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Michigan House reduces bills' minimum wage, sick time requirements

By Daniel Uria

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The Michigan House of Representatives voted to alter voter-initiated bills seeking to raise the minimum wage and require employers to provide sick time for employees.

House members voted 60-48 on the two bills, one of which extended the timeline for a $12-plus minimum wage from 2022 in the original bill to 2030 and changed the wage from $12 to $12.05 to account for inflation. It also modified a change for tipped workers, who were set to have their minimum wages raised to $12 by 2024, to a raise of $4.58 by 2030, while keeping in place a system that requires employers to make up the difference if a tipped worker's tips don't reach $12.05.

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The second vote changed terms of the voter-initiated sick time bill from 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, or a maximum of 72 hours per year, to 1 hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours, with a cap of 40 hours per year. Also, the original bill would have exempted businesses with five or fewer employees, while the House voted to raise the number to 50 or fewer.

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Both votes were largely along party lines with Republicans voting in the majority, except for Reps. Joe Bellino of Monroe, Martin Howrylak of Troy and Jeff Yaroch of Richmond, who sided with Democrats in opposing the changes.

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The proposals were originally intended to be placed on the Nov. 6 midterm ballot, but the Legislature voted to keep the bills off the ballot, allowing Republicans to amend the proposals with a simple majority rather than a three-quarters majority before an influx of Democrats, who were victorious in midterms, take office Jan. 1.

Both changes were quickly approved by the Senate with a vote of 26-12, although Gov. Rick Snyder didn't immediately state whether he would sign the bills.

"The governor and legislators have been discussing the proposals," Snyder's spokesman, Ari Adler, said. "Whether or not he signs the bills remains to be seen based on his review of the final legislation."

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Protesters filled the State Capitol rotunda, voicing their displeasure at the proceedings as some chanted "We voted for blue, not for you" and "Hey, hey! Ho, Ho! Lame duck has got to go."

Laura Cox, R-Livonia, called the minimum wage proposal "sloppily written" and in need of legislative changes.

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"It simply does not work for the people of Michigan," she said.

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State Rep. Abdullah Hammoud, D-Dearborn, compared the changes to the bill to gutting a fish.

"You've gutted the original language and usurped the will of the people," he said.

Attorney General Bill Schuette defended the process as constitutionally viable.

"The language of the Constitution and the subsequent decisions by Michigan courts cast doubt, however, on the validity of this conclusion," Schuette said. "Legislatively enacted initiated laws are subject to the same processes regarding amendment as legislation drafted by the Legislature. And since nothing in the Michigan Constitution prohibits the Legislature from amending legislation it drafts during the same legislative session in which it was enacted, it follows that the Legislature may do so as well with respect to an enacted initiated law."

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