Michigan voters may have the chance to determine big changes to some state policies come November, when signature-tested ballot initiatives may well appear in the midterm elections.
Two proposals — to legalize recreational marijuana, and to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law — are waiting for signature review by the state Bureau of Elections. Representatives for and against each proposal convened in East Lansing on Wednesday at the Center for Michigan’s Solutions Summit to talk about the issues.
Josh Hovey represented the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which would make marijuana legal for recreational use with many similar guidelines currently applied to alcohol in Michigan. Healthy and Productive Michigan is a group organizing to oppose the proposal, represented by Matthew Yascolt.
Marijuana legalization would bring tax revenue exceeding $200 million to the state and job opportunities within an above-board industry, Hovey said. He added that support for recreational marijuana legalization is high, and national trends indicate legalization is inevitable.
“Sweeping it under the rug and driving a black market isn’t the way to go,” he said. “Let’s shed some light on the issue and deal with it like adults.”
Yascolt countered that health risks are associated with marijuana, which he said is a “gateway” to harder drug use. It’s an addictive substance that will be marketed similarly to tobacco, and ultimately the proposal is about industrializing marijuana. He said, “this is about rich people getting richer.”
The state’s prevailing wage law has essentially required union scale wages and benefits on state building projects for more than 50 years. Jeff Wiggins spoke on behalf of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, whose ballot initiative would repeal the law. Opposing him Wednesday was Pat Devlin, CEO of Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council.
Wiggins argued that prevailing wage increases the cost of construction for taxpayers and is a burden on small and medium-sized contract businesses who want to bid on government projects. He said regulatory requirements associated with prevailing wage can be a burden for companies that don’t have significant resources to navigate them.
“This is the complete antithesis of what American entrepreneurship, the free market and open competition is about,” he said.
Devlin said the proposal is “nothing short of backroom politics,” and would bring no savings to taxpayers because contractors would keep any money saved for themselves, with workers getting lower wages. Repealing the law would also limit skilled trades training, which is generally funded by union contractors.