Paid sick time, minimum wage law changes move forward in Michigan legislature


Two bills that would amend the citizen-initiated proposals to adopt paid sick time and raising the minimum wage are headed to the full Republican-controlled Senate for a Wednesday vote

The Senate Committee on Government Operations listened to more than two hours of testimony on the legislation before moving it forward.

Paid Sick Time

The original earned sick time initiative included one hour of earned time off for every 30 hours worked, capping the sick time at 72 hours earned a year. Senate Bill 1175 sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, would amend those numbers. The substitution goes on to change the one hour earned for every 40 hours worked and caps time off at 36 hours annually.

Shirkey summarized that his substitution bill “maintains [the] integrity of proposal.”

Sen. Jim Ananich did not agree, and wanted to know why this substitution was dropped following the midterm election.

“Why wasn’t there thought to bring this up before the election, so those of us running could have been discussing this on the campaign trail,” Ananich asked.

The group behind paid sick time, MI Time to Care, testified before the Senate arguing the changes gut the proposal.

“This is not democracy. People signed a petition and expected their voice to be heard,” said Danielle Atkinson, co-chairwoman of MI Time to Care. “The people who are against this earned sick time already have earned sick time.”

The substitution bill passed out of the committee on a 3-2 vote, with Democratic Sens. Ananich, Flint, and Morris Hood, Detroit, voting against the measure.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage increase plan would give a raise to both traditional minimum wage workers and tipped employees. The substitution bill, Senate Bill 1171, would alter the way tipped employees see a raise.

Sponsored by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Grand Rapids, the bill slows down that increase. The amendment would slow the planned bump in wages from $9.25 to $12 an hour; originally happening by 2022 under the citizen-initiated plan. Now, that will not happen until at least 2030.

Hildenbrand’s amendment would also cap the rate for tipped wages at $4 an hour instead of $12.

A current waitress testified and said she got involved with the voter initiative because she believed it was time for a wage increase.

“I have had a one dollar raise in 30 years,” she said. “Go ahead and do what’s right. We went ahead and got these signatures. If the people said no, we don’t want this bill, that’s one thing. But to have a group of senators say no, that’s just wrong.”

Opponents of the amendment cited former Democratic Attorney General Frank Kelley’s 1964 opinion who argued that “it is equally clear that the legislature enacting an initiative petition proposal cannot amend the law so enacted at the same legislative session without violation of the spirit and letter of” the state constitution.

One Fair Wage, the group behind the initiative, called the legislative move to change the original intent illegal.

“Gutting the One Fair Wage proposal after it was adopted is an illegal move that attempts to close off a legal avenue for citizens to enact laws through popular initiatives,” said One Fair Wage Campaign Manager Peter Vargas. “The move is blatantly unconstitutional and will lead to costly, time-consuming court challenges.”

Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, who is chairman of the committee, disagreed.

"The same constitution you cite gives us the option to make changes," Meekhof said.

This substitution bill also passed out of the committee on a 3-2 vote, with Democratic Senators Ananich and Hood voting against this measure.

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