In honor of Chanukah, I thought I’d try to shed some light on the major policies and controversies moving in Lame Duck. And borrowing from Santa’s playbook, I thought I’d make a list for you all to check twice to find out what policies are naughty and nice.
The Nice List
Some good could possibly come out of Lame Duck this year, as the Michigan Legislature took a big step forward on efforts to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18. After years of work by the League, a diverse group of partners and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, the House Law and Justice Committee passed out the Raise the Age package of bills and they await action in the full House.
With this legislation, lawmakers have a chance to help our kids, our families, our communities and our economy and leave a positive and indelible mark on our state. We hope the House Speaker and leaders in the Senate will seize this prime opportunity to do some good and move quickly to pass these bills and get them on the governor’s desk.
Raising the age will align Michigan with the other 46 states in the nation that treat 17-year-olds as kids, not adults, in the criminal justice system, and we urge you to contact your legislators and encourage them to support the Raise the Age bills.
Another potential “nice list” item is Senate Bill 541, which will expand access to dental care for children and families by creating a mid-level dental license for professionals commonly referred to as dental therapists.
The Naughty List
Unfortunately, Michigan lawmakers have made the biggest issue in Lame Duck thus far a political and divisive one. After passing legislation in September to provide earned paid sick leave for all workers and a minimum wage increase to keep the related petition-driven initiatives off the ballot, the Michigan Senate quickly followed through on its promise to pass dramatic changes that undercut the people’s original intent. And just last night, the dangerous Senate bills were passed in the full House (Here’s our official testimony on earned paid sick leave and minimum wage).
These issues were brought forth directly by the voters, and the wholesale changes to the bills are a slap in the face of democracy and the hundreds of thousands of residents who signed the petitions.
The Legislature’s changes to earned paid sick leave make it available to only employees of establishments of 50 employees or more, locking out more than a million of our state’s lowest-paid workers from paid sick leave. In addition, they increased the number of hours worked needed to earn sick time and decreased the number of hours that could be accumulated, again gutting the original resident-driven petition.
As for the struggles of tipped workers, they often are not paid the legal minimum wage on slow days, and many employers do not make up the difference, making their wages and their lives perpetually uncertain. This is why Michigan must eliminate the separate tipped wage and have one fair minimum wage for all employees—which is exactly what the proposal headed for the ballot would have done.
The Legislature actually lowered the tipped wage as a percentage of the basic minimum wage. Furthermore, the bill passed only raises the basic minimum wage by $0.23 per year until 2030, when it reaches $12. This minimal and sluggish increase will fail to keep up with ever-rising inflation and the cost of living—and keeping up is exactly what a minimum wage is supposed to do. Please contact Governor Snyder and tell him to veto SB 1171 and 1175. These bills are anti-worker and anti-democracy. We’re counting on him to do what’s right for Michigan before he leaves office.
Sadly, these are not the only efforts to undermine our democratic process, as lawmakers are also looking at ways to dilute the impact of Proposal 2 to end gerrymandering and Proposal 3 to improve voter rights and access for all people, especially people of color.
You Better Watch Out!
Lame Duck is always full of surprises. You better watch out, as some will make you cry and some will make you pout. I hope all of you will reach out to your lawmakers and tell them to oppose legislation to gut the minimum wage and paid sick leave proposals, and instead encourage them to embrace bipartisan legislation and the spirit of the holiday season by raising the age.
And to legislators, like Santa, Michigan voters know if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!
P.S. If this is all you read today, here’s the gist: Tell lawmakers to support raising the age because it’s good for kids, families and communities. Tell Governor Snyder to reject bills that gut minimum wage and sick leave because they’re bad for kids, families and communities.