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Lazy Government: Michigan's Worker Rights Stalled By Adopt & Amend

It's time for Lazy Government!

Today we focus on recent news in the world of worker rights in the state of Michigan. We also touch on the related methods in which voters in the state can decide directly what they want...and how lawmakers can decide to do the opposite anyway. Let's get to it!


Couch Potato Explanation:

  • In Michigan, voters have the ability to change the law without lawmakers, by getting enough voters to say "that's an idea we should vote on."

  • In 2018, Michigan voters were to be able to vote directly on increasing the minimum wage and adding worker protections thanks to a one of these efforts...

  • ...until Republican lawmakers, who opposed it, basically passed the same initiative as a law.

Wait, what? But you said they were opposed.

  • They were. This is a tactic known as "Adopt & Amend."

Adopt & Amend?

  • They pass the initiative themselves, which stops the citizen vote. Then they go in and change the language, so it's not the same as what the citizens were going to vote on.

  • They knew the citizen effort was likely to win. They didn't want that. They stopped it.

  • Some refer to this as a "legislative strategy".

  • I refer to this as circumventing the will of the voters.

  • Also, many of the lawmakers were "lame ducks" (we had already voted in new lawmakers & they were on the way out). A Hail Mary Pass on their way to the exit.

Don't confuse me by adding sports and religion.

  • Sorry.

So, wait, this is legal? Isn't that, like, un-American?

  • That's the question. A lower level judge has recently said it is unconstitutional.

  • That decision will almost definitely go to the Court of Appeals to, you know, appeal it.

  • Whatever happens will likely rinse & repeat until it reaches the Michigan Supreme Court, who will make the final decision.


  • Because they're the highest authority. Like the Supremes.

So now what?

  • We wait for that process to go through and, in the meantime, possible chaos ensues.

Stop it. You're scaring me.

  • It is scary to be a business owner and not be sure if the rules are going to suddenly change on you, especially when they can be expensive rules.

  • Especially when they could kick in as soon as August of this year.

Yeah, that's like a week away.

  • Very true. But the State of Michigan has asked for a "stay" on the decision, meaning they want nothing to change until the final decision has been made.

  • There's also an effort to change Adopt & Amend to stop this kind of nonsense in the future.

  • So we wait and see. Will the original worker protections take effect? Will Adopt & Amend change? Time will tell.

Other Relevant Notes:

  • Citizens of Michigan are able to initiate constitutional amendments, statutory changes, and voter referendums via a petition, signature-gathering process.

  • There is no law prohibiting circulators of those petitions from lying to or misleading the public. Because who would ever do that?

  • State Senate Democrats have introduced an amendment, Senate Joint Resolution N, to increase the threshold by which lawmakers can adopt ballot initiatives, to minimize "Adopt and Amend." It's still in committee. The Michigan Legislature is currently ruled by Republicans, who mostly just stand for maintaining power, so, yeah, we'll see what happens. I feel like I'll be saying this a lot here, but I'm not a Democrat. But, for the love of the tacos, please don't vote Republican. We have third parties that stand for small government and low taxes, if that's your bag.


For Those of You Who Want To Dive In Deeper (AKA Nerds Like Me):

A few years ago, the citizens of Michigan put together a ballot initiative and got the appropriate signatures to put on the ballot a vote to increase the minimum wage to $12 and codify worker protections, including earning 1 hour of sick time for 30 hours worked, with the ability to accrue between 40-72 sick hours a year, depending on the size of their employer. This was part of a moment of impressive grassroots activity, when Michigan citizens were working to legalize marijuana, codify voter rights, and change the way legislative districts were drawn, since the lawmakers in office weren't exactly doing much to help.

The Michigan GOP was opposed and, seeing that it was likely to pass, chose to "adopt & amend", meaning they basically passed the same initiative as a law, nullifying the citizen initiative. They then went back and changed a bunch of the language (including a far longer timeline for the wage increase, separating out tipped workers, 35 hours worked for 1 sick time, lowering the accrual, and only applying the rules to only larger businesses) and turning that version into law.

Some referred to this as a "legislative strategy". I refer to this as circumventing the will of the voters. Worse yet, this was done in the lame duck session, when many of the lawmakers involved were on their way out. You can debate whether or not the initiative was a good idea, but that was up to the voters, not the legislature.

So now it's been ruled unconstitutional in a lower court, which will cause all sorts of chaos in the business world. Possible changes could take effect as soon as August 2022. A stay has been requested to avoid that by the State of Michigan. Meanwhile, the case goes to the Court of Appeals, then likely Michigan Supreme Court. Note that the state Supreme Court had previously declined to weigh in with an advisory opinion in 2019, but this time it likely take action, since their decision will be more than advisory.



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