The behavior of the Michigan GOP throughout this lame-duck session has been reprehensible and anti-democratic — and they know it.
Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed two bills gutting the state’s new paid sick leave and minimum wage laws. It was the culmination of a long-term strategy by the GOP to subvert the will of voters on both of these issues.
But the strategy is so blatantly undemocratic that even some Republicans fear it might backfire.
“We look like sore losers,” fretted J.R. Roth, chairman of the Grand Traverse County GOP. Roth went on to note that the GOP’s bad behavior may only strengthen Democrats in the 2020 election.
Earlier this year, signatures were gathered from hundreds of thousands of Michigan voters to put a new paid sick leave law and a minimum wage increase on the 2018 ballot.
Republicans didn’t like these laws, but knew they’d be popular with voters. So in order to keep the issues off the ballot, the GOP-controlled legislature passed its own paid sick leave and minimum wage laws — while freely admitting that those laws would be weakened right after the election.
Indeed, the versions of the laws Snyder signed will do much less than they would have if voters had gotten their say.
First, the paid sick leave law now contains so many exceptions that 160,000 small businesses do not have to provide their collective 1 million employees with any paid sick leave at all.
Michigan voters wanted to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2022. But the GOP’s watered-down law won’t raise the wage to that level until 2030.
And it’s not just these laws that make the GOP look like “sore losers,” as Roth put it. Republicans are also using the lame-duck session to try to limit the power of incoming Democratic lawmakers, like newly elected Democratic attorney general Dana Nessel.
The legislature has advanced a bill allowing it to intervene directly in lawsuits that involve the state. This minimizes the ability of the attorney general to determine which state laws should be defended if challenged in court.
The GOP representative chairing a key committee as that bill advanced, Lee Chatfield, shut down discussions over the bill when Democratic protesters applauded a Democratic committee member’s speech.
But while Chatfield claimed the bill would give the legislature a stronger voice in the process, he was also forced to acknowledge in a floor speech that the timing of the bill did not make his party look good. Chatfield tried to claim that his “biggest issue with this bill is that it was not introduced 18 months ago,” when the attorney general was a Republican.
Even if only a few of them will admit it, the GOP is fully aware that its work during the lame-duck session is designed to strip power from Democrats and to undercut the will of the people.
It’s a monumentally indefensible way of governing.
Published with permission of The American Independent.