Judge Signs Consent Agreement to end “Gag-Order” Lawsuit

Aaron Keel

By Aaron Keel, MASB Assistant Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, May 4, 2016

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara accepted an agreement between the Secretary of State’s office and local governments and school groups, declaring that the gag order provision in Public Act 269 of 2015 is unenforceable. 

This is a win for our democratic process and all voters and taxpayers across Michigan who have been affirmed the right to receive factual information from their local officials. 

The law, which prevented local officials from providing factual information to their voters on local ballot proposals, passed in the final days of session last year with little debate. In February, leading up to the March 8 election, Judge O’Meara issued a preliminary injunction to stop the enforcement of the “gag order” provision in PA 269. The Judge’s final order references his previous temporary injunction against enforcement of the law, stating that the local governments had “demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that (the law) is unconstitutionally vague and thus void.”

The win that came last week allows you and your districts to share factual information on upcoming ballot initiatives just as you always have without worrying about penalties from the state. Previous restrictions on advocating still apply, but districts can continue to educate their parents and communities about ballot initiatives.

This is an issue that had the potential to negatively impact our democratic process, affecting millions of residents who rely on the thousands of school board members across the state to inform them on why a measure has been put on a ballot, what it does and what, if any, financial ramifications it may have to them as taxpayers. Particularly for complex school issues and bonds, educating an electorate on a local ballot issue is an essential step in our democratic process.

MASB and our coalition of school groups and local governments always believed that voters deserved better than this law allowed and we are pleased to see that acknowledged by the Attorney General and the Courts.

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