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Ballot efforts to raise minimum wage, add paid sick leave beat state deadline

Update: Michigan House poised to dismantle Michigan sick leave, minimum wage laws
Update: Michigan Senate scales back minimum wage, sick leave laws in ‘dark of night’
Nov. 2018: Michigan Republicans aim to soften minimum wage, sick leave in lame duck
Update: Michigan Legislature passes minimum wage, paid sick leave bills to avert ballot
Update: Michigan minimum wage hike on November ballot, pending Supreme Court appeal
Update: Michigan appeals court orders minimum wage proposal put on November ballot
Update: Michigan voters to decide paid sick leave issue in fall. Minimum wage effort stalled.

Under the wire, ballot proposals to raise Michigan’s minimum wage and give employees paid sick leave turned in voter signatures by Wednesday’s state deadline to make the November ballot.

Ballot committees seeking citizen-driven changes to state law must submit at least 252,523 valid signatures from registered Michigan voters to make the November ballot. The submissions do not guarantee the proposals will go before voters, since state elections staff still need to verify that enough of them are valid.

The submissions turned in over the past week for higher minimum wages and sick leave benefits seek to join two other legislative ballot initiatives that have already cleared the signature hurdle (legalizing recreational marijuana and repealing Michigan’s prevailing wage law).

Separately, two committees trying to put marijuana- and voting-related amendments to the Michigan Constitution on the November ballot have until July 9 to submit at least 315,654 valid signatures. A third constitutional ballot committee, to create an independent redistricting commission, has submitted signatures and awaits a decision from the Board of State Canvassers on whether its proposal will advance. Another, to create a part-time Legislature, is dead.


Here’s a rundown of which citizen proposals got in under the Wednesday wire, and which ones are now dead.

Submitted signatures

MI Time to Care (Paid sick leave)

What is it? A legislative effort to allow Michigan workers to accrue paid sick leave for themselves or to care for family members, as well as for victims, or family members of victims, of domestic violence or sexual assault who miss work due to medical care, counseling appointments, legal proceedings or relocation. Michigan law currently does not require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

Employees would be able to earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, capped at 72 hours — the equivalent of nine work days — each year. People who work for small companies (fewer than 10 employees) could accrue up to 40 hours, or the equivalent of at least five days, of paid leave each calendar year. They also could earn another 32 hours of unpaid sick leave annually.

Who’s behind it? Mothering Justice, a Royal Oak-based advocacy organization, is one of the leading organizations behind the MI Time to Care committee. Sixteen Thirty Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based 501(c)(4) organization that advocates for social welfare issues, and The Fairness Project, an advocacy group for raising the minimum wage and enacting paid sick leave also based in Washington, have donated money to the effort.

What’s the status? The MI Time to Care committee submitted more than 380,000 signatures to the state for review. The Board of State Canvassers later will meet to vote on whether to certify the petition for the November ballot, which could take at least two months, said Fred Woodhams, a state elections spokesman.

What’s the opposition say? In a statement, Michigan Restaurant Association President and CEO Justin Winslow said the proposal “sounds more like ‘trick leave’ than sick leave to me. The trick is using a popular catch-phrase like ‘sick leave’ to mask a far more radical proposal that is dramatically outside the mainstream.”

How to learn more? Read the proposed ballot language here or visit the committee’s website.

Michigan One Fair Wage (Raise minimum wage)

What is it? A legislative effort to gradually increase Michigan’s minimum wage to $10 in 2019 and $12 by 2022. The higher wages also would apply to restaurant workers and other employees who receive tips, who today are paid below minimum wage.

The minimum wage in Michigan rose to $9.25 on Jan. 1. Tipped workers currently earn a minimum of $3.52 per hour before tips.

Who’s behind it? The initiative is backed by the Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, which advocates for better working conditions for metro Detroit restaurant workers. It also has received support from a ballot committee called Raise Michigan, which has led the initiative in past election cycles.

What’s the status? The committee on May 21 submitted 373,507 signatures to the Michigan Bureau of Elections for review. The Board of State Canvassers later will meet to vote on whether to certify the petition for the November ballot, which could take at least two months, Woodhams said.

What’s the opposition say? In a statement, the Michigan Restaurant Association called the proposal “irresponsible and dangerous.” The group said tipped workers earn at least Michigan’s $9.25 per hour minimum wage, since employers are required to make up the difference if tips are not enough.

How to learn more? Read the proposed ballot language here or visit New York-based coalition One Fair Wage’s website.

Ballot committees pushing legislation that previously submitted signatures include:

  • Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which aimed to decriminalize recreational use of marijuana, has been certified to appear on the November ballot. However, proposals first go to the Legislature for potential approval. Lawmakers are currently weighing whether to adopt it and change it, or do nothing and send it to voters in the fall.
  • Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, which seeks to repeal a state law that requires payment of union-scale wages and benefits on public building projects, known as prevailing wage. State canvassers deadlocked, 2-2, on whether to certify the proposal. The pro-repeal ballot committee, Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to intervene; the court unanimously ruled that the petition can advance. An opposition group of mostly union-backed contractors, Protect Michigan Jobs, appealed that decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, which on Wednesday declined to hear the case. The Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to take up the proposal Friday in Lansing. If certified, the Legislature intends to adopt the proposal.

Did not submit the required signatures

Woodhams confirmed ballot committees not submitting signatures by Wednesday’s deadline include:

  • Keep Our Lakes Great, which aimed to stop crude oil transmission via Canadian energy giant Enbridge Inc.’s Line 5 pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac;
  • Clean Energy Healthy Michigan, which recently said it plans to end a ballot drive after California billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer negotiated a renewable energy compromise with Michigan electric utilities DTE Energy Co. and Consumers Energy; and
  • Protect Michigan Jobs, a union-backed group that wants to preserve Michigan’s prevailing wage law, had kept a ballot drive as an option as it tried to fight the repeal effort in court.

Constitutional amendments

Ballot committees trying to amend Michigan’s constitution have until early July to submit signatures.

One, Voters Not Politicians, which aims to create an independent redistricting commission to redraw Michigan’s legislative district maps, already has submitted signatures to the state. The Michigan Bureau of Elections, in a recent report, said the group has enough valid signatures to have its petition certified for the November ballot.

Currently, the majority party in Lansing gets to redraw legislative districts after each decennial census, a process that has led Michigan to become one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation.

But a scheduled meeting of state canvassers this month was canceled after the canvassers’ Republican chairman, Norm Shinkle, opted to postpone action, citing an ongoing lawsuit filed by opponents of the measure in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

A group opposing the redistricting proposal, Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution, has asked the appeals court to block the petition on the grounds that its proposed changes to the constitution are actually a broader revision requiring a formal constitutional convention.

State election law requires state canvassers to decide whether a petition can appear on the ballot at least two months before Election Day, which opponents argued gives the board until September to act.

“We only had one thing on the agenda and the whole thing is tied up in the courts right now, so we’re going to wait for the courts,” Shinkle told Bridge last week. “There’s no reason for us to jump the gun.”

Katie Fahey, founder and executive director of Voters Not Politicians, responded in a statement that “(t)here is no precedent or justification for Chairperson Shinkle's actions. The law is clear that the only remaining matter within the Board's jurisdiction is to determine whether (Voters Not Politicians) has enough valid signatures, and if it does, certify the proposal.”

Other constitutional amendments continuing to gather signatures include:

  • Promote the Vote, which aims to make voting easier and more accessible across the state.
  • Abrogate Prohibition Michigan, which would end any state ban on marijuana possession, use, cultivation, delivery and sale in Michigan.

Clean MI Government, a ballot committee initially launched by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley to create a part-time Michigan Legislature, said it won’t reach the signature threshold in time.

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