Did legislators know what they were voting on in 2018 when they passed Public Act 359, the law that created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority and lead to the the Authority's approval of the tunnel agreement?
The courts say yes.
Michigan Court of Claims judge, Michael Kelly ruled this week that Public Act 359 is constitutional. The ruling paves the way for the tunnel project to proceed, though Attorney General Dana Nessel has vowed to appeal the ruling.
As readers may recall, in March of 2019, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued her first formal legal opinion, per Governor Whitmer's request, on the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority Bill (PA 359).
In her opinion, the Attorney General wrote that the law is unconstitutional because it went beyond the scope of what was disclosed in its title (violates Article 4, Sec 24 of the Constitution, the "Title Object Clause.") She also stated, “It is my opinion, therefore, that any court determination that Act 359 is unconstitutional would likely apply that decision retroactively, and conclude that the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority, its Board, and any action taken by the Board are void from their inception”.
Governor Whitmer immediately followed with an Executive Directive ordering all state departments to stop any activity related to the tunnel project approved by the authority.
In response, Enbridge filed suit in the Court of Claims to force the state to enforce the tunnel authority law in an effort to keep the tunnel project on an expedited timeline. This week, the court ruled in favor of Enbridge.
In his ruling, Judge Kelly, wrote
“"Defendants argue that the specific tunnel agreement, with all of its precise parameters, should have been reflected in the amended title of PA 359. Defendants stress too narrow of an interpretation of articles 4, & 24 and they purport to impose an exacting requirement on legislation that is not supported by case law. In the case at bar, the title of PA 359 stresses that the Corridor Authority is to acquire and operate a utility tunnel across the Straits of Mackinac. The title of PA 359 of 2018 clearly contemplates the construction, maintenance and operation of a utility title as is the case for the act's general purpose”.
In a tweet, House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, called the ruling “great news for thousands of Michigan’s families & our statewide economy. With this ruling, people will have peace of mind that they are not going to be left out in the cold this winter by political gamesmanship. We need these jobs. We need this tunnel. Let's get it built”.