Michigan lawmakers are on the verge of approving a bill that would enable the governor to appoint "emergency managers" -- officials with unilateral power to make sweeping changes to cities facing financial troubles.
Under the legislation, the Michigan Messenger reports, the governor could declare a "financial emergency" in towns or school districts. He could then appoint a manager to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services - and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input.
The measure passed in the state Senate this week; the House passed its own version earlier. The two versions of the bill are expected to be reconciled next week, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill the bill into law.
Democrats and their allies are decrying the legislation as a power grab and say it's part of a wider effort taking place in several states, such as Wisconsin, to weaken labor unions.
"It takes every decision in a city or school district and puts it in the hands of the manager, from when the streets get plowed to who plows them and how much they are paid," said Mark Gaffney, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO. "This is a takeover by the right wing and it's an assault on democracy like I've never seen."