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September 4, 2013 Legislative Update

Posted by: Jennifer Foley Posted date: September 4, 2013


ANOTHER DELAY FOR MORE ROAD FUNDING

Governor Rick Snyder and legislative leaders have been talking about putting a sales tax increase on the ballot for a November vote as a means of gaining the needed $1.2 billion additional money for roads.  It isn’t going to happen.

The proposal being pushed by some Republicans would put all the sales tax money collected at the pump to roads thus transferring $700 million from education and $500 million from local governments. Then to make education and local governments whole, a ballot proposal, which would require voter approval, would increase the state sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents to cover the lost revenue.

Recent polling has indicated that a sales tax increase for roads is a non-starter and that the money for education would be an easier sell to the voters.

However, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-Lansing) said this week there is no sense asking voters to raise the sales tax if education will only break even.  And the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) agrees that just an offset of revenue doesn’t get the job done suggesting that the sales tax hike should be at least 1.5 percent.

All of this prompted Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) to say that a sales tax increase in time for a vote this November is now out of the question and that the discussions are now underway with a May or August 2014 election date.

So once again, the transportation funding solution can has been kicked down the road.

MEDICAID EXPANSION AWAITS SENATE VOTE

The Senate Government Operations Committee, chaired by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has moved its revised version (S-7) of House-passed HB 4714 out of committee along with two other bills that have little support but were moved out of respect for the sponsors.

The measures will be before the full Senate as early as August 27.  Senator Richardville has said the Senate will take a vote on Medicaid expansion in late August.

The two tagalong bills are Senate Bill 422 sponsored by Senator Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) and Senate Bills 459 and 460 sponsored by Senator Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton).

Senator Caswell’s legislation calls for a completely state-based program to insure the state’s poorer population.

Senator Colbeck’s measures call for a private-market, high-deductible, and Health Savings Account system.

However, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) has expressed concern over Medicaid expansion getting passed in Michigan because of what she says is pressure Tea Party members are putting on Republicans. She wants Governor Rick Snyder to get into the fray and protect Senators who are prepared to cast the tough votes because it is the right thing to do.

COA: RIGHT TO WORK APPLIES TO CIVIL SERVICE

In a 2-1 split ruling, the Court of Appeals (COA) has determined the state’s new Right to Work law applies to all state employees in classified civil service. The decision disagrees with the state employee union’s argument that the Civil Service Commission (CSC) is constitutionally bound to handle all matters regarding state employment.

Judges Henry William Saad and Pat Donofrio, in writing the majority opinion, said authority in civil service matters is limited and that the Legislature has the authority to pass bills that impact certain aspects of state government employment.

In dissenting, Judge Elizabeth Gleicher wrote the majority’s ruling “strips the CSC of its regulatory supremacy”.

Judge Saad and Judge Donofrio were both appointed by former Republican Governor John Engler. Judge Gleicher is an appointee of former Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm.

COA: PENSION CONTRIBUTION IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

In an earlier ruling, another Court of Appeals (COA) panel upheld a lower court ruling that a 2011 requirement that state employees choose to contribute four percent to their defined benefit pension plan or move to a defined contribution (401k) plan was unconstitutional.

In a unanimous ruling in Michigan Coalition of State Employee Unions v State of Michigan, Case No. 314048, the COA found that only the Civil Service Commission, not the state Legislature, can make a decision on state employee compensation.

The court also rules a change made in PA 264 of 2011 to the way overtime was calculated is also unconstitutional.  However, it did not throw out the new law in its entirety.

This decision was rendered by Judges Donald S. Owens, appointed by former Governor John Engler, and Elizabeth Gleicher and Cynthia Diane Stephens, both appointed by former Governor Jennifer Granholm.

No word yet whether the state will appeal the COA decision to the State Supreme Court.

AQUILINA: “INDICTMENT NOT WARRANTED”

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has issued an order that an indictment against House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) wasn’t warranted after a grand jury investigation into the Roy Schmidt party-switch fiasco of 2012.

“An indictment is not warranted as there has been no presentment of any articulable crime or unlawful wrongdoing as to any person or persons involved in such inquiry, either in common law or statutory law,” the order read.

Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer and Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) requested the grand jury investigation nearly a year ago.

SNYDER: PONTIAC SCHOOLS IN FINANCIAL EMERGENCY

Governor Rick Snyder has confirmed that the Pontiac School District is in a financial emergency. The district has a $37.7 million general fund deficit, an increase of more than 50 percent over last year.

The district has until Wednesday to choose a consent agreement, an emergency manager, a neutral evaluation process or Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

The City of Pontiac already has an Emergency Manager.

HOUSE DEMS FORM TASK FORCE

House Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) has announced the formation of yet another task force this one a small business task force.

It will hold a series of meetings with residents and business owners on ways to support new and existing small businesses while promoting job creation.

Representative Greimel said the task force is in response to Michigan Republicans’ “increasing support for big corporations without increasing employment rates in the state.”

The task force will be co-chaired by Reps. Harold Haugh (D-Roseville) and David Nathan (D- Detroit).

CAMP ‘CAREFULLY’ CONSIDERING SENATE BID

Last April, U.S. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Midland) said he wasn’t taking a serious look at U.S. Sen. Carl Levin’s (D-Detroit) Senate seat that will become open in 2014. However, recently he said he is “carefully” and “thoughtfully” thinking about a Senate run next year.

Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who has already announced her GOP candidacy, quickly blasted Mr. Camp, who chairs the House Taxation Committee, as “a 23-year Washington D.C. establishment congressman…”

WALKER SAYS ‘NO’ TO REELECTION

Senator Howard Walker (R-Traverse City) has announced he will not run for a second term in 2014 opting to spend more time with his family.

Senator Walker’s 37th Senate northern Michigan district runs roughly 200 miles from north to south requiring three hour drives from his home and taking a lot of time away.

The vacancy is likely to generate a plethora of Republican candidates seeking to replace Senator Walker.

BOLGER TAPS SAARI

House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) has tapped Norm Saari, the head of Governor Rick

Snyder’s appointment office, to replace Suzanne Miller-Allen as his next chief of staff. Mr. Saari will begin his new duties on August 26.  Ms. Allen’s last day will be September 3.

Mr. Saari has also served as chief of staff to former Sen. Jason Allen and worked in the government affairs offices in both Lansing and Washington for Consumers Energy.

Ms. Allen is leaving to take a position with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

LAWMAKERS RAISING MONEY FOR CIVIL WAR CANNONS

Two history buff lawmakers, Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake Twp.) and Senator Steve Bieda (D-Warren) have launched a historic restoration project to raise $75,000 this year to  replace the two Civil War-era cannons that once sat on the lawn of the state Capitol from 1879 to 1946.

The replicas would be placed on the old stone footings that are still on the Capitol lawn one facing what is now the Romney Building housing the Governor’s office, the other pointed toward Lansing City Hall across the street.

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