Rep. Irwin Stands Up for Local Control and Equal Rights

Votes against eroding local control at universities, schools and local government
Thursday, September 15, 2011

LANSING - State Representative Jeff Irwin (Ann Arbor) today voted against a series of bills that seek to override a city, county, school or university’s right to offer benefits to employees and their children. Specifically, HB 4770 and 4771 would prohibit all public employers in Michigan from providing benefits to the families of employees who do not or cannot marry. Although these provisions are in direct conflict with Constitutional provisions supporting local control and the autonomy of our universities, the bills passed 64-44. If signed into law, these bills will be immediately challenged in court.

“Today, Michigan Republicans told Washtenaw County communities that we must adopt Lansing’s model of employee relations,” said Irwin. “Given the track record in Lansing, that doesn’t seem too wise.”

During debate on the floor, Representative Irwin rose to defend Washtenaw County communities and the University of Michigan, but he also remarked on the discrimination promoted by these bills. “If this becomes law, we will have two employees working side by side with the same qualifications and experience and the employee living in a traditional family will receive significantly greater compensation. That is clearly unfair and discriminatory.”

House Bills 4770 and 4771 seek to take benefits away from the children and spouses of unmarried families. Seeking to ameliorate the harm to the 53rd district, Representative Irwin offered an amendment to the domestic partnership benefit ban that would have tied the bill to his legislation allowing second parent adoption. The amendment was struck down by House Republicans before members had a chance to vote on it.

“If we’re going to take benefits away from dependent children, I think it is important to provide a legal avenue for both parents to assert their parental rights and responsibilities. Despite the evidence that two-parent households result in better outcomes for children, my Republican colleagues were not willing to join my effort to enlist more willing adults in the responsibilities of parenthood.”