The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has released the fourteenth analysis in a series of papers focusing on constitutional issues. CRC is examining the state’s Constitution in anticipation of this November’s vote on whether Michigan should convene a constitutional convention. This paper focuses on Article XI of the 1963 Constitution – Public Officers and Employment.
Article XI has been amended only once since adoption of the 1963 Constitution – a 1978 amendment to Section 5 provided enlisted state police personnel with collective bargaining and binding arbitration. An unsuccessful amendment in 2002 would have provided the same rights to all other classified state employees.
Despite the relatively few times that Article XI has been considered for amendment, it is likely that a constitutional convention would discuss and review a number of issues pertinent to the topic of public employment, including the state’s civil service system and ethics provisions for public officials.
Michigan’s civil service system (Section 5), considered one of the strongest in the nation because of the significant amount of constitutional detail devoted to its composition, authority, and function, has operated without major challenges over the past 46 years; however, a convention would examine provisions related to collective bargaining for state employees, automatic funding for the Civil Service Commission, and legislative control of civil servant compensation. A convention also might be expected to consider introducing ethics provisions to the constitution. These might include restrictions on when former state officials can engage in lobbying, personal financial disclosure for elected officials, and creation of a statewide ethics commission with meaningful enforcement authority.
“Trust in government officials is key to a thriving democracy, functioning bureaucracy, and a true sense of representation on the part of citizens,” said Craig Thiel, CRC’s Director of State Affairs, “and Article XI has provided a sound foundation for these desirous characteristics of government in Michigan.” Regardless of the outcome of the vote in November, Article XI, as currently written, can be expected to serve the voters well for some time to come.