AG’s office files brief against GOP legislative maneuver on minimum wage, sick leave

Rally to increase the minimum wage | Kara Smith

Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in calling on the court system to outlaw the “adopt and amend” tactic that the Legislature used last year to adopt weakened versions of two citizen-led ballot initiatives.

Dana Nessel

In a brief filed with the Michigan Supreme Court Wednesday evening, Nessel and other officials in her office said the Republican-controlled Legislature’s decision to do so “eviscerates the will of the People.”

The announcement by the attorney general’s office follows Whitmer filing a similar brief on Wednesday evening, as well as one from legislative Democrats arguing the GOP’s actions were unconstitutional.

The two ballot initiatives in question would have raised Michigan’s minimum wage and required that employers offer increased paid sick time for workers.

Gov. files brief opposing Legislature’s 2018 move to ‘adopt and amend’ petitions

The Legislature exercised its right to adopt the initiatives, and then during the Lame Duck session last year passed new legislation significantly watered them down. Those versions of the laws were signed by Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder shortly before he left office.

The original ballot initiatives were opposed by leading business groups in the state, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

Michigan Capitol, March 22, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

Democrats argued the move violated a more than 50-year-old state attorney general opinion that the Legislature can’t adopt and then amend a ballot initiative in the same legislative session.

GOP legislators in Michigan have argued that their actions were fully legal, and in February asked for a Supreme Court opinion on the matter.

The Michigan Supreme Court, on which Republicans currently hold a majority, is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on July 17.

In total, 14 separate briefs representing 37 organizations and 64 elected officials have been filed asking for the Supreme Court to rule that the GOP’s actions were unconstitutional, according to MI Time to Care, the group that introduced the paid sick time ballot initiative.

Danielle Atkinson

In a statement, that group’s founder Danielle Atkinson praised their efforts.

“We are pleased to see so many organizations support our position in this case and are glad so many filed,” Atkinson said. “Groups across the political spectrum filed briefs supporting our position. … This support is further proof that the Republican-controlled legislature and corporate lobbyists’ strategy to ‘adopt and amend’ was nothing more than an attack on democracy and the voices of the people of our state.”

Nick Manes
Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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