By Stephen A. Hilger
On May 30, 2018, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an Order clearing the way for the repeal of prevailing wage laws. The Plaintiff, Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, organized a ballot question committee that sought to repeal Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Act under MCL 408.551-408.558. The law regulates the terms and conditions of employment for workers employed on state construction projects. Protect Michigan Jobs injected themselves into the litigation as an intervenor, opposing the efforts of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers.
The Michigan Constitution grants to its citizens the right to enact or repeal laws through a ballot initiative process. The proponents of the initiative must submit a petition bearing the signatures of a certain number of registered voters to the Bureau of Elections within the time frame set by the legislature. In this case, 252,523 signatures were required. By November 2017, Protecting Michigan Taxpayers submitted 382,700 elector signatures. The Bureau of Elections concluded that 268,403 signatures were valid, which was more than enough to qualify for the ballot initiative. The Michigan Bureau of Elections recommended certification of the initiative to the legislature for a vote. The Board of Canvassers, however, was split; two Republicans voting in favor and two Democrats voting against. The deadlock precluded certification, which prompted legal action that made its way through the Michigan court system. The basis for the votes against the signatures was found invalid by the court. After a detailed analysis, the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the Board of Canvassers had a clear legal duty to certify the petition.
An appeal was then brought to the Michigan Supreme Court. In a very short opinion, the appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court was denied because the court was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by the court.
What is the likely outcome? The Michigan legislature is currently controlled by the Republicans who will likely vote in favor of the initiative, thereby repealing the prevailing wage laws. Although Governor Rick Snyder has maintained that he does not support repealing the prevailing wage laws, he will not be able to veto a citizen’s initiative passed by the legislature.