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Most of the text below is the same as what I already posted in SE law; but I'm looking for what the language might mean, regardless of the various legal aspects (i.e., the Michigan Supreme Court has already provided their interpretation.)

The second paragraph of Article IX, Section 9 of the Michigan Constitution says, in part

The foregoing limitations shall not apply to taxes ...

What exactly are "the foregoing limitations"? Of course, that relies on the first paragraph which is

..., the total amount of general ad valorem taxes imposed upon real and tangible personal property ... shall not exceed 15 mills ... . ... separate tax limitations for any county ..., the aggregate of which shall not exceed 18 mills on each dollar of such valuation, may be adopted ..., in lieu of the limitation hereinbefore established. These limitations may be increased to an aggregate of not to exceed 50 mills on each dollar of valuation, for a period of not to exceed 20 years at any one time, ... .

Given this text, can someone explicitly list the "foregoing limitations" referenced at the start of the second paragraph?

More to the point: it seems clear that the first paragraph lists a "15 mill" and "18 mill" limitation. It then goes on to say that "These limitations ..." (i.e., the 15- and 18-mill limitations) "... may be increased to an aggregate of not to exceed 50 mills ..." Is "an aggregate of not to exceed" also a limitation? Does "The foregoing limitations ..." at the start of the second paragraph refer to these specific limitations:

  • 15 mills
  • 18 mills
  • an aggregate of 50 mills
  • (there is also a 20 year limit)

The assumption is that "an aggregate of not to exceed 50 mills" is part of "The foregoing limitations ..." which "... shall not apply ...". However, reading the exact text very carefully, I'm not sure that's correct.

The first paragraph goes to some length to name two "limitations", even explicitly referencing them as "These limitations ...". This occurs before any mention of "... 50 mills ..." and the word "limitation" is not used any more in that paragraph.

When 50 mills" is mentioned, the text refers to it as "an aggregate," not a limitation. It could have easily added the word "limit" such as "... an aggregate limit of ..." or something similar.

The beginning of the second paragraph then says "The foregoing limitations ..." What "limitations" are "foregoing"? Those mentioned in the first paragraph, which are the 15-and 18-mill limitations, but not "50 mills" as the first paragraph calls that "an aggregate." The second paragraph could have left out the word "foregoing" and said "These limitations ..." which could then more readily be construed to reference all of the implicit and explicit limitations in the first paragraph.

Finally, it was a Michigan Supreme Court justice who essentially threw out the long-standing 50-mill limit, claiming that the taxpayers of Michigan were "yensed" by the above new wording in the 1963 Constitution. My argument is that upon very careful reading of the actual text, the 50-mill limit was indeed preserved; as was intended.

closed as off-topic by user66974, Helmar, MetaEd Nov 4 '16 at 19:34

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If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Foregoing: Said, written, or encountered just before; previous: Refer to the foregoing figures. thefreedictionary.com/foregoing - it refers to the limitations already mentioned. – user66974 Nov 4 '16 at 14:11
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    I have given you the literal meaning, as you asked, you may ask a legal interpretation of what exactly those limitations refer to on SELaw. – user66974 Nov 4 '16 at 14:22
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because This question belongs on law.stackexchange.com – user66974 Nov 4 '16 at 14:25
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    You could be more specific. Say "this is what I think it means" in the question, and ask whether this is a possible meaning. I don't think it will be. The text doesn't read "some foregoing limitations", it reads "the foregoing limitations", and in cases like this, the definite article includes all of them. – Peter Shor Nov 4 '16 at 14:34
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    You seem to argue that, because the word "limitation" (or "limit") is not explicitly used in the part about 50 mills, that part should not count as a limitation. I'd say that this part is a limitation whether or not it's explicitly called that, because it says "not to exceed 50 mills". An analogy: If I tell my kids "don't play in the street," that's a prohibition even though I didn't explicitly use the word "prohibition" or "prohibit"; it's no different than if I had said "I hereby prohibit you from playing in the street." – Andreas Blass Nov 4 '16 at 19:29
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In the context of these two paragraphs, "50 mills" is mentioned as an aggregate of the limitations in question. In a situation where the limitations don't apply, their aggregate is irrelevant or undefined, so the figure of 50 mills mentioned here is irrelevant. (I don't know if this number shows up in other parts of the constitution.)

The article speaks of

separate tax limitations for any county and for the townships and for school districts therein, the aggregate of which shall not exceed 18 mills on each dollar of such valuation

The antecedent of the relative pronoun "which" is "separate tax limitations for any county and for the townships and for school districts therein." We can therefore rewrite this as "the aggregate of separate tax limitations for any county and for the townships and for school districts therein shall not exceed 18 mills on each dollar of such valuation." If these separate tax limitations do not apply, their aggregate is irrelevant.

Similarly, it says later that

These limitations may be increased to an aggregate of not to exceed 50 mills on each dollar of valuation

Here, the "aggregate" of 50 mills restricts the amount by which "these limitations" may be increased. If "these limitations" do not apply, then this passage is irrelevant.

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