House Democrats panned the move to give Senate Bill 776 immediate effect after it was passed, setting a new standard for current petition drives circulating around. These include one against hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” and one advocating for the end of cannabis prohibition.

“Petition drives have always been about direct democracy, allowing citizens across the state signing a pledge to support a variety of measures designed to be put before voters on the next ballot,” said House Democratic Floor Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). “What House Republicans did today, by granting SB 776 immediate effect, was change the rules in the middle of the game for signature gathering efforts already underway. This legislation is yet another example of Republican disregard for the will of the people.”

No record roll call vote was taken when asked for, and Democrats were told that the bill had already left the chamber seconds after immediate effect was requested. The more than 40 dissents submitted into the House journal by House Democrats clearly demonstrate the 2/3 threshold for immediate effect was not met.

“What we’ve seen today in the House of Representatives is the majority party deciding to change the rules. They saw these ballot proposals as grassroots efforts to put the possibility of real change through the voters’ voices into state law, but they didn’t like those possibilities,” said state Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor). “In protecting their own special and corporate interests, House Republicans have taken the voice away from all Michiganders now and into the future. The silence will be deafening for future policy decisions in our state.”

SB 776 imposes a strict 180-day window for gathering signatures for a ballot proposal.