editor’s note: We are happy to share a guest post today from Lance Werner, director of the Kent District Library (KDL) in Michigan. KDL passed a $20.6 million dollar millage renewal in August 2014. We were proud to support Lance and his team on their information only communications campaign work. If SB571 was the law then, he and his board and staff would have been prohibited from sharing information across their 3 county service area in the last 60 days before their Election. He does a deep dive here on what he sees as the problem at the root of SB571.
By Lance Werner:
It is imperative that Governor Snyder veto SB 571. SB 571 essentially takes away municipal taxing entities’ (including libraries’) ability to provide facts to taxpayers about millage issues. SB 571 leaves the door wide open to partisan special interest campaigns to wage war against millage issues unopposed during the most crucial part of the campaign. It should also be noted that many Michigan anti-tax campaigns are funded by out of state Super PACs. Most library grassroots campaigns are funded locally. Super PAC anti-tax campaigns are almost always much better funded than library grassroots campaigns.
Supporters of SB 571 argue that it is necessary because it prevents municipal entities from using public funds to solicit a yes vote. There is no question that using public funds to solicit a Yes vote is absolutely wrong. It should be illegal. And in existing Michigan law, it already is. There is a law in Michigan that prohibits the use of public funds to solicit a yes vote. SB 571 isn’t aimed at curtailing Yes vote activities, it is aimed at squelching libraries’ abilities to share facts about millages.
We strongly believe that being transparent with our taxpayers is our highest duty as a public library. We fiercely support the public’s constitutional right to receive information, including facts about upcoming millages. Limiting libraries’ ability to share information runs counter to our shared American values of open, transparent government, free access to information, freedom of thought, and the vital importance of having an informed electorate.
Please, please veto SB 571 Governor Snyder, Michigan is better than that and so are you.
See also: “The Library Tax is Different” Parts I and II by Lance Werner, May 2015