legislature

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What might the lame-duck legislative session hold for Michigan schools?

This is the time lawmakers often make a big push to pass pet bills and there are several in play right now that could mean big changes for students and teachers.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey, reporter for Bridge Magazine, and Michelle Richard, senior consultant for Public Sector Consultants, joined us today.

You can listen to our conversation with them below:


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It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

State lawmakers will be back in Lansing tomorrow, beginning their lame-duck legislative session.

Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta from It's Just Politics join us on Stateside to discuss their list of lame-duck issues.

Here are five issues they believe might come up:

1. Roads: Governor Snyder wants more money to fix the roads, but the Legislature has not been able to agree. 

2. Adding protections for gay or lesbian individuals to the state's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act: Debates over inclusion of transgendered individuals or religious faith opt-outs may complicate the decision making process. 

3. Education: Education issues like teacher evaluations, third grade reading standards, and changes to how Detroit school board members are designated are all on the docket for the lame-duck legislative session.

4. No-fault auto insurance: Republicans have been trying to end unlimited medical coverage for accident victims, according to Rick Pluta.

5. Allocation of electoral college votes: Michigan is a winner-take-all system, meaning that whichever candidate for president gets the most votes, they win all of the state's 16 electoral college votes. There is a push by some Republicans to have the votes be allocated by congressional districts instead.

*You can listen to the full segment above. 

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Legislature is back in session. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says in the 20 session days left between now and the end of the year he wants to find a plan to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads and a way to ease term limits on Michigan lawmakers.

However, adding LGBT protections to Michigan's civil rights law is proving to be an ongoing battle in the Legislature.

I spoke with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

Here's our conversation.

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A new bill in the state Legislature aims to make school supplies more affordable.

The legislation would give taxpayers a credit of up to $1,000 for qualified purchases of school supplies.

Materials that qualify for the credit would be things like books, computer programs, and science equipment.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, introduced the bill.

He says it's worth the investment.

Photo courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency

The Michigan League of Conservation Voters is giving the Michigan Legislature a grade of "incomplete" for its current session.

The group's scorecard grades lawmakers on their votes related to energy, land and water issues.

This year, the League says there's been little progress on bills related to those issues.

Jack Schmitt is the Deputy Director of the League's Michigan chapter. He says that means efforts to improve the environment have stalled.

Recently I criticized the Legislature and State Senator Jack Brandenberg for wanting to roll back state income taxes. He has a bill to cut the rate from 4.25% to 3.9% over three years.

For an average taxpayer, that would mean a tax cut of less than a hundred bucks a year. But it would leave the state with nearly a billion dollars a year less, when it already doesn’t have enough money to maintain the roads or provide other services.

After this bill sailed through the Senate Finance Committee earlier this month, I said I thought it was irresponsible election year pandering.

Later, Sen. Brandenberg called me.

He was warm, earnest, had a sense of humor, and said I had gotten it wrong. He wasn’t pandering in the least, he told me; this is what he genuinely believed. He said this stemmed from an agreement to roll back taxes going back to when Jennifer Granholm was governor.

I thought his calling me took class, and it was clear he really does believe in this. Brandenberg has no need to pander; he is certain to be reelected this fall to a safe Republican seat.

They used to say that the definition of chutzpah was the boy who killed his parents and then asked the court for mercy since he was an orphan. But that was improved on twice this week.

First, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan began talking about making a bid for the Democratic National Convention two years from now.

That’s a nice “comeback kid” idea, but there are two major problems.

The entire metro area probably doesn’t have enough hotel space. Detroit could barely host the Republican Convention in 1980, and Democratic conventions have more delegates.

Plus, conventions are expensive.

There was a lot of rejoicing yesterday at the news that the governor had signed on to a so-called “grand bargain” to help save the collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Detroit is, of course, going through bankruptcy.

Creditors want as much as possible of the money owed them. Those counting on city pensions want to make sure they get their money, even if the DIA’s world-class collections have to be sold.

Selling the art would be devastating not only to art lovers, but it might deal the city a cultural blow from which it could never recover.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
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Starting next month, the Committee to Restore Michigan's Part-Time Legislature says they will be looking for your signatures. They've got six months to gather 400,000 voter signatures to get a big question on the November 2014 ballot: Should we amend Michigan's Constitution to switch our state to a part-time Legislature?

We'll be looking at both sides of this idea. Today we welcome a Republican strategist who believes this proposal is not in the best interest of Michigan.

Dennis Lennox is a columnist for The Morning Sun and a public affairs consultant.

Listen to the full interview above.

Aaron Olson

You might be asked to sign a petition next year to cut Michigan legislators’ pay and make their job part-time. The state constitution will have to be amended to accomplish that.

There could be some unintended consequences in doing that.

The Parade Company / via theparade.org

A bill to fix Michigan’s fireworks law is headed to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. The state Legislature passed the legislation almost unanimously.

Last year, state lawmakers legalized high powered fireworks for consumer use. That sparked thousands of complaints from across the state about loud blasts into the early morning hours.

Harold Haugh (D-Roseville) is the bill’s sponsor. He says he’s received thousands of complaints about loud blasts into the early morning hours.

"So we tried to take all of the inputs that we could and put it into a common sense approach," explained Haugh. "And obviously with the votes, my colleagues in both the House and Senate – both Democrat and Republican alike – agreed with what we had put together."

The bill would allow local governments to prohibit overnight fireworks use on and around national holidays. Municipalities are already able to restrict fireworks the rest of the year.

Haugh says he expects Governor Snyder to sign the bill in time for July Fourth.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A bill to set up a healthcare exchange in Michigan has passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature. A House panel today voted to accept more than $30 million from Washington to set up the exchange.

It would be a partnership between the state and the federal government under the Affordable Care Act.

House Appropriations Chair Joe Haveman says the alternative would be a federal exchange with no state control.

“Although it may appear like it was a step in the wrong direction or endorsing Obamacare, this was the conservative vote. The other vote was the liberal vote to say ‘we want the federal government to take us over.’”

Governor Rick Snyder wanted an exchange run entirely by the state. But lawmakers did not act in time, and that’s now off the table.

The bill now goes to the floor of the state House.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Bills to keep Michigan’s legal blood alcohol limit for drivers at point-zero-eight are getting little to no opposition in the state Legislature. A House panel today unanimously approved the legislation.

Without it, the state’s legal limit would revert to .10 in October. That’s when the law that sets it at .08 expires.

Republican state Representative Andrea LaFontaine says it’s common sense legislation.

Lawsuit filed to protect Great Lakes wolf population

Feb 12, 2013
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

The Humane Society along with several other groups filed a lawsuit in federal court today to put a stop to gray wolf hunting in the Great Lakes Region.

The lawsuit is against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List.

If its successful, the lawsuit would place the wolves back under federal protection.

It seems pretty clear that Republicans are intent on ramming through legislation that will result in a vast expansion of Michigan charter schools. Up to now, there has been a limit on how many could be authorized. Charter schools had to be sanctioned by universities, and no university could charter more than 150 of them.

Yesterday, the House Education Committee approved a bill  removing that cap. New committee chair Tom McMillan pretty much gaveled down any attempt by minority Democrats to amend the bill, with one minor exception.

Flickr/jcarter

Michigan could soon expand the lineup of legal fireworks that consumers can buy without special permits.

The state Legislature has approved measures that would allow some consumer fireworks such as firecrackers, bottle rockets and Roman candles to legally be sold in the state. Governor Snyder likely will sign the bill in time for it to become law in 2012.

Robbie Howell / Flickr

The Michigan legislature is considering bills to end the state’s mandatory no-fault auto insurance.  Its supporters say it will give consumers more choices and help reduce cost of auto insurance.  Opponents say it’s a misguided effort that will have very little effect on insurance rates and could mean people who suffer injuries won’t get the help they need to fully recover. 

Kristin Howard was driving, taking an interstate to work on a summer day in 2006 when her life was changed forever.

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The state Senate is meeting today to take up a few outstanding issues. The session comes as lawmakers are in the middle of a two-month legislative break. A stricter limit on welfare benefits is one issue that is expected to be brought up during the session. The Associated Press reports:

One of the bills that could come up for a vote Wednesday would put a stricter four-year lifetime limit on welfare benefits into state law. The legislation would reflect welfare limits approve earlier this year as part of the state budget plan. Michigan's current law has a similar time limit but it has more exceptions than the revised plan. The current law is due to expire in late September unless it's renewed or changed by lawmakers. Critics say the limits would boot some needy families off public assistance. The House already has approved the welfare limits legislation.

Meanwhile, State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says lawmakers will also likely continue debate over what to do about wild boar on hunting ranches. Laura Weber reports:

The Department of Natural Resources has pushed back enforcement of a rule that would require hunting ranches to get rid of wild boars. Ranch operators say that would put many of them out of business. Richardville says he’s not deeply moved by the issue, but understands it is an important to the agriculture community.

The Senate is also expected to deal with health insurance benefits for public employees.

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The new redistricting maps drawn up by the Republican majorities in the Michigan Legislature are unveiled and Democrats are not happy.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry gives some historical context to the upcoming fight over redistricting.  He spoke to Michigan Radio's Jenn White.  You can here the interview here.

The rules are different than they used to be, but basically all districts should have the same population, for congressional districts, exactly the same, according to Lessenberry. State legislative districts can have up to a 5% variation.

He says this was not the case in the 1960's.

"Before the U. S. Supreme Court decisions in the early 1960's there was no requirement that they have the same population. So you had, in the case of Michigan, both congressional districts and legislative districts that were several times larger than one or the other one, and they each got one representative."

Lessenberry gives us a lesson on gerrymandering and explains the origin of the term. In 1812, Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts presided over the drawing of a district that was shaped as a salamander.

Kconnors / MorgueFile

Members of the Michigan legislature are considering several bills that would amend the state’s medical marijuana law. One bill would create a database of marijuana license holders.

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