Prevailing wage bill to proceed after court declines appeal

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers could begin voting as soon as next week on veto-proof legislation to repeal Michigan's prevailing wage law after the state Supreme Court on Wednesday denied an appeal filed by a union-backed group opposing the measure.

In a brief order, the justices said they were not persuaded to consider questions raised by Protect Michigan Jobs, a union-backed group opposing the initiated bill. That means an appeals court decision ordering certification of the proposal by the state elections board stands.

Anti-prevailing wage group may be short signatures again

The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers will meet Friday. It had deadlocked in April, when Democrats voted "no" after the opposition raised objections that 18 paid circulators provided fraudulent addresses.

Once the ballot initiative is certified by the board, the Republican-controlled Legislature will have 40 days to enact it or legislators could let it proceed to the November ballot. GOP legislative leaders have indicated they want to pass the legislation, which was organized by nonunion contractors as a citizens' initiative because Republican Gov. Rick Snyder previously threatened to veto repeal bills in the House and Senate. The initiated measure could become law without his signature.

The 1965 prevailing wage law requires paying the local wage and benefit rate - usually union scale - on state-financed projects such as public schools. Republicans say the law is outdated, inflates costs and makes it harder for nonunion contractors to compete by making lower bids. The law's defenders, including union contractors and Democrats, say it helps workers and prevents governments from awarding contracts solely based on which bidders pay their workers less.

Snyder has complained that abolishing the law would hamper efforts to bolster unfilled blue-collar jobs.

"We look forward to legislative leaders acting on this proposal in the near future and finally restoring fiscal accountability and equal opportunity to all Michigan workers by repealing this special interest carve-out," said Jeff Wiggins, president of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, a ballot committed that collected roughly 268,00 valid voter signatures to put the repeal before lawmakers.

The spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof said the Senate may vote as early as next week. A spokesman for House Speaker Tom Leonard said the GOP caucus would discuss the legislation once is it certified. Both leaders were attending to the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference on Mackinac Island after holding legislative sessions Wednesday.

The Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council said in a statement that it was "profoundly disappointed" with the Supreme Court decision because laws regulating how petitions are circulated were "rendered meaningless."

President Steve Claywell said the union of nearly 100,000 construction workers would urge legislators to scuttle the initiative that he said would result in "significant pay decreases" and unintended consequences.

"The hardworking people of Michigan deserve to vote on this critical issue," he said.


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