic development package and some supplemental spending.

If lawmakers and Ms. Whitmer can agree on how to spend a larger chunk of the federal and state surplus dollars in the early part of the year is a key thing to watch.

I am also looking at how the budget will play out this year. The last several years the budget has mostly come together close to the deadline at the end of September. Of course there is a July 1 deadline in law but that has no teeth.

All parties are starting from a very different place this year than they were in the beginning of 2021 so we might see a more traditional budget cycle in 2022. Lawmakers might also want to finish it up before summer campaigning.

On policy, it is unclear if there might be some common ground on anything super significant until later in the year. But the economic development bills sort of came out of nowhere and certainly that could happen again.

Ms. Whitmer will have some asks during her State of the State address, and the Republican reaction to her priorities will be a big hint in how the months ahead may shake out.

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