At the November 2, 2010 general election, the voters of Michigan will decide whether to call a constitutional convention to revise the 1963 Michigan Constitution. The question appears on the ballot automatically every 16 years as required by the Constitution. The Constitution provides that a convention would convene in Lansing on October 4, 2011. If the question is rejected, it will automatically appear on the ballot again in the year 2026.
The Citizens Research Council of Michigan takes no position on the question of calling a constitutional convention. It is hoped that examination of the matters identified in this paper will promote discussion of vital constitutional issues and assist citizens in deliberations on the question of calling a constitutional convention.
State government powers are expansive and shared among three branches of government: legislative, executive, judicial. Executive power resides with the governor. With the exception of the three departments headed either by popularly-elected individuals (secretary of state and attorney general) or a board (state board of education), the governor exercises unified direction of all the departments and agencies in the executive branch.
For 47 years, Michigan state government has operated under a constitutional framework that centralizes executive power in a single office and provides for a strong governor. With the exception of two amendments to Article V, “Executive Branch”, the original constitutional provisions governing the operations of the executive branch remain basically intact. Despite this consistency over the years, a number of issues might be considered by a potential constitutional convention charged with looking at Article V dealing with: executive reorganization powers, single versus plural executive, filling legislative vacancies, office vacancies of executive officials, the governor’s role in the state budget process, and the governor’s appointment powers.
The separation of powers doctrine provides for three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial). In this model of governance, the executive branch is responsible for overseeing the execution of laws and the delivery of governmental services. Article V of the Michigan Constitution vests the executive power of state government in the governor and broadly defines the appointive, reorganizational, and budgetary powers of the office, and it also allows the governor to call the legislature into extraordinary session. In addition to the governor, Article V provides for four other popularly-elected executive branch officials to play roles in the execution of state government; lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state board of education (an eight-member plural head of the Department of Education). Article V also discusses the organization of the executive branch.
During the 1961 Constitutional Convention, considerable debate and action surrounded the topic of strengthening the power of the governor, which resulted in major changes in the executive article. The governor’s role in governing state affairs was strengthened by: 1) extending the term of the office from two to four years; 2) reducing the number of elective executive branch officers from eight to four; 3) increasing the authority of the governor by capping the number of departments and allowing greater discretion in the organization of the executive branch; and 4) expanding the governor’s role in the budget process.