News Story

2011 in Review: What the Legislature Didn't Get Done

In 2011, scattered between the state Senate and state House of Representatives, there were six bills that would have repealed the “prevailing wage” law that increases construction costs for government projects by an estimated 10 to 15 percent.  

There were 29 GOP politicians who indicated they wanted to repeal that law by either sponsoring the co-sponsoring one or more of those bills.

Yet nothing happened with House Bills 4224, 4225, 4226 and Senate Bills 95, 96, 97.

“Republicans currently have a 26-12 majority in the state Senate and 62-47 in the House,” remarked Jack McHugh, senior legislative analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.“How large a majority do they think is required to accomplish the long-sought fiscal conservative goal of repealing a law that prohibits schools and governments from giving construction contracts to the lowest bidder unless the company pays so-called ‘prevailing wages’ based on above-market union pay scales?” 

Ending the prevailing wage was one of several reforms supported by limited-government advocates that was not turned into law in 2011.

Prohibition of “stealth unionization” was also tabled for the year. This refers to the unionization of private contractors who are added to a public-employee union simply because they received some amount of compensation from a government subsidy provided on behalf of clients qualifying for public assistance. In the past few years, 40,000 home-based day care providers found so-called “union dues” were taken out of checks sent by the state to help low-income parents receiving government child care assistance.

The child care "dues" withdrawals were ended by the Snyder administration earlier this year. House Bill 4003, which would explicitly make such unionizations illegal, passed 63-46 in the state House back in June. The Senate never acted on it, however. Senate Bill 11 was referred to the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee on Jan. 19.

“It’s an immoral scam to transfer taxpayer dollars from social welfare recipients to a powerful and wealthy government employee union,” McHugh said.

A “right to teach” bill was pitched by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville this year. The bill would apply to any school employee union that has more than 50,000 members — in other words, the Michigan Education Association. The proposed law would stop school districts from making an agreement with this union to require employees to financially support it as a condition of employment.

However, Senate Bill 729 was introduced and then referred to the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee on Oct. 6.

“It’s such a poorly drafted bill because it says just the MEA,” McHugh remarked. “It’s a transparently political payback at the MEA for the recalls. With a simple amendment, it becomes a very far-sighted public policy reform — that is, to extend it to all school and government employee unions.”

Throughout Michigan’s public schools, teachers are relieved of their teaching duties so they can work on union business while still being paid by the district. This costs taxpayers several million dollars every year.

House Bill 4059 would have ended that practice. It was passed 59 to 47 on April 14.

The Senate referred the bill to the Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee and hasn’t moved on it.

“It’s another taxpayer scam,” McHugh said, referring to the payment of teachers for union work.


See also:

2011 in Review: A Year of Reforms