Top 3 items we’re watching in lame duck

Lame duck session churning along at full speed

Two weeks down, two weeks to go. Legislators returned after the election for four weeks of session before the end of the year that is known as lame duck session. We’re halfway through the extremely busy time of year when legislation moves quickly through the legislative process.

Most of the items on MRA’s legislative to-do list have already been checked off, so at this point we’re mostly guarding against potentially harmful bills and following some lower-tier retail issues as they get wrapped up for the year. We’ll send out a year-end update once legislators head home for the holidays and we have a final tally of where legislation impacting retailers ended up. December 20 is the last scheduled session day so expect an update around that time.

1. Legislature makes minimum wage and paid leave mandates palatable to employers

We applaud the legislature for taking action this week on SB 1171 and SB 1175 to make reasonable adjustments to otherwise unworkable policies. The bills made adjustments to the increased minimum wage rate and paid medical leave benefit proposals adopted earlier this year.

SB 1171 revises Michigan’s minimum wage law to increase it to $12 over 12 years ($9.48 by 2019 then increase 23-cents per year until it reaches $12.05 by 2030 instead of by 2024). The state’s current minimum wage is $9.25. The bill also removes the (current) inflationary increase each year after $12.05 is reached. Tipped wages remain a percentage of the state’s minimum wage.

SB 1175 modifies the paid leave act to reflect the federal, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) definitions which only covers employers with more than 50 employees and reduces the number of hours earned from 1 hour for every 30 hours of work to 1 hour earned per 35 hours. It also reduces the minimum number hours of earned time that employers must allow employees from 72 hours to 40. Finally, seasonal workers, part time workers and variable hour workers would not be covered by the requirement.

While Michigan will be the only Midwest state with a mandated medical leave law, these changes bring our law in line with the 10 other states that also have medical leave laws and is still more generous than even California’s law. Gov. Snyder is expected to sign the changes made in SB 1171 and 1175 into law. Once the bills are signed, we will update you on the specifics of what employers need to know and prepare for at that time. If approved, these policies will take effect in late March, 2019. Making changes to employee policies before that time would not be recommended.

While this is a big win, we do expect these changes will be challenged in court and there may be another ballot proposal attempt in 2020 by the same group. Next step: Governor’s signature. MRA Position: Support.

2. MRA seeking amendments to new data breach notification requirements

Last week the House approved legislation that presents mostly reasonable updates to Michigan’s notification requirements in the event residents’ information is compromised as a result of a data breach. Unlike legislation introduced in the Senate, which we strongly opposed, HB 6405-6406 have been more carefully crafted. While we believe ultimately that data security concerns are best handled at the federal level, we believe HB 6405-6406, with the addition of several amendments, will strike the right balance in allowing for reasonable compliance by covered entities while respecting residents’ right to privacy and information.

MRA suggested several amendments to the bills in the House that have not yet been adopted. We will continue to work to have those amendments added in the Senate. MRA believes without these amendments allowing flexibility in investigations, preempting local regulations, offering flexibility in who provides the notice if a third party is at fault, allowing alternative notice if the number of individuals impacted exceeds 500,000, and other small tweaks, the bills fall short of their goal and discussions should be held until next year. It’s not certain if the Senate will take up the bills but MRA will remain vigilant during the next two weeks. Next step: Senate committee (not yet assigned). MRA Position: Support IF all amendments are adopted. 

3. Selling fireworks could get more expensive under bills approved by the House

Legislation modifying the state’s laws allowing sales and use of fireworks was discussed earlier this year but quickly moved through the House over the last two weeks. The bills, HB  5939-5941 attempt to regulate temporary structures (tents) by allowing local zoning rules prohibiting tent sales and also dramatically increase the licensing fees and fines if a retailer fails to file and remit the Fireworks Safety Fee (even if no fireworks were sold during that period). MRA opposes the unreasonable increases to fines ($10,000 for a first offense) and jumps in licensing fees and is seeking changes to those items or continued discussion into next year. Next step: Senate regulatory reform committee (meets tomorrow morning). MRA Position: Oppose.

Here are some highlights of other items we’re watching that may move in lame duck:

  • Drones – HB 5494-5495, SB 917 and SB 922 (neutral)
  • Ballot proposal reforms – HB 6596 (support)
  • Cigar tax cap – SB 304 (support)
  • Pregnancy and alcohol warning posting requirements – HB 6086 (neutral)
  • Alcohol reforms including retail coupons – SB 1154-1168 and SB 1181 (support)
  • Prohibiting special assessment districts based on public safety call volume – SB 1235 (support)
  • SDM quotas for areas with fewer than 1,000 residents – HB 5719 (support)
  • Broadband access – SB 1050 (support)
  • Waste disposal fee increase – SB 943 (under review)
  • Comprehensive recycling – HB 6532-6536 (support)

Take note: Marijuana is now legal, have you reviewed your employee policies?

Thanks to voter approval of Prop. 1, Marijuana can now be legally possessed and used in Michigan as of Dec. 6. That doesn’t mean you have to allow it to be used in your store or workplace or allow your employees to come to work under the influence. Employers can continue to adopt and enforce drug-free workplace policies. Employees can be terminated for violating a workplace drug policy but employers should ensure employees have reviewed and consented to follow those policies. For more information about drug policies, prepared by Retailers Insurance Company, contact Amy Drumm at