The Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments this summer on whether the state Legislature could amend laws on paid sick leave and minimum wage increases during the lame-duck session that were passed earlier in the legislative session.
The state’s highest court issued an order on Wednesday scheduling oral arguments for July 27. Justices invited the state House and Senate, plus members of either chamber, to file briefs in the case, and requested separate briefs from Attorney General Dana Nessel arguing both sides of the question.
At issue in the case is whether the Republican-controlled state Legislature had the authority under the Michigan Constitution to amend laws in the same legislative session in which they were originated through citizen petition.
Written briefs supporting the constitutionality of the amended legislation are due by May 15. Briefs in opposition are due no later than June 15.
The Supreme Court order also allows “persons or groups interested in the determination of the questions presented in this matter” to submit amicus briefs by the same filing deadlines.
In an email Wednesday to members, Michigan Manufacturers Association President Chuck Hadden wrote the trade group would file an amicus brief defending the legislature’s action and “working in conjunction with the broader business community” through a coalition known as Small Business for a Better Michigan.
Both the state House and Senate in February passed a resolution asking the state Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the issue. Nessel said she would issue an opinion as well at the request of state Sen. Stephanie Chang, a Democrat from Detroit.
Nessel now intends to hold off on issuing that opinion.
“The Attorney General will continue to refrain from opining on the issue unless and until the matter remains unsolved following the outcome of the Michigan Supreme Court’s review,” spokesperson Kelly Rossman-McKinney said. “This approach is consistent with the Attorney General having traditionally refrained from opining on matters that are the subject of pending litigation.”
The court’s request to the Department of Attorney General to submit briefs supporting and opposing the legislature’s action is unusual but not unprecedented, Rossman-McKinney said. It’s happened twice in the last decade — in 2016 on funding for private schools, and in 2011 regarding taxing pensions, she said.
Acting in response to petition drives, lawmakers last year enacted laws increasing the state’s minimum wage and mandating paid sick leave.
By enacting the laws after receiving petition signatures rather than putting both proposals on the ballot, legislators retained the ability to amend them later by a simple majority vote, which they did in December at the end of the legislative session. If adopted by voters, the laws would have required a three-fourths vote of each chamber in the legislature to amend.
Under one law legislators amended in December, the state’s minimum wage increased from $9.25 to $9.45 per hour as of March 29. Subsequent increases will occur Jan. 1 of each year until the minimum wage reaches $12.05 by 2030.
The petition drive originally sought to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2022.
The other law, which also took effect March 29, allows eligible workers at employers with 50 or more employees to earn one hour of paid medical leave for each 35 hours worked, up to 40 hours per benefit year. The original law adopted by legislators in response to a petition drive would have required all employers to offer 72 hours of paid sick leave.