LANSING – A pair of bills were introduced in the Senate Thursday that would radically change the initiative petitions adopted in September by the Legislature requiring employers to provide paid sick time to their workers and raise the state’s minimum wage, making them more business-friendly according to Republicans and likely to spark a major lame-duck session battle by Democrats to stop them.
The minimum wage petition, now PA 337 of 2018, raises the minimum wage to $12 per hour over a period of years and eliminates the lower tipped minimum wage to bring those workers in line with the regular minimum wage. It was that piece of the measure that alarmed restaurant owners.
PA 338 of 2018, the paid sick time petition, would require employers to provide one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked up to 72 hours a year.
SB 1175, introduced by Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), eliminates several provisions related to presumptions against employers contained in the law. It also reduces the requirement of retaining records documenting hours worked and earned sick time taken by employees from three years to six months.
Messages left with Hildenbrand and Shirkey for comment on their bills were not immediately returned Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) did not allude to the bills introduced Thursday to reporters, but when asked about possible changes to the minimum wage and paid sick time laws said there are numerous opportunities out there to make the laws “more acceptable to the business community” without speaking in specifics.
A spokesperson for Meekhof said Thursday there is no set timetable yet for moving on the bills, which were both referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee that he chairs.
By adopting the measures, the Republican-led Legislature kept the two items from going to the November ballot and opened the door to having the ability to make changes through a simple majority rather than the three-quarters majority vote threshold that would have been necessary had voters passed them.
Democrats have urged the Legislature not to attempt making any changes, while some have questioned the legality of doing so during lame-duck session, citing a 1964 attorney general opinion that declares an initiative petition enacted by the Legislature cannot be amended until the next legislative session. Attorney general opinions can be overturned by the courts.
Republicans are in a time crunch either way to try and pass any significant changes during lame-duck since Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is almost assured to veto any attempt by the Republican-led Legislature after she takes office in January and the Republicans will not have the votes to override a veto.
Daniel Tucker, a manager at Lansing Brewing Company and a captain with Restaurant Workers of America, which supports the reinstatement of the tip credit, praised the introduction of SB 1171 in a statement Thursday.
“We appreciate Sen. Hildenbrand introducing this legislation to keep servers and bartenders safe from outside influences trying to disrupt our livelihoods, industry and culture that we know and love,” he said. “Our voices are being heard by our lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. This is the first step to avoid drastic damage to the lives of tipped workers.”
Organizers of the two initiatives urged the Legislature not to act on them.
Kyle DuBuc of the United Way of Southeastern Michigan said the bill’s changing of what illnesses would qualify for use of a sick day is alarming. He said the possibility that only those who qualify for the federal Family Medical Leave Act would be able to claim paid time off is disturbing.
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.