LANSING (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday signed laws to significantly scale back citizen-initiated measures to raise Michigan’s minimum wage and require paid sick leave for workers, finalizing an unprecedented Republican-backed legislative maneuver that opponents vowed to challenge in court.
To prevent minimum wage and earned sick time initiatives from going to voters last month, GOP lawmakers approved them in September so they could be more easily altered after the election with simple majority votes rather than the three-fourths support that would have been needed if voters had passed the proposals.
The tactic — never done until now — was pushed by the business community as necessary to avoid jeopardizing the economy. But it was criticized as an unconstitutional attack on voters’ will at a time Republicans in Michigan and Wisconsin are trying to dilute the powers of incoming elected Democrats.
One law signed by Snyder slows down a boost in Michigan’s minimum wage, so it will rise to $12.05 by 2030 instead of $12 by 2022 as mandated by the citizen-proposed measure. It would repeal provisions that would tie future increases to inflation and bring a lower wage for tipped employees in line with the wage for other workers.
The other new law exempts employers with fewer than 50 employees from having to provide paid sick days — a change that is estimated to leave up to 1 million employees without the benefit. It also limits the amount of annual mandatory leave at larger employers to 40 hours, instead of 72 hours as proposed by the initiative.
The group that led the minimum wage ballot drive has promised to sue. And paid sick time advocates have vowed to launch a 2020 ballot drive to fully reinstate the law that made Michigan the 11th state to require employers to provide paid time off to workers who are sick or who have ill family members.
Republicans will not be able to use a similar “adopt-and-amend” strategy in 2020 because Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a supporter of paid sick days and a higher minimum wage, will be governor.
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