Voters could ban criminal public officials
LANSING, Mich. — In the aftermath of high-profile government scandals in Detroit, Michigan voters will get the chance in November to decide if public officials convicted of committing certain crimes should be banned from office.
The Michigan House approved a proposal Thursday to amend Michigan's constitution to ban public officials convicted of felonies related to their jobs from serving for 20 years. The measure, which passed on a 91-13 vote, already passed the Senate, and voters will have to make a final decision in the fall.
The proposal comes less than two years after then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned as part of pleas in two criminal cases after he lied on the witness stand in a whistle-blowers' trial about an affair with his top aide. He's now in prison on a probation violation.
The measure's sponsor, Democratic Sen. Tupac Hunter of Detroit, has said the proposal is aimed at setting standards for all public officeholders at all levels in Michigan, not any one person.
The measure would prohibit people from being elected or appointed to any state or local elective office, or from holding a public job that deals with policymaking or control of public assets, if they have been convicted of certain felonies in the previous 20 years. The felonies would involve dishonesty, deceit, fraud or a breach of public trust connected to a person's public employment.
A similar provision already exists in the state constitution for members of the Michigan Legislature. Supporters say the same ban should apply to public officials across the state.
Some lawmakers said the proposal doesn't go far enough and should also cover felonies not related to public service or committed before a person entered public office.
Others said they voted against the measure because it strips away power from voters. They argued that felons can turn their lives around and voters should have the chance to decide on a case-by-case basis whether they want someone with a criminal past to represent them.
"We have an astute electorate," said Rep. Shanelle Jackson, a Democrat from Detroit. "(Voters) can make decisions about the people they want serving."