Michigan lawmakers tweak minimum wage, prohibit OT pay for some truckers

| 8/18/2006

A negotiation could be in the works in Michigan to get a bill through the Legislature that would prevent some truck drivers and several other classifications in the state’s workforce from becoming eligible for overtime pay this fall.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, suggested he could support increasing the Merit Award scholarship and giving a tax credit to low-income workers if Democrats help tweak a new minimum wage increase, The Associated Press reported.

Sikkema said he would hold a vote by the end of the month on a bill that would keep 12 classes of workers – including truck drivers who receive mileage-based compensation – ineligible for overtime pay when the state’s new minimum wage is implemented in October.

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.

That possibility has rankled trucking companies, auto dealerships and other businesses that say they might be forced to lay off workers or cut back their hours, The AP reported.

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.

Huizenga’s bill doesn’t have the two-thirds majority support in the Republican-led Legislature to take immediate effect if Gov. Jennifer Granholm chooses to sign it. As it stands now, the earliest the exemption protections could be implemented is March 2007 – seven months after the current overtime rule takes effect.

In exchange for Democratic votes, Senate Minority Leader Bob Emerson, D-Flint, said both the Merit Award and tax credits for low-income workers will be part of the negotiations, The AP reported.

The Senate advanced the efforts from committee this past week. Sikkema said the efforts are “worthwhile.”