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Coalition trying to repeal prevailing wage starts petition drive again

After discovering that its first shot at a petition drive had gone awry, the coalition seeking to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law is starting over.

“We’re continuing to collect petition signatures,” said Chris Fisher, vice president of Protecting Michigan Taxpayers, the coalition pushing to rid the state of the 50-year-old law. “The June 1 [2016] deadline has not changed. So, we’re getting out there and working to repeal the prevailing wage.”

On Sept. 14, Protecting Michigan Taxpayers turned 388,000 signatures over to the secretary of state, significantly more than the 252,523 required for the measure to qualify as citizen-initiated legislation. But the signatures were challenged and shown to include a high percentage of duplicates. The coalition acknowledged the problem, withdrew the signatures, and is starting over.

“It set us back four or five months,” said Fisher, who is also president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan trade group. “Now we’re looking at wrapping up the process in the spring instead of this fall. We’re working now with a different signature collecting company to ensure the validity and integrity of the signatures. But we’re still working with the same dedicated volunteers who are standing up for fiscal responsibility.”

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Under Michigan’s prevailing wage law, public schools, state government and local governments are prohibited from awarding construction contracts to the lowest bidder unless the contractor agrees to pay wages based on union pay scales on the project. It is estimated the prevailing wage law costs Michigan taxpayers $224 million annually.

The target dates for the repeal effort may have changed, but the ultimate goal remains the same. If Protecting Michigan Taxpayers hands in enough valid signatures before June 1, 2016, the repeal would qualify as citizen-initiated legislation. That would mean the Legislature would be required to take a vote on the measure within 40 days. If the Legislature failed to pass the repeal, it would be placed before the voters on the November 2016 statewide ballot.

Both the GOP-controlled House and Senate have made repealing the prevailing wage law a priority. Reportedly, Protecting Michigan Taxpayers is pursuing the citizen-initiated process to avoid a possible gubernatorial veto. A governor plays no role under the citizen-initiated process.