LANSING - There once was a time, not too long ago, that a key element of conservative principles was that local government was the best government. States could handle their own affairs better than the federal government, and likewise, counties, cities, townships and boards of education knew better than the state what was best for their own communities.
In Michigan, that philosophy apparently goes out the window when it comes to local governing issues involving organized labor, and laws that could establish or improve the pay and benefits of local workers.
The latest case in point is House Bill 4052, which was adopted May 20 by a 57-52 vote in the Michigan House. The measure would stop local governments from regulating wages, sick pay or other benefits of workers in their jurisdictions. It's likely a response to actions taken in cities like Seattle and most recently Los Angeles, whose leaders voted to mandate that employers pay employees a $15 per hour minimum wage.
“Republicans are supposed to be the party of small government and local control, yet they just voted to prevent local governments from enacting policies to benefit the folks in their own communities,” said House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills). “Once again, the hardworking men and women of Michigan are feeling the squeeze so that CEOs can increase their profit margins. This is corporate puppetry of the worst kind.”
Democrats said this bill has "ALEC" written all over it - the American Legislative Exchange Council is the big-money organization that has written scores of sample, pro-business, anti-worker pieces of legislation for the use of state governments to copy and paste into state laws.
An initial version of the bill was even more controversial because provisions would have taken away protections for LGBT people that have been adopted by 38 local Michigan communities. That language was subsequently removed from the final version that passed the House.
State Rep. Ed Poleski (R-Jackson) said it's better for state lawmakers, not local communities, to initiate legislative "petri dish" experiments. "Any one of us can find ourselves tossed into the petri dish... that is concerning," said Poleski to MLive. "If we're going to have a laboratory of democracy, far better for this House and the Senate down the hall to determine who should be tossed into the petri dish, and how."
Five Republican House members joined a united caucus of Democrats in opposing the bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration. Dems attempted to include a number of "carve-outs" to exclude paid sick time or minimum wage requirements, but they were struck down.
"A local governmental body," HB 4052 reads, "shall not adopt, enforce, or administer an ordinance, local policy, or local resolution regulating the relationship between an employer and its employees or potential employees if the regulation contains requirements exceeding those imposed by state or federal law."
The bill also says "the legislature finds and declares that regulation of the employment relationship between a nonpublic employer and its employees is a matter of state concern and is outside the express or implied authority of local governmental bodies to regulate, absent express delegation of that authority to the local governmental body."
Said state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit), a member of the House Commerce and Trade Committee: “Not only have Republicans once again put profits before people, they have taken away the right of self-determination. It’s simply appalling.”
The bill is an extension of an anti- project labor agreement bill adopted by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Snyder in 2011. The law prevents counties, cities, townships and school districts from entering into project labor agreements on construction projects they sponsor. The reasoning: the GOP lawmakers alleged that PLAs increase costs, even though the Senate Fiscal Agency found there would be an “indeterminate fiscal impact” with passage of the law, and numerous other studies have found PLAs don’t increase costs to taxpayers.