Guest Column

November elections: Ballot threatens Michigan workers

September 7, 2018
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In November, Michigan voters will decide on a series of initiatives that could impact our way of life and our ability to compete for many years to come. Michigan is in the midst of a great turnaround, and we’ve become a state that is among the nation’s leaders in job creation and opportunity. As the debate on these ballot issues heats up, it’s important to look at who is behind each effort and whether people from outside of Michigan could end up curtailing the success that we currently are enjoying. Analysis shows well over three-quarters of the money supporting these initiatives has come from out-of-state interests.

A commonly talked about proposal is one that would legalize recreational marijuana. While most of the attention has focused on marijuana use, very little attention has been paid to how marijuana businesses would be structured and regulated. Though the initiative seeks to treat marijuana like alcohol, among the many other unanswered questions include how officers can detect and therefore enforce drugged driving. And, how employers can prevent individuals from operating dangerous machinery while high or being injured at work resulting from someone who is high. As we saw when a ballot initiative for medical marijuana passed in 2008, a poorly written, vague ballot proposal can lead to years of confusion and wasted resources.

The much-discussed ballot proposal that would create a commission to handle legislative redistricting suffers from the same problem; the details lack accountability and warrant examination for undesired consequences. The so-called “Voters Not Politicians” supporters claim they want to end gerrymandering, but details about the criteria for who can draw the lines, unclear criteria for how to draw lines and lack of accountability to the public raise questions whether the proposal would lead to increased gerrymandering.

Two other ballot proposals purport to address issues that workers face: one would require a specific amount of paid sick time for all employees, while the other would mandate increases and changes to Michigan’s minimum wage. The sick time proposal is heavily funded by out-of-state groups whose proposal is more onerous than California’s law. Unemployment is down, wages are up and the demand for workers is increasing. Employers already are offering sick leave. Putting new, specific and costly burdens on businesses will only slow down the fantastic growth workers are enjoying.

The proposed changes to the minimum wage is another case where out-of-state interests want to change Michigan law in a way that would stifle growth. Worse, wait staff members express alarm that this proposal will hurt — not help — their income. This idea would increase Michigan’s minimum wage during the next four years while adversely impacting restaurant workers who make tips. This proposal would end up actually diminishing the take-home pay of most of these workers. Michigan’s restaurant industry has seen great growth in recent years; this proposal would reduce job creation and pass along the higher costs to consumers.

The final proposal, known as “Promote The Vote,” would change the voter registration process and could make it almost impossible to verify the authenticity of everyone who comes to the polls. Instead of letting the people chosen by Michigan voters set the rules and standards for voting, this will instill straight ticket voting into Michigan’s constitution.

Do Michigan residents want major decisions affecting our quality of life to be driven by out-of-state interests? Most states don’t allow legislating by referendum, but now Michigan appears to be sliding down the slope of California where special interest groups drive policy by ballot. We must all take the time to learn about both the intended and unintended consequences of each of the issues on this November’s ballot. Then, we need to explore how we can ensure that Michigan decisions are made in Michigan, representing all of the citizens from all parts of Michigan.

Johnny Brann Jr. is founder/owner of Kitchen 67 and co-owner of Interphase Interiors. He serves as a West Michigan Policy Conference co-chair for the 2018 conference.

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