Canvassers approve paid sick leave plan for ballot, deadlock on minimum wage

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Delta Twp. — A ballot proposal to mandate paid sick leave will be added to an increasingly crowded November ballot, but not a minimum wage increase plan.

The Board of State Canvassers Friday certified signatures for the sick leave ballot petition but deadlocked on approval for a second ballot proposal that would increase the state’s minimum wage in increments to $12 an hour from the current $9.25.

The minimum wage proposal, which also is being challenged in the Court of Appeals, joins two other ballot proposals waiting on court or canvasser approval.

A ballot proposal to appoint an independent redistricting commission is pending in the Michigan Supreme Court, while a voter rights plan is waiting on certification from canvassers.

Voters in November also will consider a plan that would legalize recreational marijuana.

Supporters of the minimum wage proposal said the decision Friday was “disappointing” and they plan to sue for the right to be on the November ballot.

“We cannot imagine disenfranchising this many voters,” said Alicia Renee Farris, chairwoman for the Michigan One Fair Wage steering committee.

Opponents of the paid sick leave petition are considering their options, including filing a legal challenge, launching an education campaign ahead of the November election, or asking the Legislature to adopt the proposal so lawmakers can amend it later, said Amanda Fisher, assistant state director for the National Federation of Independent Business in Michigan.

The opposition group Small Business for a Better Michigan is disappointed, Fisher said, “that money outside of Michigan, dark money, can come into our state and push these proposals that have not been initiated by legislators who are elected by the people of Michigan.”

The paid sick leave proposal, filed by ballot committee MI Time to Care, would allow employees to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

Opponents argued the petition had problems with signatures, including roughly 155 people who marked boxes for both township and city when they signed the petition.

The issue, often caused by people who are uncertain whether they live in a township or city, has surfaced in past petitions. Canvassers voted to approve those proposals anyway.

The minimum wage proposal would raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $10 an hour in 2019, $10.65 in 2020, $11.35 in 2021 and $12 in 2022. Any future increases after 2022 would be tied to inflation.

The proposal also would phase out by 2024 the lower wage rate for restaurant servers and other employees who receive tips.

Opponents argued the measure constituted an amendment to existing minimum wage laws, which would require petitioners to print in full the areas of law that would be affected by the proposal instead of just referencing the title of the law.

Republican board member Colleen Pero cited the argument when she moved to not certify the ballot petition. The board deadlocked, 2-2, on her motion along party lines and on a second motion from Democratic board member Julie Matuzak to certify the petition.

Board members had postponed voting until Friday after lawyer Eric Doster on Thursday noted that election staff’s response to the challengers should have been made available two full business days before the Thursday meeting.

Mark Brewer, lawyer for the groups pushing the ballot petitions, said Doster’s argument had no merit and was a “stalling technique.”

But board members, citing increased scrutiny, legal action and recent reprimands, decided to wait a day to make their decision.

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