News From Our Neighbors: The history of the recall of Michigan Rep. Paul Scott
Post by dane101 on 10/24/2011 2:04pm
The following post is from Michigan-based blogger Chris Savage (of Eclectablog), and is part of dane101's new series featuring writers from different states offering explanations of and opinions on local issues to a Wisconsin audience.
State Representative Paul Scott was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives for the 51st District in 2008. He won reelection in 2010 and, since then, has been at the forefront of attacking unions in general and the teachers union specifically.
Scott didn't run on an anti-teacher platform during his campaign. In fact, many have been surprised at his aggressiveness on the issue. His campaign focused on the Republican mantra of lower taxes and smaller government. However, as the Chair of the Education Committee, he has been unrelenting in his efforts to strip the teachers' union, the Michigan Education Association, of its power and to kneecap teachers' collective bargaining rights.
"State Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Genoa Township, on Tuesday introduced legislation creating penalties for public schoolteachers and the Michigan Education Association for inciting or participating in strikes.
"House Bill 4466 would fine the Michigan Education Association $5,000 per teacher for each full or partial day public school employees are engaged in a strike or 'strike-like activities.'
"The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, also would require school employees to pay a fine equal to one day of pay for every day or partial day they participate in a strike.
"House Bill 4465, sponsored by Rogers, would require district superintendents to suspend or revoke teachers' licenses if teachers are caught breaking existing strike laws."
Note that this legislation doesn't fine the teachers. It fines the teachers' union.
However, once the bills left Paul's committee, they were much worse and more punitive toward teachers and their union:
"Under the bill, if one or more public school employees strike, their union would be kicked out for five years. A school superintendent or parent could report any strike activity – and, if enacted, a union could be decertified even if no actual strike occurred.
"The bill would make it illegal for a union or union representative to 'solicit or encourage' any public employee to strike or to 'conspire' to cause a strike, even if they didn’t actually engage in a work stoppage.
"Rep. Paul Scott, R-Grand Blanc, the sponsor of the legislation, said a majority of legislators on the GOP-controlled House Education Committee believe MEA is the 'most culpable' for crisis actions around the state.
"Scott also threatened legal action against MEA, saying he had talked with the attorney general’s office and 'I will be turning over this information to law enforcement.'"
These actions angered enough of his constituents that they began a recall effort against him. Their petition language was approved just two weeks before the August deadline to put the recall on the November 2011 ballot. Nonetheless, the recall organizers gathered a stunning 12,350 signatures in just two weeks, a number a couple thousand above what was required.
Scott immediately challenged the petition language in the Genesee Circuit Court. He also filed another suit in the state Court of Appeals saying that petitions should not be gathered during his appeal. This is not against Michigan law but Scott "went there" anyway. On September 12 the Genesee Circuit Court denied Scott's request, ruling the language met the clarity requirements. Two days earlier, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to intervene on the subject of the gathering of petitions during Scott's legal challenges.
The following month, on October 6, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the lower court should not have rejected Scott's appeal and sent the case back to them. The following week, given no other choice, an Ingham County judge put the recall on hold, issuing a temporary injunction against the election.
Deflated but not willing to give up since they had achieved what none of the other 40-something GOP-targeted recall groups had done, namely succeeding in getting their recall on the November ballot, recall organizers appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. In a somewhat stunning 7-0 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the recall organizers, putting the recall back on the ballot once again. From the Supreme Court decision:
"In a different election controversy 40 years ago, this Court recognized the practical problems that can arise when legal issues are brought to the appellate courts too close to the election day. In an effort to achieve 'better timing of appeals to the judicial process,' this Court suggested that appellate review of election-related legal issues would be facilitated if the party seeking review filed its papers 'in this Court,' despite the absence of an explicit rule authorizing the same. Carman v Secretary of State, 384 Mich 443, 449 (1971). In this regard, MCR 7.302(C)(1)(b) now authorizes the filing of an application for leave to appeal in this Court prior to a decision by the Court of Appeals after an application for leave to appeal has been filed in the Court of Appeals. We encourage future litigants in election disputes to avail themselves of this provision, where appropriate."
Finally, last Friday, in an audacious move, Scott re-appealed to the Supreme Court, saying, in essence, that he has created too much confusion with his multiple lawsuits for the recall to continue:
"'Lawyers for state Rep. Paul Scott, a Republican from Grand Blanc, will ask the Michigan Supreme Court to reconsider its surprise ruling Thursday to give the green light to a Nov. 8 recall election targeting Scott.
"The on-again, off-again nature of the recall, which had been ordered to a halt by lower court rulings before the Supreme Court intervened, has led to too much confusion for voters and elections officials, and 'could raise concerns over the validity of the results,' (House Speaker Jase Bolger's spokesman Ari) Adler said."
On Thursday of last week, I broke the story that the Supreme Court had overruled a lower court's decision to halt the recall of anti-teacher/anti-union Paul Scott. Now he's asking the Supreme Court to reconsider its ruling because all of these court decisions are just making it too confusing for voters.
Let's be clear about this: Any confusion about this recall election in the minds of his District's voters is entirely caused by Paul Scott himself. Period. If that works in his favor then his mission is accomplished. If it works against him, well, tough rocks, dude. You made that bed.
So this is where we stand today. Scott, much like our Republican governor, never ran on the issues he championed since being elected. When his constituents reacted by trying to recall him for his attacks on teachers, he used the legal system to create such confusion that he can either kill the recall entirely or, at a minimum, push it off until the February 2012 election when the Republicans have their primary and will turn out significant GOP-leaning voters. His last-ditch appeal, if the trend continues, will fail miserably and the recall will be on the November ballot. The organizers have now turned their attention to getting out the vote for November. For more information, the recall group's Facebook page is here.
Cross-posted with permission from Eclectablog.