Business lobbyists: GOP minimum wage, sick leave law changes were legal

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    Some of the state’s top business lobbyists believe they’re in the clear as Attorney General Dana Nessel begins a review of GOP maneuvers last year to water down citizen initiatives on increasing the minimum wage and mandating paid sick time.

    Dana Nessel

    Business groups like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) believe that the Republican Legislature’s vote to adopt and amend the ballot initiatives during Lame Duck was constitutional and Nessel’s opinion should reflect that.

    “We commend Attorney General Nessel for inviting comments on the constitutionality of the legislative enactment and amendment of the mandatory paid sick leave and minimum wage laws,” Wendy Block, vice president of business advocacy for the Michigan Chamber, said in a statement. “We are confident the Legislature acted within its constitutional authority.”

    Nessel was asked last week by state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) to write a new opinion on the matter. Republican former Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an opinion on the matter in late-2018 contradicting a 1964 opinion from then-Attorney General Frank Kelley that the Legislature can’t adopt and amend a ballot initiative in the same year.

    Brian Calley

    Shortly after Schuette’s opinion was released, GOP lawmakers voted to neuter the ballot initiatives — both of which had significant support from the public — and the legislation was later signed by former Gov. Rick Snyder.

    SBAM President Brian Calley was Snyder’s lieutenant governor. Now he is, not surprisingly, among the business lobbyists who believes the Legislature acted correctly.

    “It has become increasingly common for policies to be challenged legally when opponents lose the issue in the regular lawmaking process and that is not at all surprising,” Calley said in a statement. “We are very confident that the Legislature acted squarely within its constitutional authority.”

    Charlie Owens

    Likewise, Charlie Owens, state director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), stated that the legislative maneuvering was not only legal, but necessary for Michigan’s economy.

    “We believe the Legislature was on solid constitutional ground when they adopted the ballot proposal and amended it to make much needed changes to the original language,” Owens said. “The original proposal was an extreme mandate on Michigan employers, especially small business employers, and we are calling on the Attorney General to uphold the Constitution in her opinion.”

    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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