State Lawmakers Expected To Kill Living Wage

May 8, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — Another shot at killing the living wage and bills concerning land-use issues will likely be part of the new legislative session, which slowly got underway recently in Lansing.

Those projections came from representatives of the Michigan Townships Association and the Michigan Municipal League, two statewide organizations that advocate local control. The MTA represents about 1,200 of the state’s townships, while the MML has about 500 cities and villages as members.

MTA Director of Legislative Affairs Pat McAvoy recently told members of the Grand Valley Metro Council’s Legislative Committee that the big issues for her group were a set of bills covering land use, especially one that determines when the actual ownership transfer of agricultural property takes place.

“I don’t see it on a fast track,” she said.

MML Senior Legislative Associate Scott Schrager felt the living wage issue would rise again. The effort to kill it died, he said, because time ran out in the session.

“I suspect we may see another turn on that,” he said.

A bill that would prohibit local governments from creating a wage higher than the state’s minimum wage had support, but didn’t pass both chambers last year. Detroit, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Warren have living-wage measures. A Senate bill that exempted those four units from any new legislation that bars a living wage is expected to be offered again.

The Coordinated Planning Bills, a seven-bill package that covers land use, is expected to be addressed this session. Rep. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck, will likely reintroduce the main bill, which was sponsored by former Rep. Jon Jellema, R-Grand Haven.

According to the MML, the bill provides for coordinated land use and capital facility planning among local units of government, as well as regional, state and federal agencies. The other bills amend laws on zoning, highway construction and environmental protection.

Schrager said home builders, Realtors and other businesses had concerns about the 74-page bill. He felt it wasn’t passed last session because the newest lawmakers weren’t familiar enough with the ins and outs of legislative life in Lansing.

“The legislative process is like learning the culture of a foreign nation,” he said.

McAvoy said the MTA has a concern with the bill’s language.

Schrager remarked that the push by Secretary of State Candice Miller to upgrade Michigan’s voting machines will fade, just as will the memory of Florida’s presidential election problems. Besides, he noted, the state doesn’t have the millions to equip all precincts with touch-screen voting machines, which are hard to get because only two companies make the machines.

Schrager also predicted that there will be a special surprise election this session, but he didn’t elaborate on what. He added that he didn’t expect much action from the Legislature until after the annual State-of-the-State address from Gov. John Engler on Jan. 31.

It’s not that lawmakers are waiting to hear what the governor has to say. Rather, Schrager said, legislators aren’t anxious to meet a lot this month because many want to avoid voting on their 35.8 percent pay increase.

“That makes a lot of House members nervous,” said Schrager. “It’s not an accident that they will want to start slowly.”

If neither chamber votes on it, the raise automatically goes into effect.

McAvoy said she thinks this session will produce more cooperation between the parties than past ones. She also rated new House Speaker Rick Johnson, R-LeRoy, as an “excellent” choice for local governments. “At least he clearly understands where we are coming from.”           

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