Battles over right-to-work laws may have just begun

December 12, 2012
Battles over right-to-work laws may have just begun
By KAREN BOUFFARD / Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder’s signature on right-to-work legislation Tuesday was the opening salvo in a battle that could last two years or longer as opponents fight the measure in court, the Legislature and the voting booth.

Two lawsuits already have been filed to block the bills, and opponents predicted there will be more legal challenges, repeal efforts and a battle over toppling the law in 2014, when every state House and Senate seat is up for election.

“If Gov. Snyder thinks that Michigan citizens will go home and forget about what happened in Lansing today, he is sorely mistaken,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer said after passage Tuesday.

Snyder said he expects legal challenges, but believes the legislation stands on solid ground.

“I would expect litigation, but I would say there are strong legal arguments that this law should stand,” Snyder said late Tuesday at a press conference after he signed the bills just hours after they were passed in the state House.

Opponents said quick passage of the bills in the Legislature — outside the normal committee process and without public hearings — was unconstitutional because citizens didn’t have a chance to weigh in.

Two lawsuits have been filed claiming the Open Meetings Act was violated when the Michigan State Police temporarily put the Capitol on lockdown during Thursday’s legislative debate. One of the lawsuits was filed by the Michigan Education Association, which also won an emergency injunction to order the Capitol reopened.

A hearing has not been scheduled in the case, attorney Art Przybylowicz said.

“We’re waiting for the court to strike down all the actions that took place while the building was shut down.” Przybylowicz said, noting both chambers took actions on the bills during the lockdown.

The other Open Meetings Act lawsuit was filed by Detroit activist Robert Davis. A hearing has been scheduled for Thursday in Ingham County Circuit Court. Davis said the court could decide to consolidate the two Open Meetings Act cases.

“There were no hearings, no committee meetings that would allow the people to voice their concerns … and that’s problematic,” Davis said.

Democrats in both chambers were outraged a $1 million appropriation was attached to each of the bills to fund implementation. Opponents charged the appropriations were included to make the bills “referendum-proof,” which Republicans deny.

Democrats questioned whether it would cost $1 million to implement the law, which GOP lawmakers didn’t answer.

House Republicans defeated amendments Tuesday by Democrats to remove the appropriation or make the money come out of Snyder’s office budget.

“If the governor feels so strongly about putting $1 million in a bill, he should put (in) the check himself,” said state Rep. Rudy Hobbs, D-Southfield.

Democratic Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills, the minority leader-elect of the House, said that citizens could still overturn the measure, not by referendum, but by passing a voter-initiated law, which would require collecting more than 258,000 valid signatures to get on the ballot.

Voters also could recall Republican lawmakers, or try to change the balance of power in Lansing by regaining control of the Legislature, Greimel added.

“Ultimately this issue is going to be decided at the polls in November of 2014,” Greimel said.

“The legislators need to be held accountable for passing a law that would drive down wages and benefits, thereby hurting small business and local economies across the state.”

Even Washington, D.C., Democrats vowed to avenge Republican’s right-to-work victory.

Said U.S. Rep. Sander Levin: “The effort to reverse this wrong-headed action and restore a Michigan that encourages middle class jobs and race to the top for its workers … begins today.”

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