Michigan's minimum-wage bill could render your vote null and void

May 13, 2014

There’s an old saying that conservative lawmakers are for local control, except when they’re not.

Meaning, whenever local units of government want to do something that they don’t like.

Now, we’ve learned that Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, believes in democracy, except when he doesn’t.

In the past, Richardville has staunchly supported Michigan voters’ decisions to outlaw gay marriage and affirmative action.

But he doesn’t want to allow voters to vote to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

It now seems likely that supporters of the higher minimum will collect enough signatures to put a proposition doing so on the November ballot.

Now, it would be one thing to campaign against this amendment, and encourage people to vote it down.

That would be perfectly legitimate, regardless of whether you agree.

But what Richardville wants to do instead is sabotage the referendum, and here’s how: When the issue of raising Michigan’s minimum wage from the current $7.40 first came up, another Republican senator suggested raising it by a smaller amount.

Richardville, a former minor furniture company executive, said flatly he didn’t want to raise it at all. But now he has come up with a bill that would raise it 75 cents an hour. That, in fact, is what State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, suggested last month.

But Richardville’s new bill contains a poison pill.

Instead of amending the old minimum-wage law, it would repeal and replace it.

This would supposedly have the effect of rending the hundreds of thousands of signatures now being collected to put the higher minimum on the ballot null and void.

Richardville admits openly that this is what he is doing.

Clearly, he doesn’t think much of the people’s ability to decide.

He told the Gongwer News Service:

“To put a ballot proposal out without having a public hearing, without talking about it to elected officials, I think could have caused major problems in our economy.”

And he added:

“All we’re doing is taking an issue people say is important and we’re going to deal with it in a reasonable way.”

In other words, Big Brother, or Big Randy, knows best.

What is particularly hilarious, or contemptible, is that Richardville doesn’t want much of a hearing on his bill either. Instead of referring it to a committee, he is keeping it on the floor.

The guess is that he will try to wait for an opportune moment, and then shove it through both houses in a few hours, as the Republicans did with right-to-work.

He may well be able to get away with it.

Richardville’s political career will likely be over for good in January. He will be term-limited out of the Legislature for life. He lives in Monroe County, in Congressman Tim Walberg's district, so he can forget about going to Congress.

His future is likely to involve lobbying, or perhaps going back to La-Z-Boy, the lounge chair firm where he used to work. My guess is that some in the business community will be happy if Richardville ends his career by thwarting a vote of the people.

But is that the kind of legacy anyone should be proud to leave?