Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
According to a report from MLive, the committee that launched the first failed petition drive will launch a new petition drive before the end of the year.
The group, calling themselves “Protecting Michigan Taxpayers,” initially contracted with an out-of-state company who hired low-wage unskilled workers to collect signatures, but they fell far short of the required number of signatures due to numerous duplicates. A criminal investigation is pending.
But now the group– funded by billionaire businessman Dick DeVos, employer groups, and anti-government right-wing organizations– has contracted with a new company to re-launch the petition drive. From MLive:
Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, regrouping after a failed petition drive marred by duplicate signatures, has hired National Petition Management of Brighton for collection and verification this time around.
Other than that, not much will change, according to Chris Fisher, who serves as vice president of PMT and president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan.
“We’re dealing with the same Legislature, the same issue, the same House and Senate leadership, the same people that support or oppose it and the same petition language,” Fisher said. “The only thing different is the vendor for the validation.”
The ballot committee is not actually trying to get on the ballot. Instead, it’s trying to go around a possible veto by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who does not support prevailing wage repeal bills approved by the state Senate early this year.
Under the Michigan Constitution, the state Legislature can enact a citizen-initiated bill into law rather than let it go to the ballot, and GOP leaders in the House and Senate have already made it clear that they support the proposal.
Michigan’s prevailing wage law guarantees union-based wages and benefits on government-funded construction projects, such as school buildings. Supporters say it’s good for workers and ensures quality construction, but critics say it inflates costs ultimately borne by taxpayers.
Protecting Michigan Jobs, a coalition of construction associations and laborers fighting the repeal effort, had analyzed individual petitions [submitted to the state last month] and identified tens of thousands of duplicate and otherwise invalid signatures.
Prevailing wage supporters continue to call for a formal state investigation of the repeal committee, “starting at the very top,” according to spokesman Dave Waymire.
“Clearly they were involved in an effort to defraud the public, and it’s important to find out who was behind handing in this many fraudulent signatures. It’s important to know who knew what and when they knew it.”
A review by the Bureau of Elections, however, appears to be focused on individual petition circulators who may have broken the law. Those names could be referred to law enforcement.
“We’re looking at those circulators that signed more than once, and we’re probably going to send those on,” said Elections Director Chris Thomas.
Overall, PMT had spent more than $1.5 million on the petition drive through the end of October. The Michigan Freedom Fund, a group with ties to the powerful DeVos family of West Michigan, had contributed more than $800,000…
The group only needs 252,523 valid signatures (3% of registered voters statewide), and the bill will go to the Michigan legislature for an up or down vote. It is not subject to a gubernatorial veto, which means a mere 3 percent of voters could be responsible for repealing a 50-year-old law that is supported by nearly 60% of Michigan residents.
Earlier this year, Operating Engineers Local 324 business manager Douglas Stockwell wrote a column defending the prevailing wage:
The Prevailing Wage Act guarantees workers who build public works projects are paid a fair and decent wage so they can provide for their families and stimulate local economies by keeping tax dollars within our communities. Additionally, the Act protects taxpayers by making sure only the highest qualified and skilled workers are on the job.
Read more about the campaign to repeal prevailing wage here.