Sen. Chang requests AG opinion on ‘adopt and amend’ strategy

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Stephanie Chang (D–Detroit) today sent a letter to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel requesting a formal opinion on ‘adopt and amend’ methods used by the 99th Legislature that significantly weakened the minimum wage and paid sick time citizen initiatives that were initially approved to appear on the November 2018 ballot.

Specifically, Sen. Chang is asking AG Nessel for her formal opinion on whether:

  1. Article II, Section 9 of the Michigan Constitution of 1963 prohibits the Legislature from enacting a voter-initiated law and subsequently amending it during the same legislative session; and,
  2. If the enactment and amending of Public Acts 337 and 338 of 2018 in the same legislative session are violations of Article II, Section 9.

“What the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature did to the minimum wage and paid sick leave citizen-led initiatives subverted the will of nearly 400,000 Michigan citizens who signed the petitions and is possibly unconstitutional,” Sen. Chang said.

During lame-duck session after the November election, Michigan Republicans amended each proposal, essentially eliminating the ability for many Michigan workers to earn paid sick time and making substantial changes to minimum wage.

The Republican Legislature adopted the proposals in September in an effort to keep the issues off the ballot; this resulted in the enactment of Public Acts 337 and 338 of 2018. But then, in the same legislative session, the Legislature came back during lame-duck session to substantially change the proposals, amending both laws and creating Public Acts 368 and 369. These laws are set to take effect in March 2019, but many questions have since been raised regarding the constitutionality of the action taken by the Legislature in enacting and then amending the laws, or ‘adopting and amending.’

The controversy stems from former Attorney General Bill Schuette’s Opinion No. 7306, which directly contradicted former Attorney General Frank Kelley’s Opinion No. 4303 of 1964 that stated the Legislature cannot pass and amend citizen petitions at the same legislative session without violating the spirit and letter of Article II, Sec. 9 of the Michigan Constitution.

“The people of Michigan deserve to have a clear understanding of what their rights are when petitioning the state to enact or change laws,” Sen. Chang said. “I’m hopeful that Attorney General Nessel can provide clarification on the interpretation and application of our state’s constitution, so that our residents can be assured their efforts to make Michigan a better place to work and live are respected, and are not left up to the will of lawmakers — especially in circumstances where the overwhelming public majority made their wishes clear.”

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