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Michigan appeals court hears minimum wage, sick leave “adopt and amend” cases

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The state’s minimum wage and paid sick leave laws were on the line with legal arguments Tuesday before the Michigan Court of Appeals. The challenge says the Michigan Legislature abused elements of the state’s initiative process – violating the state Constitution and skirting the will of voters in 2018.

The initiative process allows a petition campaign to force the Legislature to adopt a law or the question goes on the ballot for voters to decide.

The issue is whether the Legislature was allowed to adopt a petition initiative to increase the state minimum wage, thus keeping it off the November 2018 ballot, and then change it during the same legislative session. The initiative would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour with subsequent increases tied to the rate of inflation. The same arguments were made about an initiative to require employers to let workers build a bank of paid sick leave.

The Republican-led Legislature amended both laws to blunt their effects and make them more business-friendly.

Attorney Mark Brewer told the court that violated the state constitution and the wishes of people who never had a chance to vote on the questions.

“The Legislature adopted it only to gut it,” he said.

Assistant Attorney General Eric Restuccia argued for the Legislature. He said that doesn’t mean there’s no check on the Legislature’s power.

“Where the Legislature amends an initiative act, people have at least two remedies. They may re-enact the measures by another initiative, or at the same time and in the same election, they may elect other members of the Legislature,” he said. “Throw the bums out, that kind of concept.”

No matter what the three-judge appeals court panel decides, the loser will almost certainly take the case to the Michigan Supreme Court next year.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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