In November 2012, Michigan residents voted to repeal a newly enacted state law that gave unprecedented power to so-called "emergency managers" appointed by the governor to run financially struggling cities, counties and school districts. Within weeks of the vote to remove a law that was widely seen as anti-democratic, the Michigan Legislature passed, and the governor signed, a new law that in many ways mirrored the one that had just been rejected by voters across the state. To ensure the law remained in place, legislators tacked on an appropriation designed to make the new measure "referendum proof" — meaning residents were stuck with a law that, when implemented, took democracy away from jurisdictions with high rates of poverty and African-American majorities. Eventually used to take complete control of eight cities and three school districts, the law indisputably played a primary role in creating the Flint water crisis. Despite its tragic consequences, the law remains in place, unchanged.

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