On her first full day in office, Governor Whitmer requested an opinion from Attorney General Dana Nessel on the constitutionality of the law that created the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority and the on the Authority's approval of the Agreement.
According the the letter submitted to the AG's office, The Governor is questioning whether the new law violates the Michigan Constitution in several ways, including;
- Whether the amended law violates a statute that requires the main focus of an act to be reflected in the title.
- Whether the six-year appointments of corridor authority board members violate a constitutional requirement limiting appointments to four-year terms.
- Whether the amended law violates parts of the Michigan Constitution related to tunnel construction and operation.
- Whether the law constitutes a special or local act when it should have been created under a general act.
- Whether the new authority possesses more power than it is entitled to by law or the Constitution.
- Whether the authority and its actions are invalid if the authority is found to violate state law or the state Constitution.
In the process of forming an opinion, Nessel asked for briefs or legal memos from interested parties on the questions Whitmer raised.
Fast forward to today, March 1st, Mlive has released an article on the legal briefs submitted thus far to the AG's office. MLive filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the responses. Nessel’s office responded with seven responses from five groups or individuals.
Although the groups disagree on several aspects, it seems that they reach a concensus that the provision for the six-year terms for members of the new Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority is unconstitutional. The Michigan constitution states “Terms of office of any board or commission... shall not exceed four years except as otherwise authorized in this constitution.”
Public Act 359 put members of the newly-created authority in place for six years, a direct contradiction to the four the constitution allows.
In response, Jim Holcomb, executive vice president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said that group’s brief also pointed out the six-year term could be a violation of the constitution. But, he said, “it doesn’t mean the statute is invalid.”He argued based on previous cases and attorney general opinions, that part of the statute was severable, meaning the rest of the law could stand even if that one portion were found to be unconstitutional.
Attorney General Dana Nessel is expected to consider these briefs as she works to form an opinion on the law's constitionality. Stay tuned for more updates and visit Mlive to see the full article and briefs.