Congressman John Conyers, 31 Members of Congress Introduce Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act of 2016
Washington, DC, March 16, 2016
U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, together with 31 original cosponsors, introduced H.R. 4754, the Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act of 2016 to address unchecked decision-making powers that appointed emergency financial managers have in financially distressed cities.
“We cannot undo the damage already done by the lead-poisoned water in Flint or fix the harm already caused by the hazardous conditions in Detroit’s public schools. But we can stand together and make sure the unaccountable emergency managers responsible for these disasters – and the legal system that empowered them – are not permitted to inflict further harm on our citizens or our constitutional rights. That’s why I’m proud to introduce the Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act of 2016, legislation that will ensure that only lawmakers elected by the people are in charge of making decisions for the people,” said Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (MI-13).
There are many cities in financial distress across our nation still struggling to recover from the Great Recession. While most states work cooperatively with their cities to foster economic stability and growth, others such as the state of Michigan, use draconian, autocratic laws that usurp local elected officials and replace them with unaccountable political appointees – typically known as emergency financial managers – who, through their vast powers, can jeopardize the health and safety of those who live and work in these struggling cities.
The Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to withhold five percent of the law enforcement funds that would otherwise be allocated to a state under the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program (Byrne-JAG) if the Attorney General determines that the state appointed emergency financial manager fails to protect against the following six abuses: discriminatory impact on voting, conflicts of interest, mismanagement, and abuse of discretion, harm to public health, unilateral rejection of other contracts, and lack of notice to affected communities who cannot provide comment. The objective of the legislation is not to deny Byrne-JAG grant funds, but rather to incentivize the states to protect their citizens against these risks and abuses when emergency financial managers are appointed. However, if in the event the funds are withheld, they are directly reallocated to the local government for which an emergency financial manager is appointed.
“The Emergency Manager Law has allowed unelected officials to manage localities while effectively silencing the voice of the people they are supposed to serve. After four Emergency Managers were appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in Flint, and many more have been placed throughout Michigan, we have seen a series of disastrous decisions based entirely on bottom line economics result in incalculable harm to our citizens. Three school districts, including Detroit Public Schools, have emergency managers that answer not to teachers, nor parents, nor even the community. They answer only to the Governor, and with DPS slated to run out of funds by April 9th the future of our children is at risk. We cannot allow the failures of the Emergency Manager Law to continue. I support democracy that places power in the hands of the people and that is why I support the Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence (MI-14).
“Sadly one only has to look at my hometown of Flint, Michigan, to see the dangerous consequences of emergency financial managers. It was decisions by such unelected emergency financial managers that led to the current water crisis in Flint. They are entirely bottom-line focused, bringing a failed philosophy to government that puts saving money at any cost ahead of the livelihood of people. Under Michigan’s current laws, democracy is suspended in cities like Flint in favor of absolute power in the hands of emergency financial managers. This legislation says that the people and their elected officials – not appointed emergency financial managers – know what is best for their communities,” said Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05).
The Emergency Financial Manager Act of 2016 was introduced with support from the following original cosponsors: Representatives Brenda Lawrence (D-MI); Dan Kildee (D-MI); G.K. Butterfield (D-NC); Raul Grijalva (D-AZ); Keith Ellison (D-MN); Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Jerrold Nadler (D-NY); Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Steve Cohen (D-TN); Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-GA); Judy Chu (D-CA); Ted Deutch (D-FL); Karen Bass (D-CA); Suzan DelBene (D-WA); Maxine Waters (D-CA); Corinne Brown (D-FL); James E. Clyburn (D-SC); Alcee Hastings (D-FL); Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX); Bobby L. Rush (D-IL); Lloyd A. Doggett II (D-TX); Chaka Fattah (D-PA); Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD); Jim P. McGovern (D-MA); John B. Larson (D-CT);Al Green (D-TX); Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH); Alan M. Grayson (D-FL); Matt Cartwright (D-PA); Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ); and Stacey Plaskett (Delegate – U.S. Virgin Islands).
This bill has also has the support of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the United Auto Workers Union, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Action Network, among others.
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