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May 9, 2014

GOP leader's bill may thwart minimum wage proposal

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A top Republican lawmaker's proposal that would increase Michigan's hourly minimum wage to $8.15 in September could thwart a current ballot drive to gradually raise it to 10.10 by 2017.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville introduced the bill Thursday, about three weeks before the deadline for backers of the higher wage hike to file signatures to put their initiated law before the GOP-led Legislature. Assuming legislators do nothing, the outside measure would head to a statewide vote in November.

Richardville's bill, however, would repeal the existing minimum wage law — which sets the minimum at $7.40 — and enact a new one, potentially rendering the ballot initiative moot because it would amend current law.

"He is open to having a discussion about how we can put together a reasonable raise for the people of Michigan and still make sure we're allowing a good, robust opportunity for job creation as well," Richardville spokeswoman Amber McCann said. "The ballot has become a very easy and convenient place to push agendas and, just because people are going to the ballot, that shouldn't preclude the Legislature from exercising its ability ... to take control of the situation."

The last time lawmakers approved a minimum wage increase, in 2006, Republicans struck a deal with then-Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm after it became apparent a ballot proposal was likely to pass if it reached voters. A poll earlier this year showed that 60 percent of likely Michigan voters supported raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

Republican legislators are being pressured to do something in response to the potential ballot measure — especially by the restaurant lobby, which is concerned that the initiative would give workers who rely on tips the same base wage as everyone else. The thinking is that threatening to neutralize the ballot proposal or approving a lower wage hike could bring Democratic lawmakers to the bargaining table.

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