Advance Notice: Briefs

Former lawmaker leading economic opportunity nonprofit slams GOP-led Lame Duck assault

By: - December 5, 2018 5:18 pm

Larry Lipton, Laurie Lisi, Vickie Leland and Bruce Coppola of Indivisible 9th District protesting at the Capitol, Dec. 4, 2018 | Ken Coleman

A former longtime state lawmaker who now leads a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity is dismayed by the frenetic Lame Duck session.

Gilda Jacobs

Gilda Jacobs served as a Democratic member of the Michigan House from 1999 to 2002 and was in the Michigan Senate from 2003 to 2010.

The Huntington Woods resident is now Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) president and CEO and calls the actions of Republicans controlling the Legislature “extremely disappointing.”

Jacobs flagged legislation now on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk that guts a minimum wage increase and paid sick leave. Citizens petitioned for both measures, but the GOP-led Legislature adopted both proposals in September, which kept them off the ballot and gave leaders time to tinker with alternatives.

“With the passage of these bills, legislative Republicans in both chambers have ignored their colleagues from across the aisle, the protesters in the Capitol, countless organizations and advocacy groups like ours, almost 800,000 signatures of voters who worked to put this [minimum wage and sick time] on the ballot and the nearly 8 million voters who never got to have their say on it,” Jacobs said.

After a tense committee hearing, the Republican-led House on Tuesday passed final bills that would delay a minimum wage hike and scale back paid sick leave requirements. The GOP-controlled Senate agreed with changes.

This unprecedented lame-duck strategy was legally endorsed by Attorney General Bill Schuette, a term-limited Republican who lost his gubernatorial bid last month. Democrats say it is unconstitutional, citing a 1964 opinion from Democratic former Attorney General Frank Kelley.

As the Advance reported, the fast-tracked legislation drew enthusiastic protesters to the Capitol, including many from Indivisible groups, who hoisted signs that read “Respect our votes” and “The voters have spoken.” The House on Tuesday passed legislation on a largely party-line 60-48 vote. The Senate concurred with the House version on another largely party-line 26-12 vote.

The citizen-initiated minimum wage proposal raised it from $9.25 to $12 per hour by 2022. The legislation on Snyder’s desk raises it to $12.05 by 2030. Tipped workers would go from a $3.52 per hour minimum wage to $12 by 2024, under the citizen proposal. The Legislature scrapped that and changed it to $4.58 by 2030.

“This is not only wrong in principle, but in policy, as well,” Jacobs said. “The legislation passed maintains an inequitable tipped wage, increases the minimum wage at a slower rate and does not tie it to inflation, meaning it will stagnate and fail to serve its literal, intended purpose almost immediately.”

The paid sick leave legislation underwent serious changes in the Capitol, as well. Under the citizen proposal, workers could earn 72 hours of paid time per year. The GOP legislation scales that back to 40 hours, with businesses employing 50 or fewer people being exempt. The original initiative was for employers with six or more workers.

“As for the changes to sick leave, while the petition-driven proposal would have provided paid sick leave for all Michigan workers,” Jacobs said. “The bills immediately disenfranchises one million workers who are employed by businesses with fewer than 50 workers. The legislation also means it will take longer for workers to accrue paid sick time and slashes the amount of sick time they are able to earn.”

In a blog post, the MLPP dubbed the machinations of this session “shame duck.”

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman writes about Southeast Michigan, history and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on Black life in Detroit.