The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hire Michigan 1st stalls in state Senate

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – The Hire Michigan First bill sailed through the Democratic majority in the state House, but was brought to a screeching halt on April 1 by the majority of Republicans in the state Senate.

Trying to get a vote on the legislation before the Easter break, Senate Democrats tried to push the legislation out of committee for a full floor vote. By a party line vote of 21-16, Michigan Senate Republicans voted to keep the bill in the Senate Commerce Committee.

State Senate Democratic Leader Mike Prusi (D-Ishpeming) said Dems pushed for a vote because of the urgency of the state’s jobless situation, and because work is starting to go out for bids from the federal stimulus package. “I don’t have to tell you, you know how many members you have out of work,” Prusi told delegates to the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council’s 50th Legislative Conference.

Mostly along party lines, the Michigan House adopted the Hire Michigan First legislation on March 12, with Democrats in favor and Republicans against. The bill would reward companies (with the use of tax breaks) if they hire a 100 percent Michigan workforce on state taxpayer funded developments. The legislation also creates penalties for companies that hire undocumented workers.

The lead sponsor of the bill in the House, state Rep. Fred Miller (D- Mt. Clemens) said the package of bills in “Hire Michigan First” are intended to get more control over who benefits from state-funded construction. He said in today’s jobs environment, “it’s unconscionable that state money could be used to hire workers from other states, or other countries.”

State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (D- East Lansing) told Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council legislative conference, “They (Senate Republicans) will say it was just a procedural vote, and that it doesn’t matter. It does matter.”

A Republican response: “They (Democrats) were trying to take it out of committee and put it on the floor,” said state Sen. Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), said to the same delegates. “It didn’t follow procedure. We want to make sure the language is right.” A moderate Republican, Richardville said he “totally supports” Hire Michigan First.

Other Republicans have claimed that the legislation would place additional burdens on state businesses. According to Prusi, state Republicans also claimed that the legislation is “intended to protect workers. They seemed to use the work ‘union’ as a curse word.”