Michigan court orders $12 minimum wage initiative on ballot
LANSING — The Michigan Court of Appeals ordered yesterday that an initiative to raise the state's minimum wage to $12 be placed on the November ballot, rejecting the restaurant industry's challenges to petition signatures and how the measure is written.
In a brief 2-1 order, Judges Stephen Borrello and Jane Beckering said the One Fair Wage proposal does not violate constitutional requirements that laws not be revised by reference to their title only. They also dismissed a contention that the ballot committee did not collect enough valid signatures because some signers checked both a "city" and "township" box when listing their hometown.
The ruling came nearly a month after the Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2, on party lines, to certify the proposal despite the Bureau of Elections determining there were 283,000 valid signatures - 31,000 more than needed.
Michigan Opportunity, a restaurant-backed opposition group, said it was disappointed with the decision and would appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court as soon as Thursday.
"While we respect the diligence taken by the Court of Appeals panel, we still firmly believe that the Michigan One Fair Wage petition is misleading and lacks the transparency required by the Michigan constitution, rendering it ineligible for the ballot," said spokesman Justin Winslow.
Because the measure is initiated legislation, it would first go to the Republican-led Legislature, which could pass or reject the bill. If it were ignored - which appears likely - the proposal would go to a statewide vote in the fall. Lawmakers also could propose an alternative measure to appear alongside it on the ballot, though legislators have just two or three session days scheduled before a Sept. 7deadline to finalize the ballot.
Michigan's hourly minimum wage is $9.25 and, starting in 2019, will increase annually with inflation unless the unemployment rate is high. Under the proposal, the wage would rise to $10 in 2019, $10.65 in 2020, $11.35 in 2021 and $12 in 2022, with yearly inflationary adjustments afterward.
The minimum wage for tipped employees would gradually increase from the current $3.52 until reaching the minimum wage for all other workers in 2024.
"This is a victory both for voting rights and for workers in need of one fair wage to take care of their families," said the ballot drive's campaign manager, Darci McConnell.
Judge Michael Riordan dissented from the ruling, arguing that people who checked both township and city boxes should not be given the benefit of the doubt afforded by a safe-harbor provision in state law. The elections bureau has said its "longstanding policy" is to count signatures where both boxes are marked.
"The safe-harbor provision does not protect such errors, and extending it to do so is tantamount to adding language to the statute that the Legislature saw fit to leave out," Riordan wrote.