Editorial: Lawmakers, listen to biz groups on proposals
Michigan Republicans may take up two proposals that would otherwise land on the November ballot as a way to dampen Democratic turnout and halt the blue wave’s momentum, and to take some control of their implementation. GOP lawmakers are wary of signing off on harmful economic measures, but they must also consider the repercussions of doing nothing.
The two proposals lawmakers could consider this week revolve around paid family leave and the minimum wage. The state constitution gives the Legislature 40 days to consider legislation initiated by petition drive, or it heads to the statewide ballot.
The One Fair Wage proposal would raise Michigan’s $9.25-an-hour minimum in increments to $12 in 2022, and phase out the $3.52 minimum wage for tipped workers. The MI Time to Care proposal would require Michigan businesses to provide workers with paid sick leave.
Lawmakers face a deadline of Friday, when the secretary of state is required by law to certify the ballot questions, says department spokesman Fred Woodhams. He says clerks are required to have ballots ready for absentee voters and transmit them to military and overseas voters by Sept. 22.
Lawmakers only meet two days this week: Wednesday and Thursday. And then they don’t have session days again until the end of the month. Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, says much of Thursday will be devoted to a Sept. 11 ceremony.
So lawmakers will likely decide today.
Republicans are traditionally wary of the government mandating higher wages and benefits, fearing the hit to the economy and business growth. So are business owners.
That’s why it’s somewhat surprising that a broad coalition of state business groups is advocating the Legislature now approve both proposals. Many of these same groups tried to stop the initiatives from getting approved to appear on the ballot, but now they’d rather have lawmakers get involved.
The Small Business for a Better Michigan includes the National Federation of Independent Business, the Small Business Association of Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Restaurant Association, Home Builders Association of Michigan and Michigan Retailers Association. The Michigan Chamber has also signed on.
Tom Shields, president of MRG, is working with the coalition and says this is all about member organizations believing that policy-making is best left to policymakers.
Shields points to how other states that have passed similar ballot initiatives have had negative consequences. And once voters approve referendums, it’s much harder for lawmakers to make any changes.
“We’re doing great economically here,” Shields says. “This is a solution looking for a problem.”
We have real concerns about the wage proposal, as well as mandating paid leave. But the business groups make a strong case for why lawmakers should get ahead of the process and do what they can to mitigate the damage. The Legislature missed the opportunity to do that with recreational marijuana earlier this summer. Lawmakers shouldn't make the same mistake this time.