The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 21, 2018

Prevailing wage repeal law should be tossed, group argues

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING - Protect Michigan Jobs, the union-backed coalition that battled efforts to repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law, filed a motion on Sept. 10 before the state's Court of Claims, asking the court to declare that Public Act 171 violates the state Constitution. PA 171 was the citizens' petition adopted into law by the Michigan Legislature in June that repealed the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act of 1965.

PMJ, along with the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, asked the court to declare a permanent injunction against enforcement of PA 171, because the Legislature - backed only by Republican lawmakers - repealed the prevailing wage law and then gave their action "immediate effect," without formally polling lawmakers.

The long-standing legal problem with immediate effect is that the Michigan Constitution states that laws adopted by the Legislature will not take effect until 90 days after a legislative session ends. However, lawmakers have regularly been doing an end-around of that rule, using the vote of a two-thirds majority of the Legislature to implement immediate effect of various laws over the years.

In this case, PMJ argues that the Michigan Senate adopted the prevailing wage repeal by a 23-14 vote on June 6 and a subsequent motion for immediate effect was adopted 25-12. In the state House, the repeal was adopted the same day by a 56-53 margin, and a short time later a vote was held for immediate effect.  

In its lawsuit PMJ argues that 46 House members indicated they wanted a roll call of the vote, but Speaker Pro Tempore Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) conducted a rising vote instead. (A rising vote is when the number of members voting on each side stand, or "rise"). The lawsuit says Chatfield declared immediate effect with the "unsupported conclusion that two-thirds" of lawmakers supported immediate effect. And if the "immediate effect" portion of the law is unconstitutional, then the PMJ lawsuit said state law requires the invalidation of the rest of the law.