9/29/20 – Election ballot: Michigan ballot proposals

In addition to casting votes for the presidency and a slew of federal, state and local offices, Michigan voters will be deciding the fate of two statewide proposals sent to the ballot by the state legislature.

Both Proposal 1 and Proposal 2 would change Michigan’s Constitution — one would change how Michigan’s Natural Resources Trust Fund works to allow for more flexibility on funding state and local park projects, and the other would define electronic data as private property, meaning state and local law enforcement would need a warrant before searching a person’s emails or phone records.

Lawmakers already voted these measures out of both chambers, but any changes to the Michigan Constitution must also be approved by voters.

Read on to learn more about both measures and what their passage would mean for the state.

Proposal 1

The ballot language:

“A proposed constitutional amendment to allow money from oil and gas mining on state-owned lands to continue to be collected in state funds for land protection and creation and maintenance of parks, nature areas, and public recreation facilities; and to describe how money in those state funds can be spent.

This proposed constitutional amendment would:

• Allow the State Parks Endowment Fund to continue receiving money from sales of oil and gas from state-owned lands to improve, maintain and purchase land for State parks, and for Fund administration, until its balance reaches $800,000,000.

• Require subsequent oil and gas revenue from state-owned lands to go into the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

• Require at least 20% of Endowment Fund annual spending go toward State park improvement.

• Require at least 25% of Trust Fund annual spending go toward parks and public recreation areas and at least 25% toward land conservation.

Should this proposal be adopted?”

What it means:

Essentially, this measure would change the Natural Resources Trust Fund to allow more flexibility on what the funds are used for.

Created in 1976, the Natural Resources Trust Fund emerged as a compromise between conservation groups and business interests as lawmakers debated what to do with revenue from oil and gas pulled from state-owned land. The trust fund board considers requests from all over the state and issues grants from the pool of money, which is restricted to land acquisition and park development projects.

Currently, the money is subject to a strict formula – at least 25 percent of the funding distributed each year has to go toward park land and acquisition, and less than 25 percent for developing outdoor recreation.

The proposed change would allow for more discretion so long as at least 25 percent apiece is spent on land acquisition and park development, with the trust fund’s board splitting the other 50 percent as they see fit.

In addition to changing the trust fund’s formula, the plan if passed would put a mechanism in place to eventually lift the $500 million cap on the fund that was reached in 2011. After the Michigan State Parks Endowment Fund reaches an $800 million cap collected from oil and gas revenue, the proposed changes would divert any future revenue back into the trust fund.

Becca Maher, campaign manager for a coalition backing the proposal’s passage, recently told MLive the measure doesn’t change the mission of the trust fund — it would just allow for more flexibility on what projects ultimately get funded.

“This will create the flexibility needed to fund trails and parks while continuing to prioritize land conservation and protection,” Maher said.

More information on the campaign can be found here.

 

Proposal 2

The language:

“A proposed constitutional amendment to require a search warrant in order to access a person’s electronic data or electronic communications.

This proposed constitutional amendment would:

• Prohibit unreasonable searches or seizures of a person’s electronic data and electronic communications.

• Require a search warrant to access a person’s electronic data or electronic communications, under the same conditions currently required for the government to obtain a search warrant to search a person’s house or seize a person’s things.

Should this proposal be adopted?”

What it means:

This ballot proposal is coming before voters after years of effort by Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, to define electronic data and communications as private property.

If passed, the measure would amend the Michigan Constitution to include electronic data such as texts and emails under property protected from unreasonable search and seizure, and would require Michigan law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing a person’s data.

Runestad said he’s concerned that without specific protections written into the Constitution, police departments could be using advanced cell tower simulators like Hailstorm or Stingray to collect personal electronic data from individuals without a warrant.
Currently, only two departments in Michigan – the Michigan State Police and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department – have access to that equipment, although both departments require warrants for their use.
But Runestad said he’s heard of departments in other states have using such equipment without warrants frequently. He’s hoping the proposal he spearheaded will broadly protect state residents from warrantless search and seizure of their electronic records, regardless of the technology used.
“The way it was written is so broad that if they’re going to look at any of your electronic data and communications – if it’s a GPS system, if it’s your cell phone, if it’s your computer, your laptop, zip drive, whatever it is – they are not allowed to look at that unless they get a warrant,” he said. “And if there’s new technology, that same thing’s going to adhere.”