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Michigan Senate: Protect whistleblowers in constitution

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate voted unanimously Tuesday to propose adding whistleblower protections for state employees to the state constitution.

If the resolution is approved by two-thirds of the House, it will be placed on the November 2022 ballot for voters’ consideration.

The constitutional amendment would prohibit a state department or agency from taking disciplinary action against workers in the classified civil service for communicating with a legislator or the lawmaker’s staff. A similar provision would safeguard nonpartisan legislative employees.

The restrictions would not apply if employees make false statements or their communications are barred by law. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, last year vetoed a similar bill, saying it would have unconstitutionally encroached on the separation of powers and the Michigan Civil Service Commission’s authority. The latest measure would not be subject to a gubernatorial veto because it would amend the constitution.

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“This is really intended to protect our civil service employees who have the nuts-and-bolts understanding of how the operations of the departments are going and what we can do to improve that,” said the sponsor, Republican Sen. Tom Barrett of Charlotte. State workers, he said, should be able to freely meet with legislators to point out anything that is wrong or needs to be changed.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert

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