Sunday, December 30, 2018

Michigan Republicans’ lame-duck drive to hobble Democrats fails – mostly

Tom Perkins in Detroit
Sun 30 Dec 2018

A frantic lame-duck month in which the Republican-controlled Michigan legislature floated hundreds of bills concluded with the GOP largely failing to pass controversial laws that would have stripped power from incoming Democrats.
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Two bills died during the legislative process just before Christmas, and on Friday outgoing Republican governor Rick Snyder surprised his party by vetoing a bill designed to shift power from attorney general-elect Dana Nessel to the legislature. He did so after a law designed to take authority from incoming secretary of state Jocelyn Benson failed to make it out of the state House. A plan to create a “shadow” state board of education controlled by Republicans met the same fate in the Senate.

Snyder did sign several bills that reduce voters’ power. They included significant alterations to citizen-initiated laws that mandated paid sick time and raised the minimum wage, and legislation to make ballot drives nearly impossible.

“They may not have taken power from incoming electeds but they did take significant power from people and that’s important to highlight,” Democratic state representative Yousef Rabhi told the Guardian, adding that he was stopping short of praising anyone in the Republican party.

“They were planning to set the house on fire so it’s sort of weird to applaud them for not burning it down,” he said.


Snyder’s vetoes and Republican ambivalence to some more draconian bills came amid intense opposition from state residents, including some Republicans. Democratic representative Stephanie Chang said that had an impact.


Still, the GOP took some victories. They included the passage of two bills to gut citizen-initiated legislation to mandate paid sick time and raise the state minimum wage to $12 per hour, for all workers, including those receiving tips, by 2022. Instead, minimum wage will be raised to $12.05 by 2030 and tipped workers’ pay will be capped at $3.58 per hour. Republicans exempted around 1 million workers from mandated sick time and cut the number of mandated days from nine to four.

Two citizen-led groups each collected around 400,000 signatures to put the minimum wage and sick time proposals on the November ballot. The GOP made the proposals law in September before gutting them in lame duck. A legal challenge is likely as Democrats contend the state constitution prohibits changes to citizen-initiated laws in the same session.


the legislature narrowly passed a new law that will make ballot initiatives far more difficult.

It mandates that no more than 15% of the signatures gathered during a ballot drive can come from any one of the state’s 14 congressional districts. That will make progressive ballot initiatives especially challenging since Republicans gerrymandered the congressional map, packing Democratic voters into a small number of districts. Democrats have promised a legal challenge and have said the bill is the most flagrantly unconstitutional of those passed in the lame-duck session.

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