Frustrated with eight years of Republican party rule in Michigan, when issues like wage growth, gerrymandering of districts, and voter access were continually ignored by the Republican politicians who were more concerned with appeasing corporate donors and entrenching their own power, the voters of Michigan took action and gathered enough signatures to get multiple referendums on this year’s November ballot.
Proposal 1 was a ballot referendum to legalize recreational marijuana. Proposal 1 was approved by Michigan voters by a 12 point margin.
Proposal 2 was a ballot referendum to create an independent redistricting commission. Proposal 2 was approved by Michigan voters by a 22 point margin.
Proposal 3 was a ballot referendum to expand voting rights by creating automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and expanding absentee ballots. Proposal 3 was approved by Michigan voters by a 34 point margin.
Then, there were two ballot referendums that received enough signatures, but were not included on the November ballot because the Republican majority legislature decided to pass them in session. They did this so that the Republican majority legislature could then come back and modify the laws with a simple majority instead of the 3/4s majority it would take to modify a voter approved referendum. These ballot referendums were an increase in the state’s minimum wage and a requirement for employers to provide paid sick leave.
The Michigan GOP opposed all of these referendums.
Recreational marijuana would provide competition for drugs marketed by pharmaceutical companies, and a higher minimum wage and paid sick leave would increase corporate expenses. Of course, the Michigan GOP didn’t care that all three would benefit actual people. They were concerned about their effects on corporate profits instead.
An independent redistricting commission would prevent the GOP from gerrymandering districts. Automatic voter registration, same-day registration, and expanded absentee voting would result in more people voting. So, the GOP also did not like these referendums because it could damage the GOP’s ability to cheat to maintain their power through gerrymandering and voter suppression. Never mind that we live in a democracy.
However, the voters approved of all of them, so the GOP will just need to abide by the voters’ wishes, right? That’s not how the GOP rolls, apparently.
Regarding the increases to the minimum wage and the paid sick leave requirement, the Michigan GOP is already taking steps to reverse those, using their simple majority in a lame duck legislative session, before the Republican Governor is replaced by the newly elected Democrat:
The new minimum wage law from the initiative isn’t in effect until March of next year. As written, the law slowly brings minimum wage for tipped workers like waiters and bartenders up to the same level as regular minimum wage and raises minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2022.
But under the bill approved by the Senate Government Operations Committee, the minimum wage would raise more slowly, hitting $12 per hour by 2030 instead of 2022, and stopping there instead of indexing to inflation afterward.
In addition, the latest version keeps the wage for tipped workers lower than minimum wage instead of bringing tipped workers up to the same wage level as minimum wage workers.
The Michigan GOP is also attempting to undo parts of the recreational marijuana referendum in order to restrict competition and allow corporations to be able to profit:
A new bill introduced by Michigan Senate Republicans on Thursday in lame duck would make it illegal to grow marijuana at home.
The move comes after voters on Nov. 6 approved a ballot initiative by a 56-44 margin to decriminalize marijuana. The new law, which goes into effect on Dec. 6, allows residents to grow in their homes up to 12 marijuana plants for personal use.
The proposed change to the new law is likely an attempted giveaway to Republicans’ corporate backers who want to make money off the sale of marijuana. It’s harder for them to do so if people are growing it at home.
The Michigan GOP is also trying to gut the referendum that expanded voting rights:
Michigan voters across both parties on Nov. 6 approved by a wide margin a citizen-led ballot initiative to make it easier to vote in Michigan.
The Promote the Vote ballot proposal passed 67-33 percent and, among other provisions, it will allow the state to automatically register a resident to vote when they get a driver’s license or state identification card.
But Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake) is now floating new bills that would roll back parts of the law before it takes effect, such as one that would allow a automatically register a person to vote when they got state identifications or driver’s licenses.
And last, but certainly not least, the Michigan GOP is attempting to make sure that no ballot referendums are ever allowed to be voted on by the people of Michigan again:
Michigan Republicans are now floating a bill that would make popular citizen-led ballot initiatives nearly impossible.
HB 6595 — introduced last week by state Rep. James Lower, R-Cedar Lake — comes after the success in 2018 of five citizen-led ballot initiative ballots. That included Proposal 1, marijuana decriminalization; Proposal 2, a voting access expansion; and Proposal 3 independent redistricting commission to address gerrymandering, or rigged elections. Michigan residents also signed around 400,000 signatures each for initiatives to raise the minimum wage to $12 per hour and mandate paid sick time. But Republicans were able to keep those off the Novemeber ballot by making those law, then voted to gut them in lame duck.
The new law would invalidate signatures gathered by a petition circulator who was found to “provide any fraudulent information.” However, the law isn’t specific about what that means, which could lead to false accusations by a ballot initiatives’ opponents.
The law would also mandate that no more than 10 percent of the signatures gathered could come from any of the state’s 14 congressional districts. That means those collecting signatures could collect far fewer signatures in cities. That would be especially limit petition circulators because the congressional districts are gerrymandered and far more progressive voters are packed into fewer districts.
The Michigan GOP is making it clear that they don’t just oppose Democratic politicians, they oppose democracy.