As if you needed any more proof that the Republican party has no interest in democratic principles, the bait-and-switch pulled by Michigan legislatures late yesterday will certainly convince you.
Earlier this year, faced with the threat of ballot measures increasing the minimum wage and providing paid sick leave to workers, the Republicans in the majority in both chambers of the Michigan legislature passed bills that enacted both those goals. The passage of the GOP-sponsored bills led to the organizers of the ballot initiative to drop their efforts to get the measures on the ballot despite having already collected enough signatures to do so.
Fast forward to yesterday, when the same lame duck legislature that passed the original bills pulled a fast one and modified the language in the bills to weaken their impact considerably. The action has led to charges that this was their intent all along, passing the first versions of the legislation to undermine the ballot initiative that would lock the changes in permanently and then reverting to much weaker language after the election to put policy more back in line with Republican corporatist values.
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As reported in an article on The Hill, the changes put in place yesterday will delay the gradual rise to a $12 per hour minimum wage from 2022 to 2030. The revised bill also removes the inflation indexing that would have taken effect once the $12 rate was reached.
Republicans also changed the formula under which workers would accrue paid sick leave, moving from a system where a worker would gain an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 72 hours per year, cutting it in half to an hour per every 40 hours worked up to a maximum of 36 hours per year.
Up until this week, the legislators would have been constitutionally prohibited from making these sorts of changes to the legislation, but Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette overturned a 50-year-old advisory opinion to allow the legislature to move forward with the changes.
The GOP-controlled legislature passed the bill in the lame-duck session to ensure that it could be signed by outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder before Democratic Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer takes office in January. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof has said that he expects Snyder to sign the legislation once it reaches his desk.
If this wasn’t bad enough, the lame-duck session’s next order of business is to take up a bill that would emulate the power-sapping legislation passed yesterday by Wisconsin’s Republican legislature and reduce the abilities of Michigan’s incoming Democratic attorney general and secretary of state to hamper GOP power.
Contrary to the motto of The Washington Post, democracy is dying not in darkness, but in broad daylight, at least in Michigan and Wisconsin. It could do the same in other Republican-controlled states if this desecration of the will of the voters is allowed to stand unchallenged.
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Original reporting by Reid Wilson at The Hill.