LANSING — The Michigan House and Senate each passed controversial right-to-work legislation today, amid loud protests and a walkout by Democratic legislators.
The state House passed the first right-to-work bill late this afternoon in a 58-52 vote, but that bill can’t move on to the Senate until the next session day — possibly Friday, if a session is scheduled — because of a procedural move by Democrats who are asking that the vote be reconsidered. The state Senate voted 22-16 to pass a right-to-work bill. Four Republicans — Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights, Tom Casperson of Escanaba, Mike Nofs of Battle Creek and Mike Green of Mayville — joined with all the Democrats in opposing the bill.
The House and Senate bills are two of three separate right-to-work bills now in the Legislature that will eventually be consolidated into two bills. Both the House and Senate bills deal with private sector employees. The third bill deals with public sector employees, excluding police and firefighters.
That bill passed the Senate by a 22-4 vote this evening.
Democrats in the Senate walked out of the chamber before the vote was taken.
The mishmash of bills is creating head-crashing possibilities over when any of it will make it to the governor’s desk.
The quickest the Legislature can now pass the right-to-work bills through both chambers and send them on to Gov. Rick Snyder is five days from the next sitting, or session day, said Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. The next session day could be set for Friday, a day this weekend or Tuesday, Adler said. The five-day clock then starts after that.
The House vote on the bill followed a brief walkout by Democrats to protest refusal by police officials to open the Capitol doors. Right-to-work legislation was introduced in the state House just before 3 p.m., bringing loud protests from Democrats and protesters inside the Capitol building.
“You’re doing this in lame duck because you know next session, you won’t have the votes,” said state Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids. “This is an outrage.”
Sen. John Gleason, D-Flint, said it was a “shameful day” in the state Legislature when a bill is allowed to be rammed through with no public hearings.
Democratic senators offered amendments to the bill that would: delay the implementation of the bill for one year; put the issue up to a vote of the people; remove an appropriation from the bill that would make the bill one that couldn’t be up for a repeal by voters, and tie the bill to repeals of same-sex benefits for the partners of state workers, the item pricing bill and the tax on retiree pensions. All failed.
“Here we are, less than a month after the election, and the choice voters made at the ballot box shows that voters don’t want this type of divisive agenda,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.
Snyder said at a news conference today that the bill is about freedom to choose and equality for Michigan workers.