AG, high court could still weigh minimum wage, sick leave laws

    Rally to increase the minimum wage | Reid Haithcock

    Attorney General Dana Nessel and the state’s highest court could still weigh whether Lame Duck laws that dramatically scaled back ballot proposals regarding paid sick leave and the minimum wage are constitutional.

    But Nessel won’t do so before Friday, when they are slated to take effect, according to spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney. Another request for the Michigan Supreme Court to review the matter is still pending.

    Rick Snyder and Brian Calley at their year-end press conference, Dec. 11, 2018 | Ken Coleman

    Absent an opinion from either the attorney general’s office or the Supreme Court, the controversial Lame Duck laws signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder will go into effect Friday.

    The GOP-led Legislature adopted in September the two ballot proposals to raise the state’s minimum wage and require paid sick leave for workers, which kept them off the November ballot. Then after the election, Republicans passed curtailed versions of each proposal, which Snyder signed.

    Michigan’s minimum wage is now scheduled to rise to $9.45 an hour on Friday, and new requirements for employers offering paid sick leave also take effect.

    The minimum wage will rise to $12 an hour by 2030 — eight years slower than in the ballot measure that called for the same increase by 2022. The other proposal mandated 72 hours of paid sick leave. The new law requires 40 hours of paid sick leave.

    Republicans and business leaders have argued that their scaled-back plan is constitutional. But Democrats have slammed the move as circumventing the voters’ will.

    Dana Nessel | Andrew Roth

    Both of the original citizen-led ballot initiatives collected more than 370,000 signatures in support of the measures, exceeding the 252,523 required to put them to a statewide vote.

    In February, top Republican leaders in the state House and Senate asked the Michigan Supreme Court to weigh in on whether their pre-emption of the ballot proposal was constitutional.

    The court and Nessel have still not indicated whether they will issue legal opinions.

    The attorney general’s office has “traditionally refrained from opining on matters that are the subject of pending litigation,” Rossman-McKinney said in an email.

    She added that a request for Nessel’s opinion from state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) “remains pending in our office and under review.”

    The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), which implements and enforces the state’s minimum wage law, has, in the meantime, issued an online timeline for the scheduled increases, along with answers to frequently asked questions.

    Michael Gerstein
    Michael Gerstein covers the governor’s office, criminal justice and the environment. Before that, he wrote about state government and politics for the Detroit News, the Associated Press and MIRS News and won a Society of Professional Journalism award for open government reporting. He studied philosophy at Michigan State University, where he wrote for both The State News and Capital News Service. He began his journalism career freelancing for The Sturgis Journal, his hometown paper.

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