The Michigan House and Senate pulled a fast one last week and Governor Snyder needs to do the right thing for libraries, schools, and parks by Vetoing SB 571. If SB 571 becomes law, librarians could be sent to jail for sharing factual information about elections with their communities. Library boards could be fined thousands of dollars of sending out a newsletter if it shares information about what is on your local ballot. If this bill is signed into law it will affect every Michigan library campaign 2016. In 2014 there were at least 51 Michigan libraries on the ballot. In 2015 there were 9 elections and over $20 million in operating or building dollars at stake for the future of Michigan libraries. It would place a gag order on the librarians and boards ability to tell the truth about what the plans are to put tax money to work, and what the impact would be on community outcomes if it doesn’t pass.
Here’s the new language in SB571 that creates the criminal and civil penalties for librarians and boards concerning sharing of factual information about their elections within 60 days of Election Day:
EXCEPT FOR AN ELECTION OFFICIAL IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS OR HER DUTIES UNDER THE MICHIGAN ELECTION LAW, 1954 PA 116, MCL 8 168.1 TO 168.992, A PUBLIC BODY, OR A PERSON ACTING FOR A PUBLIC BODY, SHALL NOT, DURING THE PERIOD 60 DAYS BEFORE AN ELECTION IN WHICH A LOCAL BALLOT QUESTION APPEARS ON A BALLOT, USE PUBLIC FUNDS OR RESOURCES FOR A COMMUNICATION BY MEANS OF RADIO, TELEVISION, MASS MAILING, OR PRERECORDED TELEPHONE MESSAGE IF THAT COMMUNICATION REFERENCES A LOCAL BALLOT QUESTION AND IS TARGETED TO THE RELEVANT ELECTORATE WHERE THE LOCAL BALLOT QUESTION APPEARS ON THE BALLOT.
From http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2015-2016/billconcurred/Senate/pdf/2015-SCB-0571.pdf (opens PDF) via http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(4iya5r00a2wqzv4zqlgsqgxs))/mileg.aspx?page=BillStatus&objectname=2015-SB-0571 [12/20/15]and
And in case you think we are being hysterical, a “Mass Mailing” is defined earlier in the law as any postal mailing of more than 500 pieces. That’s a library newsletter. The law needs to be fixed.
The story about how SB 571 turned from an election reform measure into an anti-librarian, anti-transparency measure is as long and as weird as the way a lot of bills go through these days. But the fact is, SB 571 as it’s written would make criminals out of librarians, library boards, and other local government officials for sharing what patrons have a right to know: what is on the ballot and what their vote means for taxes in your community.
Call to action – week of 12/21/15
Sign the petition. Tell Gov. Snyder to veto SB 571, Michigan. Send it back and fix it, Governor.
If you are a Michigan librarian, please copy and paste this Tweet: ” I’m a #MI#librarian @onetoughnerd. Why can’t I give patrons factual info w/in 60 days of an election? #VetoSB571 http://bit.ly/vetoSB571 ”