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PACs pay legislators to disregard voters

HOUGHTON — “Lansing is rife with lobbyists,” states the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “If you can think of it, there’s a trade group that represents it — fruit growers, high school principals, hospitals, trial lawyers, millwrights, carpenters … the list goes on.”

One example of how lobbyists and PACs control legislation in Lansing, and strip voters of a voice, were two proposals that were to appear on the November, 2018 ballot.

Michigan One Fair Wage, and MI Time to Care, two ballot committees, earned enough signatures from registered Michigan voters during the summer of 2018, to get their proposals to raise the state’s minimum wage and require paid sick leave, respectively, onto the November 2018 ballot.

But Michigan’s constitution allows the legislature to adopt citizen-initiated laws before they go to voters, however. Republican legislators, who adamantly opposed both measures, approved both laws, in order to amend them later. That is exactly what they did.

In September, 2018, the Republican-controlled House and Senate voted, along mostly party lines, to adopt the proposals to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022, and require employers to offer 72 hours of paid sick leave. Then, in lame-duck action that created much controversy throughout the state, the legislature gutted the strongest provisions before the two-year legislative term ended in December.

Fox 17 reported on Nov. 28, 2018, that in order to “prevent the citizen initiatives from going to voters, where they would be much harder to change if voters had passed them, Republican legislators preemptively approved them in September, so that they could alter them after the election with simple majority votes in each chamber.

Governor Rick Snyder, who signed the bills, said he believed the original citizen-drafted laws would have been a roadblock in Michigan’s ongoing economic recovery. However, there was much more to it than Snyder’s assertion.

The business groups asking state lawmakers to weaken voter-initiated laws that increased the minimum wage and required paid sick leave have been heavy financial supporters of lawmakers’ campaigns, stated Lindsay VanHulle, in a Mar. 26, 2019, Bridge article.

VanHulle stated Backers of the ballot initiatives and Democratic lawmakers, said the Legislature’s revisions circumvented the will of hundreds of thousands of Michigan voters who wanted the chance to vote on the more-generous minimum wage and sick leave proposals as written.

Michigan Finance Network reported that Political action committees (PACs) connected to 10 business groups that spoke out in support of overhauling the laws, spent $1.19 million to benefit current lawmakers and their caucuses in 2018, according to a new analysis of campaign finance disclosures.

The following is a list of their PACs and how much they’ve spent in support of current lawmakers and their caucuses this year. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has both an active PAC and an active super PAC.

• Michigan Chamber of Commerce Super PAC; $439,694;

• Michigan Chamber of Commerce PAC; $223,200;

• Michigan Farm Bureau PAC, $133,650;

• Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association PAC, $77,000;

• Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce PAC, $27,450;

• National Federation of Independent Business PAC, $16,050;

• Michigan Manufacturers Association PAC, $15,825;

• Michigan Licensed Beverage Association PAC, $14,300.

The PAC of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, which has led the charge against the minimum wage proposal, spent more during the October 2018 campaign-finance quarter than it had in any quarter since 2010.

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