Curmudgeon's Corner

cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner

Direct Legislation?

Germantown, Political, Village Board, Wisconsin

The morning Journal Sentinel talks about a petition being presented to the Milwaukee Common Council today that would require all Milwaukee private employers to provide paid sick days.  Employers with ten or fewer employees would be required to provide 1 hour for every 30 hours worked to a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick time per year.  Employers with more than ten employees would be required to provide 1 hour for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 72 hours per year.  Unused sick days would roll over from year to year.

This petition has been pushed by "labor, educational and community organizations" according to the article with the lead organization being 9 to 5, the National Association of Working Women.  It uses a state statute that provides for what is known as 'direct legislation', and requires the petitioner to present petitions signed by 15% of the total residents of the city or village involved that voted for governor in the most recent election.

Presuming all is in order with the petitions and signatures, the city council or village board would then be required to pass it or to put it on the ballot in the next election for a binding decision by the electorate.

I do not believe that a mandated employer sick pay law is appropriate anywhere, and am not suggesting that it ought be tried in Germantown.  The article cites the food service industry, for example; can you imagine how that would affect that industry?  Can you imagine how the costs would escalate if this were to occur?  Can you think of a more 'anti-business' proposition?

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It is interesting, however, that such direct action is available to citizens in cities and villages in Wisconsin.  Someone at sometime thought this was a good approach, and it found its way into law.  It obviously has a double edge to it.  It could be employed for good things or not so good things.  What it does do, however, is place the ultimate decision in the hands of the electorate if the city or village officials chose to ignore the petitioners' demands.

Is this a necessary 'check and balance' functionality or is it simply a tool that can be misused by the few taking advantage of emotional responses from the many?  Do we destroy the concept of representative government?  Do we permit populism to run rampant?

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