Dems taking stock after last week’s loss on wage, sick time issues

    Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

    Last week’s decision by Gov. Rick Snyder to sign legislation gutting citizen initiatives to raise the minimum wage and mandate paid sick time in the state was met with dismay and anger from many on the left.

    Pam Faris

    Among those was outgoing state Rep. Pam Faris (D-Clio), who back in September voted against the GOP-dominated Legislature taking up the ballot initiatives — as is its right under state law — due to fears that Republicans would attempt to weaken the proposals after the election.

    And that’s exactly what Republicans did, introducing new legislation last month. The minimum wage bill was Senate Bill 1171, sponsored by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), and the paid sick leave bills was SB 1175, sponsored by Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

    “I broke with House Democratic leadership this summer and voted no because it was no secret that the republicans [sic] would undo the legislation in lame duck,” Faris wrote in a post on Facebook over the weekend. “Even right wing interest groups did not try to hide the fact their legislators would take away sick leave and a pay raise – critical, life-changing issues that voters demand but mega-donors hate.”

    The initial petition drives adopted by the Legislature were largely opposed by many of the state’s business lobbying groups, like the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Restaurant Association. However, business groups were pleased by Snyder’s decision to sign bills slow-walking the minimum wage increase and significantly scaling back paid sick leave in Michigan.

    Faris’ comments add on to a theme reported in the Advance earlier this month. Democrats in the state House and other stakeholders largely believed that a 1964 opinion issued by then-Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley, a Democrat, stating that the lawmakers couldn’t adopt and amend a petition drive in the same legislative session would hold up. However, Republicans introduced legislation last month anyway. And current AG Bill Schuette, a Republican, offered a conflicting opinion that the GOP could go ahead.

    While attorneys for the ballot initiatives haven’t ruled out future legal action over the GOP maneuvering, at least one former Democratic lawmaker previously told the Advance that party leadership overplayed its hand.

    “I’m not sure what they were thinking about, to be honest with you,” Gilda Jacobs, now president and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, told the Advance, adding that she believes many Democratic legislators hoped to have greater input in the process.  

    But to Faris, the term-limited lawmaker from the state’s Thumb region, that strategy hurt them.

    “Republicans have shown us who they are time and time again,” Faris wrote. “We just need to believe them. Democratic lawmakers, elected officials, precinct delegates, volunteers and voters all need to watch not only what the Republicans are doing, but what we are doing to either help or stop them.”

    Nick Manes
    Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering 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.

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