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Petition signatures for prevailing wage repeal face extra scrutiny

person writing on paper
Recalls are not an easy thing to pull off

A group pushing to repeal Michigan's law that requires higher "prevailing" wages on state-financed construction projects wants the state to certify its petitions without pulling a larger sample to review.

A ballot committee backed by the non-union Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan (Protecting Michigan Taxpayers) says it turned in more than 380,000 signatures for the veto-proof legislation. At least 252,523 valid signatures must be valid for citizen-initiated bills.

Earlier this month, the Board of State Canvassers said it would move to a second stage of sampling because of 535 signatures reviewed, 370 were valid. That is just shy of the 373 required by a statistical model to automatically be recommended for approval.

The elections bureau says Protecting Michigan Taxpayers' request to bypass the larger sample is "unprecedented." Elections staff wrote in a briefing memo: “Staff recommends that the Board (sic) maintain the signature review procedures and follow the established, statistically sound random sampling methodology.”

Prevailing wage laws require union-scale wages and benefits be paid on public building projects. Supporters say eliminating Michigan's prevailing wage law would save taxpayers money by eliminating overspending on state-sponsored construction projects. Construction and trade unions argue doing so would hurt efforts to hire and retain skilled workers when Michigan is already facing a talent shortage.

Senate Republicans favor a ballot proposal that would repeal prevailing wage. When the Senate introduced a repeal in the first bills of the 2015 legislative session, Senate Bills 12 and 3, it gained some enthusiasm. A ballot petition for repeal in 2016 failed to collect enough valid signatures from registered Michigan voters.

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