A decision by the Michigan Civil Service Commission to extend partner benefits to non-family member adults who live with state employees could be overturned Tuesday by the state House.

The move comes a week after the Michigan Senate approved a resolution to rescind the decision, a move critics say is part of a larger move by the GOP dominated legislature to roll back decades of collective bargaining power.

The Senate passed the resolution last week with the necessary two-thirds vote required to overturn a decision from the MCSC. The House will have to also draw a two-thirds approval vote, meaning supporters of the move will have to get 11 Democrats to cross party lines and vote with Republicans. If the House approves the measure it will be the first time that the legislature has overturned a decision by the MCSC.

“This move falls easily in line with recent attacks on collective bargaining,” says Emily Dievendorf, policy director for Equality Michigan. “Legislative leadership cannot simultaneously claim to respect the role of unions in Michigan while also negating the results produced by the hard work of our union brothers and sisters.”

The benefits were originally bargained for by state employee unions in 2004, but were stalled while the state’s “Marriage Protection Amendment” was litigated. The Michigan Supreme Court ultimately ruled that public employers were prohibited from offering same-sex only domestic partnership. As a result public employers like Michigan State University developed programs to offer benefits to employees based on other criteria than the romantic relationship of the employee and the person who was going to get coverage.

Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration opposes the benefit plan, saying it would cost the state as much as $ 8 million, but many experts question if that number is even accurate.

Equality Michigan launched a petition drive and issued an Action Alert on Monday asking supporters to call on lawmakers to reject the proposal.

Steve Reck, political director for Service Employees International Union local 517 M, says very few people who eligible for such benefits actually avail themselves of them. He also says the proper place to address the issue is at the bargaining table. All state unions have contract negotiations this summer, he notes.

Michigan Messenger

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