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Public Employers Can No Longer Offer Benefits to Employees' Domestic Partners

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Wednesday, 28 December 2011 17:54

On December 22, 2011, Governor Snyder signed House Bill 4770.  The bill prevents a public employer from offering medical or other fringe benefits to certain unrelated individuals who reside with public employees.  Higher education institutions are exempted from the provisions due to their constitutional autonomy.  The new ban would affect mostly local governments and public schools in Michigan, and apply to health insurance and other fringe benefits for unmarried partners of public employees, whether they're of the opposite or the same sex.  The law is effective immediately, but does not affect union-represented workers until their current collective bargaining agreements expire, or are amended or renewed.

House Bill 4771, on the other hand, got vetoed.  HB 4771 was proposing to add the "fringe benefits to certain unrelated individuals" to the list of prohibited subjects of collective bargaining under Public Employment Relations Act (PERA), instead of banning the benefits altogether.  In vetoing the Bill Governor Snyder reasoned that the bill directly conflicted with Public Act 260 of 2011, signed on December 14, 2011 which amended the PERA giving public employers discretion in deciding whether or not to renegotiate an existing, applicable bargaining agreement upon consolidation of public employers or public services through a merger or interlocal agreement among other changes.

The recent data from the Civil Service Commission puts the number of current employees benefiting from what is widely known as "domestic partners benefits" to 138 and the cost for 2011-2012 to $893,000.  The legislation claims to have passed this law for its potential savings of $8 million.  ACLU of Michigan has vowed to take the law to the courts for violation of equal protection rights.


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