Michigan’s municipalities may soon lose the power to set minimum wages or require paid leave.
The state’s majority-Republican legislature is poised this week to approve a bill that would strip local governments of the power to regulate employers in almost any way, including setting minimum wages or requiring employers provide paid or unpaid leave or other benefits. The legislation is so broad that opponents have taken to calling it the “Death Star” bill.
“It would obliterate local control in Michigan, just as the Death Star obliterated Alderaan in Star Wars Episode IV,” says East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett.
Putting an end to such local ordinances was a top priority for the incoming House Republican leadership, which listed it as the second objective in their plan to create a stronger environment for job growth.
“All those sorts of employment-related matters — that we made plain in the bill — are not the purview of local governments, but are more properly the purview of state or federal law,” says Rep. Earl Poleski, the Republican sponsor of the bill.
Both legislative chambers have passed versions of the bill. The latest, approved by the House on Tuesday, is expected to pass the Senate this week, in time for the legislature to break for the summer.
Opponents say the proposal is a sign of Republican hypocrisy: The party constantly calling for the federal government to transfer more power to the states is now trying to deny a similar flow to the governments closest to the people.
“They, historically, have argued for more state and local control, but here, where we find that local control is improving the lot of employees, Republicans are against local control,” says House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel. Republicans, he and others argue, are consolidating power when municipalities pass policies with which they disagree.
But supporters say the effort has less to do with the policies being passed than streamlining regulations.
“We’re really just trying to avoid a patchwork scheme,” says Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which has lobbied for the bill’s passage. “For us, this bill isn’t about whether you should have a wage set at a certain level or whether you should or should not offer paid or unpaid leave or anything else enumerated in the bill, rather it’s about who should make those decisions,” she said.
The Missouri legislature passed a similar bill last month. Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has not yet announced his intentions with the bill, but must act by July 14, according to a spokesman.