Michigan gov signs controversial minimum wage, paid sick leave laws

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed two controversial measures into law Friday that critics say go against the will of voters by watering down changes to the state’s minimum wage and medical leave rules after Republicans removed more aggressive proposals from the November ballot.

Snyder’s decision comes as another outgoing Republican governor, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, approved measures to roll back some executive powers, just as Democrat Tony Evers is set to take over the governor’s office there.

Democrats have seen parallels to Wisconsin in neighboring Michigan, where Democratic candidates swept the statewide races and state Republican lawmakers have sought to push through legislation at odds with Democratic priorities during a contentious lame-duck session.

But Snyder had not revealed whether he would sign or veto some of the most controversial bills, including those concerning the minimum wage and mandatory sick pay.

The new law will raise the state minimum wage at a slower rate than a ballot initiative would have proposed — before state Republicans removed the question from the ballot by approving it themselves, and then rolling it back in the lame duck session after the election.

The other controversial measure signed into law Friday will also mandate fewer hours of paid sick leave than the language originally approved for the ballot initiative — 40 hours versus 72 hours in the original proposal, for companies with more than 50 employees.

The outgoing Republican governor said Friday he reached his decision on those measures after assessing the proposals “through a policy lens — is it the right the policy for the state of Michigan and Michiganders as a whole?”

“The two bills I signed today strike a good balance between the initial proposals and the original legislation as drafted,” Snyder added.

But Democrats say Snyder and Republicans are flouting what voters want in favor of their own policy goals, just days before Democrats are set to take power.

“If it wasn’t clear before, it should be clear now that this governor has zero respect for the voters,” said Jim Ananich, the top Democrat in the state Senate.

A spokesperson for Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer did not immediately issue a statement, and a spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, who helped organize the protests at the state capitol this week, told CNN: “We’re extremely disappointed, but unfortunately not surprised.”

Snyder’s “term can’t come to an end fast enough,” Scott said.

Some Michigan Democrats have remained hopeful that Snyder would veto some of the most controversial pieces of legislation, citing his reputation as more of a pragmatist than a partisan.

“I hope he’ll stand up here as a last measure of his governance,” state Sen. Curtis Hertel, told CNN on Monday. “He’s got a decision to make on his own legacy: whether he wants to be the governor that radically changed Michigan’s government, the governor that went around the will the people, or if he is willing to stand up and say, ‘This is wrong.’ “

This won’t be the last decision facing Snyder as the lame-duck session continues.

Other bills have been working their way through the state Legislature to chip away at powers of the secretary of state and attorney general, which Democrats have held up as evidence of an attempted Republican “power grab.”