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Legislators ramping up debate on live-in partner benefits for state workers

At the state Capitol, House Republican leaders will resume their efforts to pick up 11 or more Democratic votes to reverse the policy of letting unmarried state employees claim their live-in partners on their health benefits.

The state Civil Service Commission approved public employee contracts at the beginning of the year that allow live-in partner benefits. That’s the only way the state can legally allow coverage for same-sex couples.  

House Speaker Jase Bolger says House Republicans don’t have the votes on their own to reverse the policy. G-O-P leaders called a test vote on the question just before the Legislature’s spring break.

“It requires two-thirds vote of the Legislature, so it requires 74 votes to overturn that decision. There are 63 Republicans. All 63 Republicans are prepared to do so. When we had it up on the board, only two Democrats did so.”

Democratic leaders say they won’t put up the votes to help House Republicans go back on what was promised to state workers. House Democratic leader Rick Hammel says this issue was fairly negotiated during contract talks with state employee unions. 

“And so my feeling is that this is an easy thing to take to the bargaining table and resolved in that way, that’s where it ought to be done instead of the Legislature getting into the middle of the bargaining process.”

Republican lawmakers have also asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to make a formal ruling on whether benefits that cover the live-in partners of public employees violates the state’s gay marriage ban. 

The House has until April 18thto vote, or the policy will take effect October first. 

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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