Court To Canvassers: Certify Prevailing Wage Repeal Petition - Small Business Association of Michigan

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Court To Canvassers: Certify Prevailing Wage Repeal Petition

Court To Canvassers: Certify Prevailing Wage Repeal Petition

The state Court of Appeals (COA) Friday ordered the Board of State Canvassers (BSC) to certify the prevailing wage repeal petition brought by Protecting Michigan Taxpayers (PMT).

PMT went to court after the BSC deadlocked on the vote to certify its petition that would provide for the repeal of prevailing wage.

In the unanimous opinion signed by the three appellate judges, they wrote that while some of the petition circulators "may have claimed fraudulent residential addresses," the statutory sanctions for such irregularities "do not include disqualifying elector signatures." 

An Attorney General (AG) opinion previously requested by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) had said much the same. 

Andrea Hansen, legal counsel for the group working against the PMT proposal, said she'd be asking the Michigan Supreme Court for "immediate application for leave to take up our appeal." 

The Secretary of State (SOS) had analyzed a signature sample from PMT's petition and determined last month there were enough for certification. 

But questions raised by Protect Michigan Jobs (PMJ) -- the group fighting for preservation of prevailing wage -- about the circulator addresses was enough to convince the two Democratic BSC members to vote no and deadlock the petition's certification. 

PMJ had said there were PMT circulators who listed addresses that were not the residence of that circulator. Instead, there were addresses listed for UPS stores, motels and hotels, and uninhabited parcels owned by Habitat for Humanity and Detroit Land Bank. 

But Meekhof's requested AG opinion found the BSC could impose sanctions for circulators who don't provide a proper residential address. However, those sanctions "are limited to criminal or civil penalties," and don't include disqualifying the affected petition sheet or the signatures on the sheet. 

The COA panel wrote that state laws "make no allowance for striking elector signatures in the event that a circulator records an incorrect address, and nothing in the relevant statutes conveys any intent to disenfranchise electors who were unaware of a circulator's error or infraction." 

PMJ and its union backers saw the issue differently. Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, said the COA opinion "completely guts Michigan's election law by allowing petition circulators to conduct fraudulent activity." 

Hansen, the Honigman Miller attorney who represents PMJ, said, "You will no longer need honest circulators because this ruling allows people to lie about the basic fundamentals of the signature collection process. In today's case, more than one-third of the circulators were fraudulent, and this decision seriously undermines the integrity of the election law process and the procedures that have protected Michigan's voters." 

The COA's action granted PMT's complaint for mandamus and directed the BSC to certify the petition, which would send it to the Legislature for consideration. The SOS announced late the BSC would meet Tuesday at the Capitol to again consider the PMT petition. 

Both Meekhof and House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) have expressed support for having their respective chambers take up the proposal and make it law. 

"Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the rights of nearly 400,000 Michigan citizens looking to propose common sense legislation to their elected officials that would repeal the special-interest carveout that is Michigan's Prevailing Wage law," said PMT President Jeff Wiggins, in a statement. "While it was unfortunate that they were forced to appeal to the judiciary to exercise these rights, the Court rightly found that their voices must be heard." 

Americans for Prosperity-Michigan also applauded the COA's opinion today. The opinion was No. 343566 and was signed by judges Elizabeth Gleicher, Peter O’Connell and Jonathan Turkel.

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