LANSING, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) -- Despite angry protests from advocates for a minimum wage hike to $10.10 per hour, the Senate passed a hike in the state's minimum wage to $9.20 per hour by a vote of 24-14.
The bill, however, also scuttles a petition drive that would raise it to the higher amount.
Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, introduced the bill last week and offered it up for a vote Thursday afternoon. Ten of the 12 Democrats in the Senate joined 16 Republicans in approving the measure. There were no committee hearings on the bill, which would repeal the existing minimum wage law and reinstate it with one that gradually raises the hourly rate from the current level of $7.40 to $9.20 per hour by 2017 and from $2.65 to $3.50 per hour for tipped employees like waitresses and bartenders.
Randy Block, 66, of Royal Oak and Tom Moran, 59, of Fenton were part of a group that collected more than 4,000 signatures for a petition drive to get the $10.10 per hour wage on the November ballot.
They wore duct tape over their mouths with the words "Hear our voice, Let us vote," written on it.
They characterized the bill and the manner in which it was taken up as the opposite of democracy.
"It's taking away power from the public," said Block. "They're not only taking away our minimum wage proposal, but also the right of citizen initiatives."
Moran, a retired letter carrier who collected more than 1,000 signatures, said Richardville was virtually erasing all those signatures with his bill.
"What he's trying to do is take away the right of voters," Moran said. "It's sneaky and it makes people even more cynical about politicians."
Because the bill repeals the existing law, it would make a petition drive that's seeking to put a $10.10 hourly rate on the November ballot meaningless, angering hundreds ofvolunteers who have been collecting signatures for the ballot proposal for the last several months.
The Raise Michigan coalition, which is spearheading the petition drive, said Tuesday that it has collected enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, but is continuing to get more to provide a comfortable cushion beyond the 258,088 required.
It wasn't immediately clear if they will continue with their petition drive and submit their signatures.
Richardville initially offered a bill to increase the minimum wage to $8.15 per hour and $2.93 for tipped employees, but came up with the higher figures to try and gain support from Democrats.
But Richardville's bill would short-circuit the process if it's passed by both the Senate later today and the House and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, who said Wednesday, "I appreciate Sen. Richardville putting a bill in on this. But I think it's a balancing act," between helping people do better economically and how an increased wage will affect business and its ability to hire people.
The main Republican objection to the $10.10 petition drive was the gradual increase in wages to tipped workers from $2.65 to $10.10 at a rate of $.85 cents a year. Many have said that it would dramatically harm restaurants and that most waitstaff earn far more than the minimum wage with their tips.
Richardville said after the vote that the Raise Michigan coalition proposal went too far, especially with respect to the tipped workers.
The measure now moves to the House for consideration.
Contact Kathleen Gray: 517-372-8661, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal.