Dec 12, 2023 - Politics

Michigan Supreme Court weighs minimum wage hike and adopt and amend

An official from the Attorney General's office argues that adopt and amend is constitutional Thursday, Dec. 7 in Lansing. Photo: Michigan Supreme Court/Youtube

An official from the attorney general's office argues that "adopt and amend" is constitutional Thursday, Dec. 7, in Lansing. Photo: Michigan Supreme Court/YouTube

The battle over the state's minimum wage and a controversial legislative maneuver played out in the Michigan Supreme Court last week.

Driving the news: The court heard arguments Thursday related to the "adopt and amend" strategy deployed by Republicans in 2018 that thwarted a ballot proposal to boost the statewide minimum wage, minimum tipped wage and sick leave accrual for workers.

  • Justices are weighing a challenge to the move by the Legislature that effectively killed a wage hike proposal in 2018, in the case Mothering Justice v. Attorney General.

Why it matters: Michigan's minimum wage could increase to more than $13 an hour and minimum tipped wage would rise from $3.84 to $11.73 for more than 300,000 workers should justices side with the plaintiffs.

  • Servers and bartenders have been caught in the middle of the minimum wage rulings for five years.

Flashback: A Court of Appeals panel ruled in January that the Legislature's controversial adopt-and-amend tactic is constitutional.

  • Adopting and amending a ballot measure happens when a proposal is adopted by the Legislature before going before voters, then changed during the legislative session before it becomes law.
  • Mark Brewer, who represents the ballot organizers, argued last week that the Michigan Legislature did exactly that when curtailing the proposed phased-in wage hike in 2018.

The other side: Officials from the attorney general's office, which had lawyers on both sides of the case, argue that since there's no rule against changing ballot initiatives after their passage, lawmakers had the right to do so.

  • "Today's oral arguments made clear there is a distinct legal difference between disliking the approach the legislature took, or even the policies it pursued, and declaring that action unconstitutional," John Sellek, a spokesperson for the group Save MI Tips — which has been organizing against the wage increases for months — said in a statement.

Context: Current laws allowed Republican lawmakers in control of the Legislature to insert an alternative that passed in 2018 after lawmakers adopted and amended proposals to increase Michigan's sick leave and minimum wage.

Between the lines: Plaintiffs last week argued that had the original proposals passed, minimum wage would be over $13 per hour, regardless of a worker's tipped status.

  • The state's current minimum wage is set to be $10.33 an hour next year, with minimum tipped wage at $3.93.
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