Even before Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed the new and expanded emergency financial manager law, Benton Harbor was in bad enough straits that it fell under the old law. The new one was sponsored by the freshman state representative for the district that includes Benton Harbor, Al Pscholka, who clearly had Benton Harbor on his mind.
On Friday, the Michigan Messenger broke the news that the emergency financial manager had suspended the powers of Benton Harbor officials, so that they can only call and adjourn meetings and approve meeting minutes. They can no longer do anything else besides that without the permission of emergency financial manager. The state of Michigan is now actively training future emergency managers -- about 100 candidates turned out for a training in February -- and government managers begin a two-day training today in how to avoid ever needing one.
The Michigan Messenger links out to this piece in Forbes, which suggests that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants his own version of financial martial law. From Forbes:
According to the reports, should a locality’s financial position come up short, the Walker legislation would empower the governor to insert a financial manager of his choosing into local government with the ability to cancel union contracts, push aside duly elected local government officials and school board members and take control of Wisconsin cities and towns whenever he sees fit to do so.
We'll keep digging into this. If you know something about Benton Harbor as a place, please include it in the comments. The post is open for links. UPDATE: What's at stake in Benton Harbor.
UPDATE, 1:49 PM: Governor Walker says it's "absolutely false" that he's planning an emergency manager bill.