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Michigan Bill Would Gut Local Business Regulation

Michigan Bill Would Gut Local Business Regulation May 14, 2015

Republicans in the Michigan legislature, who hold an unbeatable majority in both houses and control the governorship as well, are proposing a bill that would eliminate most local ordinances that mandate regulations for businesses that are any more stringent than state law. That would include eliminating local anti-discrimination ordinances.

During a meeting of the Michigan House Committee on Commerce and Trade, Republican lawmakers sneakily introduced a substitute bill replacing HB 4052. The new legislation, sponsored by Rep. Earl Poleski (R), overrides all local ordinances governing employers’ relationships with their employees. Because of the way it would impose state control, opponents have dubbed it the “Death Star” bill. Not only does it have implications for any local ordinance that controls minimum wage, benefits, sick leave, union organizing and strikes, wage disputes, apprenticeship programs, and “ban the box” policies (blocking employers from asking about felony convictions), but it would also override the LGBT protections that exist in 38 Michigan municipalities.

“A local governmental body,” the new HB 4052 reads, “shall not adopt, enforce, or administer an ordinance, local policy, or local resolution regulating the relationship between an employer and its employees or potential employees if the regulation contains requirements exceeding those imposed by state or federal law.” Because state law does not include employment protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, all of the municipalities who do protect LGBT workers would have their ordinances voided, similar to a law that passed earlier this year in Arkansas.

East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett (D) posted on Facebook Tuesday expressing great concern about the bill’s consideration, noting it would invalidate not only its LGBT protections, but also its Equal Benefits Ordinance, which requires the city’s contractors to offer partner benefits to employees’ same-sex partners. Describing Tuesday’s committee hearing, Triplett explained, “When State Representative Stephanie Chang pointed out that the bill would invalidate Michigan’s 38 local nondiscrimination ordinances, the Chairman was forced to ask: ‘Will this bill really do that?’ The answer is: yes, absolutely.” East Lansing was the first community in the country to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation; its first ordinance became law in 1972.

The pretext they offer is the need for uniformity, but that’s transparent bullshit. If uniformity was the goal, that could be achieved just as easily by going the other way and requiring all municipalities to meet the most stringent regulations enforce by others. But this is just another giveaway to the businesses that fund their campaigns, along with a bone thrown to the anti-gay bigots.

As far as it concerns anti-discrimination ordinances, the law would probably be struck down as unconstitutional under Romer v Evans, a 1996 ruling by Justice Kennedy, but they seem to have anticipated that by making that provision severable from the rest of the law if it’s overturned.


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