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BY AJ TRAGER
LANSING – The House Committee on Commerce and Trade has voted to approve House Bill 4052, the “Local Government Employer Mandate Prohibition Act,” that seeks to limit the units of local government to adopt, enforce or administer certain local mandates for employers. But the bill was passed with ordinance amendments.
A wide range of ordinances including prevailing wage, minimum wage, equal benefits and training requirements will be affected in the event that the bill is signed into law. However, changes to the legislation before passing out of the house committee calmed worries from municipalities and businesses over whether the bill would void 38 municipal ordinances protecting LGBT citizens and workers around the state.
“This bill is an unprecedented intrusion into the local control of Michigan cities,” East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett wrote on his Facebook, announcing the bill passed out of committee. “It flies in the face of both our State Constitution (sic) and a long history of home rule. Communities must be allowed to enact ordinances that reflect the values of their citizens. The one bright spot is that the bill was amended in committee to clarify that it does not prohibit a local government from adopting an ordinance prohibiting employment discrimination. That means that, for the moment, Michigan’s 38 local nondiscrimination ordinances are safe from preemption.”
East Lansing was the first city to enact a municipal ordinance adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes under the city’s civil rights ordinance. Michigan recently added Grand Rapids to the list of now 38 cities across the state to have LGBT protections added to city civil rights ordinances.
The House bill was introduced by Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, on Jan. 22 after he introduced a similar bill in the Michigan Competitiveness Committee in December 2014.
In an attempt to create uniform community benefits ordinances throughout the state, Poleski threatened the 38 municipal LGBT civil rights ordinances that have been passed in cities across Michigan.
The Committee on Commerce and Trade held a meeting on the bill last week, that would have prohibited local units of government from creating a “community benefits ordinance” under which contractors or developers would enact new rules for engaging in business with other companies; prohibit local units from establishing any requirement related to employee wages or benefits except as provided by law; and void any community benefits ordinance or similar ordinance adopted by a local unit in violation of the act. Opponents of the bill have coined it the “Death Star” bill because it would impose strict state control over municipal governments.
Rep. Jeremy Moss, (D-Southfield), is one of seven Democrats on the 19 member committee and also sits on the Local Government Committee. He called out the sponsor of the bill at the committee meeting held on May 12, bringing light to the hypocrisy of recent proposed GOP legislation.
“How come when it comes to the Supreme Court, we have to hold onto our local customs and values but we totally disregard local customs and values of our local municipalities?” Moss asked the sponsor of HB 4052.
Coincidentally, a resolution was recently introduced into the Local Government Committee that had only GOP partisan support. The resolution, Moss describes, calls on the U.S. Supreme Court to respect 10th Amendment rights and to respect state’s rights to individual needs, customs and values in anticipation of an affirming ruling that would set marriage equality as the national standard.
History is moving in one direction, Moss says, referencing a nationwide GOP push towards passing religious freedom restoration acts to protect the sanctity of religious beliefs in non-religious arenas.
Michigan has two other anti-LGBT bills currently pending a vote. The Michigan Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 5958), which is similar to the RFRA bill passed in Indiana and a three-bill package that passed out of the Senate Families Seniors and Human Services Committee that could be voted on by the Michigan Senate, would allow for faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to serve prospective parents based on their religious beliefs.
A similar bill, S.B. 337, was introduced into the state Senate on May 15 by Sen. Peter MacGregor, and was signed by Senators Wayne A. Schmidt, Patrick Colbeck, John Proos, Jack Brandenburg, Joe Hune, Phil Pavlov, Arlan B. Meekhof and Marty Knollenberg. S.B. 337 will implement everything that the House bill will with the exception that it will not regulate or create administrative or judicial remedies for wage, hour or benefit disputes.
The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Michigan Competitiveness. No committee hearing has yet to be announced regarding the legislation.