Michigan lawmakers pull back bill to ban OT pay for some truckers

| 7/17/2006

State lawmakers in Michigan have pulled back a bill from going to Gov. Jennifer Granholm that would prevent some truck drivers and several other classifications in the state’s work force from becoming eligible for overtime pay this fall.

Legislators haven’t had a change of heart about the issue. They simply want to try again to get the bill to take immediate effect if the governor chooses to sign it.

The Republican-led Senate passed the bill 21-16 in June along party lines. House lawmakers followed suit in a 58-49 party line vote. However, the majorities weren’t enough for the bill to take effect as soon as it’s signed into law.

The effort is in reaction to the Legislature’s decision in March to boost Michigan’s minimum wage above the federal standard. The decision means that many employers who had been exempt from paying overtime because the state’s minimum wage did not exceed the federal standard must now begin paying those wages.

The state minimum wage is scheduled to increase from $5.15 an hour to $6.95 an hour on Oct. 1.

When the new rate is implemented, 12 classes of workers – including truck drivers who receive mileage-based compensation – are slated to go to hourly rates and overtime when their workweek exceeds 40 hours.

To keep that from happening, Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, introduced a bill – HB6213 – to retain the federal exemptions for many jobs including truckers, nurses, police officers, firefighters and retail salespeople.

“Without this piece of legislation employers will be forced to eliminate the jobs altogether because they cannot afford to pay the added expense,” Huizenga said in a written statement.

But Democrats say the change will cheat those workers out of overtime.

They dealt their Republican counterparts a blow in late June by refusing to meet the two-thirds majority needed to let the bill take immediate effect, The Associated Press reported. As a result, workers would still get the overtime for about seven months until the revised rule could take effect in March 2007.

According to The AP, a minority of Michigan’s 200,000 professional truckers are covered under union contracts that already require overtime.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor