GREAT LAKES BEACON

Gutted Minimum Wage, Paid Sick Time Initiatives Head to Snyder; More Initiatives Slated to Be Axed

Despite hundreds of activists swarming the Capitol to protest the power grab of voters passing policy they don’t agree with, legislative Republicans still sent gutted versions of the minimum wage and earned paid sick time laws to outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder on Tuesday.

Tuesday kicked off day one of week two of lame duck, after the state Senate sent much of its controversial legislation over to the House last week, as the Great Lakes Beacon previously reported. A House committee quickly moved the legislation within an hour in the morning, and by the afternoon, it was being debated on the floor.

The Great Lakes Beacon was on scene to capture video of the protests, which can be seen on our Facebook or Twitter. Organizers said they’re prepared to protest every day to keep the pressure on lawmakers not to subvert the will of the people or take away power from the incoming administration.

When the minimum wage ballot initiative was certified, some 373,000 people had signed off their support. Earned paid sick time saw some 380,000 signatures.

On the opposing side are special interests who have given some $1.1 million to lawmakers currently in office, according to a report by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a nonpartisan organization working toward greater transparency in Michigan government.

“What legislative Republicans have done today is an absolute disgrace to the democratic process and negatively impacts the citizens of Michigan,” House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig of Farmington Hills said. “Instead of respecting the voice of the people, Republicans have stripped Michigan families of the right to earn a strong paycheck and take care of themselves or a loved one when ill, without risking their financial security. It’s time for Republicans to set aside their corporate interests and focus on policies that lift people out of poverty, not drive them into it.”

Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo) added, “Our democracy is strongest when our citizens are engaged in the political process. … These changes will mean many working people will have to continue working multiple jobs in order to support their family and won’t be able to take time to care for themselves or their family if they get sick.”

The bills were officially placed on Snyder’s desk this morning, meaning he has 14 days to sign it or veto it.

But majority Republicans are not stopping there on reversing the will of the voters.

For starters, a Senate committee this morning took up legislation to gut increased voters’ rights, which came through Proposal 3 this November and was supported by nearly 70 percent of voters. The legislation had not yet been sent to the full Senate as of the writing of this article.

Legislation was also passed out of a Senate committee on Tuesday on what was Proposal 2, that created an independent redistricting commission. Members of the group Voters Not Politicians, which spearheaded support for Proposal 2, have argued what the legislature is trying to do is unconstitutional.

Beyond that, majority Republicans are still considering legislation that would minimize powers and rights of the three Democratic women Michigan voted for in November: Attorney General-Elect Dana Nessel, Secretary of State-Elect Jocelyn Benson, and Governor-Elect Gretchen Whitmer. That legislation (SB 1248-SB 1252) was sent to the full Senate for consideration just hours ago. Similar action to limit powers of incoming Democrats is happening in North Carolina and Wisconsin, as Slate points out.

And bills are being considered in the state House to, as Bridge Michigan reports, “create a commission largely appointed by Republicans that would have broad authority over schools.” The State Board of Education, whose duty it is to have the aforementioned oversight, is expected to have a Democratic majority in January as well.

Beyond Ballot Proposals – What’s Left

Further, as has been the case in previous contentious lame duck sessions in Michigan, Republicans are also considering restricting abortion access for women in very rural areas by banning the use of telemedicine to receive that prescription.

Amanda West, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan’s director of government relations, noted that already, one-third of Michigan’s counties lack an OB/GYN, and that this legislation only further complicated access to such medical treatment.

“Instead of believing women, science and the U.S. Constitution, they voted to advance an antiquated, out-of-touch ideology,” West said.

The Republican majority, in keeping with apparent tradition under the Snyder administration, is also setting their sights on a new attack against unions by forcing them to renegotiate contracts every two years – a move which Julie Rowe of the Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers has said “would be a nightmare, not only for the public employees collective bargaining units, but for public employers who have to deal with and manage the process,” according to a report by Detroit News.

That comes on top of legislation the state Senate has already passed that would prohibit members of a union from taking leave to conduct or partake in union business. This legislation – led by a Republican senator who lost his bid for re-election in November – is awaiting a committee hearing in the state House as of the writing of this article.

The state Senate is also slated to vote on gutting protections for wetlands. That legislation could be taken up on the Senate floor today and would need House approval next week due to a mandatory five-day layover rule between the two chambers.

Finally, still up for consideration is the creation of another oil pipeline to run under the Mackinac Straits – something Governor Snyder would like to see before his term is up. The Great Lakes Beacon has previously reported on five major problems with this plan, not the least of which includes a potential conflict of interest.

Lame Duck protesters have also been actively filmed lobbyists and some lawmakers about their thoughts on the legislation they’re taking up – including gutting proposals voters supported – through a website, milameduckwatch.org, and on their Facebook page.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson