GOPocrisy, Labor, LGBT, Michigan Republicans — May 12, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Michigan Republicans move to strip power of local governments to protect workers and the LGBT community


Republicans have successfully branded themselves as the party that worships “local governmental control”. They want federal regulations repealed and the power given to the states on all sorts of things from the environment to the Affordable Care Act. But, when it comes to actual local control, where local municipalities set their own rules, the whole idea of “local governmental control” is simply a quaint notion to be dispensed with posthaste to maintain their own control over our state.

Republicans in Michigan are sick and tired of local governments having the audacity to do things like pass local minimum wage requirements or giving the LGBTQ community actual civil rights protections. That’s why, on January 22nd, Republican Earl Poleski introduced H.B. 4052 which he calls the “Local Government Employer Mandate Prohibition Act”.

The original bill would have outlawed so-called “community benefits ordinances” which, according to the House Fiscal Agency require “contractors or developers, when developing certain parcels of property within the local unit, to hire certain employees, pay certain wages or benefits, engage certain subcontractors or local businesses for the provision of goods and services, waive certain rights under federal labor laws, or engage in other similar activities, in exchange for grants; tax abatements or exemptions; the transfer of property; the approval of a government requirement, including a regulating, zoning, permitting, or licensing requirement; or other economic development incentives the contractor or developer would otherwise be eligible to receive by law.”

The latest version, subsitute H2, is even more overreaching. According to the House Fiscal Agency’s Legislative analysis, it would prohibit a local governmental body from adopting, enforcing, or administering an ordinance, local policy, or local resolution that:

  • Regulates the relationship between an employer and its employees or potential employees, if the regulation contains requirements exceeding those imposed by state or federal law.
  • Regulates information an employer or potential employer must request, require, or exclude on an application for employment from an employee or potential employee.
  • Requires an employer to pay an employee a wage higher than the state minimum hourly wage or the federal minimum wage (unless the federal minimum is lower than the state minimum wage).
  • Regulates work stoppage or strike activity of employers and their employees or the means by which employees can organize.
  • Requires an employer to provide paid or unpaid leave time.
  • Regulates hours and scheduling that an employer is required to provide to employees.
  • Requires an employer or its employees to participate in any educational apprenticeship or training program.
  • Requires an employer to provide any specific fringe benefit or any other benefit for which the employer would incur an expense.
  • Regulates or creates administrative or judicial remedies for wage, hour, or benefit disputes.

The House Committee on Commerce and Trade held a hearing on this legislation today. If it becomes law, there will no longer be any local ordinances setting a mandatory local minimum wage. There will no longer be any local ordinances giving the LGBTQ community civil rights that they do not have under the state’s Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act. There will no longer be any local ordinances proscribing paid sick leave for workers. Local communities will no longer be able to pass “Ban the Box” ordinances to prohibit employers from asking about past convictions on employment applications. Basically any of the local worker protections or civil rights protections that Republicans detest so viscerally will be made illegal.

This is what now passes for “local governmental control” under the current Republican regime. It’s not dissimilar to the impact of an Emergency Manager on a local community in that it strips away their ability to use the democratic process to govern themselves.

Here’s an analysis provided to me by Shelli Weisberg, the Legislative Director for the ACLU, that references Section 4 of the H2 Substitute which says, “A local government body shall not adopt, enforce, or administer an ordinance regulating the the relationship between an employer and its employees or potential employees if the regulation contains requirements exceeding those imposed by state or federal law” (emphasis mine):

Section 4 [of the H-2 Substitute] is clearly designed to prohibit local entities from adopting human rights ordinances that would protect LGBT people from discrimination (as Michigan civil rights laws currently don’t include these categories). This is clearly in conflict with Michigan’s constitution and case law precedent in our state:

  1. Article 7, Section 22 of Michigan’s constitution gives each municipality the full powers “to frame, adopt and amend its charter” and “to adopt resolutions and ordinances relating to its municipal concerns, property and government, subject to the constitution and law. There is no constitutional provision that states that local governments cannot go further than state and federal civil rights laws, in terms of anti-discrimination protections through local ordinances.
  2. Michigan’s constitution expressly endorses an expansive interpretation of municipal power. Bivens v City of Grand Rapids, 443 Mich 391, 400 (1993)- “Michigan is strongly committed to the concept of home rule, and constitutional and statutory provisions which grant power to municipalities are to be liberally construed.”
  3. City of Detroit v Walker, 445 Mich 682 (1994) “Home rule cities enjoy not only those powers specifically granted by statute, but they may also exercise all powers not expressly denied. Home rule cities are empowered for themselves a plan of government suited to their unique needs, and upon local matters, exercise the treasured rights of self-governance.”
  4. Some of the earliest Michigan court decisions have emphasized the importance of home rule and the powers of municipalities to supplement state laws and policies to address local concerns. Wolf v City of Lansing, 53 Mich 367 (1884) (upholding local community restrictions on the sale of alcohol.)

So in sum the Section 4 is a thinly veiled attempt to void the decision of more than three dozen local communities that have adopted ordinances that protect employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. This clearly is in conflict with the constitutional autonomy of local governments, aka “home rule.”

Sommer Foster, Director of Political Advocacy at Equality Michigan points out that Michigan now has thirty-eight local ordinances inclusive of LGBTQ people, more than any other state in the nation. “In the absence of action by our state legislature to modernize the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, LGBTQ Michiganders depend on local ordinances and policies to protect them from discrimination,” Foster said in a statement. “House Bill 4052 is a draconian measure which will void protections for the more than 2 million people covered by a local non-discrimination ordinance. Local leaders have the right and the responsibility to protect the people who live, work and play in their communities and those rights should be respected.”

Foster also points out that East Lansing, Michigan made history on March 7, 1972 when it became the first city in the country to adopt such an ordinance. “Michigan has a rich and long history on this important issue, and House Bill 4052 threatens all of that,” she continued. “Rather than respond to this growing outcry from local officials to pass these protections on a statewide level, our leaders in Lansing are attempting to strip local democracy of their basic right to protect their citizens. Equality Michigan is very concerned by this latest example of government overreach by our leaders in Lansing, and call on them to do the right thing by not only defeating House Bill 4052, but modernizing Michigan’s statewide anti-discrimination law. Michiganders simply will not stand for this.”

Rod Monts, field director for the ACLU of Michigan, points out the un-democratic nature of this legislation. “We believe the restrictions this bill would place on public bodies could endanger the democratic process residents expect from their local government,” he said.

Reach out to your State House Representative and Senator and let them know that YOU won’t stand for this either. It’s outrageous. You can also send an email to members of the Michigan House Committee on Commerce and Trade demanding they oppose House Bill 4052 by clicking HERE.