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House Further Revises, Then Passes Paid Sick Leave, Minimum Wage Bills

December 11, 2018

The minimum wage would go to $12.05, not $12, by 2030, and tipped workers would be paid 38 percent of the regular minimum wage, under amended minimum wage and paid sick leave bills that cleared the House, were concurred in the Senate and sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Snyder said Tuesday evening he would review the legislation.

The House voted, 60-48, on SB 1171, which alters the minimum wage proposal. All Democrats were joined by Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe), Rep. Martin Howrylak (R-Troy) and Rep. Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond) in opposing the bill, although Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit) and Rep. Bette Cook Scott (D-Detroit) were not present for the vote. 

And SB 1175, which changes the paid sick leave proposal, also passed on a 60-48 vote. The Senate was planning to concur with the changes after the House vote and to ship them off to the Governor’s desk.

There were originally no changes to the Senate bills after the House Michigan Competiveness Committee reported both to the House floor earlier Tuesday on party-line 6-3 votes.

But House Republicans ended up adopting substitutes to the bills on the floor, including raising the minimum wage to $12.05 by 2030, which House Republicans spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro said was suggested by Snyder’s administration, as the administration argued that’s what the minimum wage would’ve reached by 2030 under the old system.

Critics of SB 1171, sponsored by Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), had said that in raising the tipped workers’ wages to $4 by 2030, it would actually decrease, by percentage, what they’re paid in comparison to the regular minimum wage, from the current 38 percent to 33 percent.

The adopted amendment would ensure tipped workers are paid 38 percent of the regular minimum wage, which in 2030 would be $4.58, D’Assandro said.

On the paid sick leave bill, SB 1175, Republicans changed the bill to require employers to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick time, up from the 36 hours in the Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) -sponsored bill. The original proposal had called for 72 hours of paid sick leave in a year.

Also, the accrual rate for sick leave goes to 1 hour for every 35 hours worked, halfway between the proposal’s 30 hours and the original Senate proposal of 40 hours worked.

And, SB 1175 was changed to allow workers to accrue that leave time immediately, and begin using it in 90 days. The Senate version had allowed that accrual to start after working for 12 months with the employer.

Democrats in committee Tuesday, and on the floor, attempted to sub in the original language of the proposals circulated by the minimum wage and paid sick leave groups. That wasn’t successful.

The House-revised version of the paid sick leave bill leaves intact an exemption for businesses with 50 or fewer people from having to comply with law, which has been one sticking point in particular for the paid sick leave proponents.

SB 1175 also nixed references to “domestic partner” throughout the proposal, which the House Fiscal Agency (HFA) said is defined as an adult in a “committed relationship” that would also include same-sex relationships.

It also says people can’t use paid sick leave to take care of a domestic partner’s relatives, according to the HFA.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the business community argued for the bill’s numerous changes to bring balance to the original citizens initiative.

SB 1171 raises the minimum wage and tipped worker wage by 2030, instead of the proposal hiking the regular minimum wage by 2022. It also changes the proposal by keeping the tip credit and stopping tipped workers’ wages from eventually reaching the same general minimum wage.

Rep. Laura Cox (R-Livonia) and Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp.) defended the changes, saying they were needed to make the policies workable for businesses and their workers. Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming), a restaurant owner, said small business owners do care for their workers, and defended the tipping culture in restaurants.

But a stream of Democrats spoke against the bills in a series of floor speeches, imploring their colleagues to leave the already-adopted paid sick time and minimum wage proposals intact. 

Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) recited what sounded like the King James translation of the Good Samaritan passage from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible, imploring his colleagues to “show mercy” to Michigan workers and describing the paid sick leave bill as unmerciful.

The Democrats collectively touched on many of the points they didn’t like about the bills. 

Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) gave a fiery speech against the paid sick time proposal that garnered affirmation from the Democratic side of the chamber. Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), in a roughly 10-minute long floor speech, argued the minimum wage bills would annually increase the minimum wage at sub-inflationary rates, and after 2030, when the increases stop, it would further erode workers’ wages, he said. 

There were even a few protestors who tried to shout their opposition from the House gallery before getting escorted out.

In committee earlier Tuesday, House Speaker Pro Tem Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) made quick work of both bills, moving them to the floor in the hour-long committee meeting. Chatfield convened the committee at 9 a.m. and said there’d be a hard stop at 10 a.m. for House session, and he kept to that.

He invited those who wanted to testify up in groups, and when the Democratic amendments came up, Chatfield said there would no time to speak to them, but he did permit Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn) to at least say what the amendments did. 

While the proposed amendments were made available outside the committee room before the meeting, two of the three proposed amendments on the paid sick leave bill were not described or spoken to during the committee before the members voted them down.

At the end, Chatfield mentioned there were a number of cards submitted, both for and against, but did not indicate who submitted the cards and what their positions are, a typical practice taken by committee chairs. Chatfield did say they’d be included in the record of the meeting.

Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) referenced two Attorney General opinions — one from Frank Kelley, and another from Attorney General Bill Schuette — that addressed the question of whether the Legislature can adopt and then amend a ballot initiative in the same session. 

She said the opinions conflict with one another, but Chatfield said the more recent one — Schuette’s — supersedes the previous one.

The Kelley opinion had been held up as evidence that such a move would be unconstitutional. But Schuette — at the request of the Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) — opined that the Legislature could amend the proposal.

Testimony was mostly similar to prior Senate committee testimony – business groups, representatives from the Michigan One Fair Wage campaign and the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP) all appeared before the committee.

Two weeks ago the Senate took up SB 1171 and SB 1175, first in Meekhof’s Government Operations Committee, where substitute bills containing most of the changes were unveiled the same day the full Senate sent the bills to the House on mostly party-line votes.

On Monday, the sponsors of the paid sick leave proposal filed ballot language with the state, threatening to mount another petition drive for 2020 if the Legislature doesn’t negotiate over the final version of SB 1175. However, the Chamber believes the Senate’s changes got it right and strike the balance they and other business groups were looking for.

Charlie Owens, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), said that based on data from other cities where similar sick time proposals have been enacted, “it’s clear from the studies there that jobs were down and businesses closed . . . we don’t like mandates from government telling employers they have to conduct their affairs with their employees” the way the state wants.

He said 70 percent of his small business members currently have sick time policies that were worked out at the bargaining table and he argues the status quo should be preserved.

But the co-chair of Mi Time to Care coalition, Danielle Atkinson, said, “rights should not be negotiated.” 

She rejects Owens’ move to keep things local and as for losing jobs she argues, “we’re going to lose jobs if we don’t make our state competitive including how we treat workers and can they take care of their families?”

The two sides also disagree on the impact — yay or nay — on growing the economy. Hildenbrand is a nay and Hammoud is a yay.

“It puts more money into people’s pockets. They are more likely to spend . . . it actually benefits employers who offer benefits,” Hammoud said.

Hildenbrand said that any time company costs go up, all consumers get hit. 

“That drives costs up for everything and for everybody else,” he said, adding that it actually hurts the economy by having a higher artificial wage.

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