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Michigan Republicans are trying to suppress a popular measure of minimum wage voting.



Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo of Bill Pugliano / Getty Images.

The Michigan GOP has been the state's legislative assembly since 2010, as the party has drawn one of the country's most elaborate legislation maps. Republicans used this power to punish the poor with Medicaid working conditions, create "insurance against rape" and reduce corporate taxes while increasing them for the poor and the elderly. But after eight years of unified Republican control of the state government in Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will break that grip when she enters the Governor's House in January. The party is not easily allowed to take power, offering a last and bold attempt to undermine the will of voters before Whitmer takes office.

The Michigan Republican Party uses its legislative majority in the lame session to abolish popular laws by citizens who would impose paid sick leave and increase the minimum hourly wage from $ 9.25 to $ 12 per hour for all workers, including on-screen employees, by 2022.

The laws were to come into effect in March, but by a vote of 26-12 parties, the Senate, controlled by the GOP, approved Wednesday several amendments that would significantly undermine the measures. This comes after several ridiculous legislative maneuvers to try to preempt voting initiatives that had to go overwhelmingly. If they succeed, Republicans will have succeeded in turning the will of voters in a way rarely seen in this country, at least outside of Michigan.

If the House approves the amendments approved by the Senate next week, the workers will not see an increase to $ 12 an hour by 2030, and the rocking workers, who are now making $ 3.52 an hour, will see their salary is capped at $ 4 an hour. Employers will have to cover the difference if workers do not receive enough tips to earn the minimum wage, but it is common knowledge that many do not.

Wednesday's legislative vote also included important changes that would dismantle the sick leave initiative. In the current state of affairs, the new law on paid sick leave would require employers to provide 9 days of sick leave per year and one additional hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. The changes proposed by the GOP reduced to four days of sick leave and one hour of additional sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

The Republican effort to abolish the laws results from a legally questionable maneuver, which had never been put to the test by a ruling party. This is probably because the drafters of the 1963 state constitution could not have imagined that lawmakers are as brazenly trying to derail popular initiatives.

Earlier this year, two citizen-led groups each collected nearly 400,000 signatures to put the proposals to the November vote. The Michigan law gives the legislature 40 days to take initiatives and give them the force of law. The rule exists to give lawmakers the power to avoid putting popular measures on the ballot, thereby saving time and resources.

But the Michigan government clearly uses the rule for more harmful purposes. Sensing that the measures were likely to pass, the legislature controlled by the Republicans approved the proposals in September and gave them the force of law. However, this ensured that the laws would not come into effect until March, which would allow them to be changed during lame sessions. Republican leaders have even publicly stated, when adopting measures to remove them from the poll, that the laws would be "more acceptable to the business community".

The plan is similar to the legislative cascades of the Michigan GOPs and is considered by some to be the last word from a Republican-controlled, often undemocratic government that, in eight years, provoked the Flint water crisis. ; stripped local governments led by Democrats of their power to install Republican emergency financial managers; and took advantage of the 2012 lame duck period to turn Michigan into a state of law at work and adopt a version at the repeal of an emergency financial law that voters had tried to enact. Repeal a few months ago.

The GOP performed much of this operation after and despite the repeated loss of the popular vote in the state. In 2014, Democratic Democrats in the House of Representatives got more votes, but the GOP got a 63-47 majority, thanks to a supporters gerrymander. In 2016, candidates to the Republican House of Representatives got only 3,000 additional votes, but the party still held a 63-47 majority. And in 2018, Dems won the popular vote of the House and Senate of Canada. about 6 percentage points each, but Republicans will continue to control both chambers.

Michigan GOP clearly uses the rule for a more detrimental goal.

By annihilating these citizen-led grassroots initiatives, Republicans deprive voters of their rights twice, once by putting constituencies in order and another by derailing popular voting measures. It should be noted that voters approved by November, by far, a proposal to create an independent redistricting commission that could put an end to republican gerrymandering. However, this proposal will not be operational until the next redistricting cycle following the 2020 census. And the democratic minority in the legislature can hardly react. At the same time, 60,000 people in Wayne County, the most populous county in the state, earn less than $ 10 an hour and 20% of workers earn less than $ 12 an hour .

Nevertheless, Republicans may ultimately not be able to thwart these popular measures. Because the maneuvers have been so blatant, in violation of the state constitution, it is possible that the courts will overrule any changes to the law. Mark Brewer, a lawyer and former chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, told Slate that the group that had organized the proposed minimum wage vote, One Fair Wage, would sue if the Republicans approved the changes. (Brewer also represents MI Time To Care, the group behind the paid sick leave legislation, which has not yet commenced legal proceedings.)

Brewer refers to a 1964 legal opinion drafted by Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley, which specifically addresses a situation like this. The rule that gives the legislature the ability to make a polling initiative law – for which the technical term is "adopted initiative law" – was included in the 1963 Michigan Constitution. In 1964, at the question of a legislator on the new constitution, Kelley wrote that the legislator could do not amend an initiative law passed during the same legislative session.

Brewer says that this corresponds to what is written in the constitution, and believes that the case is unfounded: "No legislature has dared to try to do so for 60 years as the constitution is clear."

Representative Yousef Rabhi summed up the sentiments of many Democrats on this subject: "Initiatives are supposed to give citizens a voice in the process of government. If the legislator can do it every time, then what is the point of legislation initiated by the citizens? This goes against the democratic process described in the constitution. "

The Republican Senate and House leaders did not respond to requests for comment. If these leaders follow up on their plans, the Michigan Supreme Court will probably decide next year whether the legislature has crossed a legal line and violated the constitution, not only by its wit, but by letter.


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