Michigan Legislature

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A proposed tax hike aimed at improving Michigan's transportation infrastructure and schools is heading to voters.

  The Michigan Legislature has put a sales tax increase on the May statewide ballot as part of a road funding plan.

Michigan Legislature
Matthileo / Flickr

Each Thursday, we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week we talked about the bills heading to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk this lame-duck session and whether he'll sign them.

Wood burning stove.
Rich Misner / Flickr

Michigan may soon pick a fight with the Environmental Protection Agency over wood burning stoves.

Nationwide, there are an estimated 12 million wood and pellet stoves. The EPA estimates wood stoves contribute about 13% of the nation’s soot pollution. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A bill that would legalize ride sharing companies is making its way through the legislature.

Ride sharing companies, like Uber and Lyft, use an app to connect drivers with people looking for a ride and willing to pay. The bill would set up regulations for ride sharing companies that would be different from those taxi and limousine operators currently follow. 

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss a plan to help Michigan roads by cutting truck weight limits, whether any road fix plans will survive the lame duck session, and a possible end to federal oversight of the state’s foster care system.


net_efekt / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers are back this week, after a two-week break. And Governor Snyder is pushing hard for a deal to boost road funding as the Legislature's "lame duck" session winds down. 

Gov. Snyder took his case on the road today, with stops in southeast Michigan to highlight the need for better roads.

One bill would effectively double the state’s gasoline tax to raise up to $1.5 billion a year for roads.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING (AP) - Michigan lawmakers have three weeks left in their lame-duck session to enact a potentially wide-ranging assortment of bills, topped by a measure to significantly boost road funding.

  The Republican-led Senate's recent approval of a bill to more than double state gasoline and diesel taxes over four years faces an "uphill climb" in the GOP-controlled House, says Speaker Jase Bolger. He's floating an alternative to gradually eliminate the state sales tax at the pump while raising per-gallon fuel taxes a corresponding amount.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING (AP) - Democratic lawmakers are proposing increased state oversight of Michigan's oil and gas pipelines.

  The four-bill package announced this week would require the state Department of Environmental Quality to regularly inspect pipelines under the Great Lakes and mandate that pipeline operators submit emergency response plans to state regulators.

  Rep. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor says he's thankful aging lines beneath the Straits of Mackinac haven't leaked. But he says more oversight is needed to "ensure Michigan's economy and natural resources are protected."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are acting quickly on legislation to legalize riding-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The app-based taxi-like service links people who need a ride with willing motorists.

The services appear to be in violation of state law. Some cities, like Ann Arbor, have tried to prevent them from operating. Others, like Lansing, have been more welcoming.

Freedom Michigan campaign aims to update the Elliot-Larsen civil rights act to include the LGBT community.
user Marlith / flickr.com

Yesterday, a federal judge ruled that Michigan’s law preventing public schools and municipalities from providing benefits to unmarried partners of employees was unconstitutional.

Critics of the law said it impacted same-sex couples almost exclusively.

The same day we also saw a bill introduced in the state House that would add protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to Michigan’s civil rights law.

Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate majority leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, joined me to talk about what it could mean for the Legislature and the state.

Here's our conversation:


USFWS Midwest

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss what could happen to the state Legislature after the election, possible surprises in congressional races and the wolf hunting proposal votes which may not matter.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

  LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Democrats who need a five-seat swing to upend Republican control of the Michigan House face a number obstacles in the November 4th election.

  They include gerrymandered districts, a financial disadvantage and historical trends favoring the GOP in a non-presidential election year.

  But Representative Brandon Dillon, who's leading House Democrats' campaign to retake power for the first time since 2010, says there are enough chances to pick up seats.

  Republicans, however, like their chances to fatten a current 59-50 edge in the House.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the last few years is how many local hospitals seem to have been taken over by McLaren Health Care, a chain that originally started in Flint.

That in itself may not be bad; there have certainly been cases of local stand-alone hospitals that lacked the resources to properly serve their communities.

But it sometimes seems to me that while America once had wards between rival steel and railroad magnates, we now have hospital system wars. And we now have a case of sheer hospital arrogance.

Phil Incarnati, McLaren’s president and CEO, seems to believe the state’s rules for allowing where hospitals can expand are just fine – as long as they don’t apply to him. Over and over again, McLaren has been denied permission to build a new hospital near Clarkston, an affluent area in northern Oakland County.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are making their way through more than a dozen bills targeting human trafficking this week.

The bills would provide a safe harbor for victims, allow victims to sue their abusers, and eliminate the statute of limitations on trafficking offenses.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Terminally ill patients in Michigan may soon have a new avenue to pursue unproven treatments.

The State House Health Policy committee Tuesday approved "right-to-try" legislation. The state Senate has already approved the legislation, which tries to give patients a better chance of getting drugs or medical devices that show promise, but have not been fully tested.

Stephanie Chang (right)
User: Stephanie Chang / facebook

Fresh faces, fresh voices, fresh ideas, and more diversity: That's what both the Democrats and the GOP say they are looking for. They are hoping to attract voters in a nation that is becoming more diverse by the day.

One Michigan candidate could certainly move the meter on diversity in Lansing.

Stephanie Chang won the primary in the Michigan 6th House district in southwest Detroit. The Democrat won it by getting nearly 50% of the vote. In that heavily Democratic district, that seems to set her up to win the seat in November and become the first Asian-American woman to serve in the state legislature.

Her district, Chang says, has a legacy of diverse leadership. Its current state representative is Rashida Tlaib, who is Palestinian American. The district has also elected Latina, Hungarian American and Jewish state representatives.

*Listen to the interview with Stephanie Chang above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Testing students to assess their progress in school could get a lot more political before the year is out.

Legislators and the Michigan Department of Education clashed this year over a test to assess Common Core state standards. If the past is any clue, lawmakers with the help of the governor could simply take away the Department of Education’s authority and give it to a state agency more friendly to their point of view, such as Treasury. Gov. John Engler made exactly that kind of move several times during his time in office.

USFWS

Michigan hunters could find wolves in their crosshairs again later this year, if the state House approves legislation on Wednesday.

Last year, hunters killed 22 wolves in a state-sanctioned hunt in the Upper Peninsula.

Plans for another wolf hunt this fall were shelved after opponents collected enough signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. They did so again when state lawmakers passed another law to authorize a wolf hunt.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan state lawmakers need to do more to help protect people from cancer. That’s the finding of a new study by the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society says 58,610 people in Michigan will be diagnosed with cancer this year;  20,800 will die.

Nationwide, the society estimates 1.6 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and 580,000 will die from the disease. 

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s annual “How Do You Measure Up” report says Michigan state lawmakers should be doing more to reduce cancer risks.

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League

It looks likely there will be more Tea Party Republicans in the Legislature next year. And one of the likely new tea partiers in the state House says they may want one of their own to be the new Republican leader.

Todd Courser won the GOP primary in a very Republican-leaning seat. That means he’s probably likely headed to Lansing next year. And he says Tea Partiers in the Legislature will be looking for something different in the new House leadership team.

“What I would like to see is a vocal conservative voice that is willing to stand, really, and make sure that we’re moving legislation forward that actually meets the criteria of being conservative, and fits the platform of the party,” says Courser.

Courser was on the Michigan Public Television show Off The Record.

He says larger budgets, the Medicaid expansion, and the Common Core curriculum standards don’t fit that definition. He says the freshman Tea Party class in the state House might put forward one of its members as a candidate for House Republican leader for the coming session of the Legislature.  

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

One of the many decisions made by state lawmakers during their budget actions last week was to keep the MEAP in place for another year.

The more than 40-year-old MEAP exam stays put even though Michigan adopted the Common Core State Standards in 2010. And the state's education department has been working for the past three years to bring in the new testing that is aligned to the Common Core. That new test is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

The state lawmakers' recent decision could mean that educators and students have to hit the reverse button and go back to MEAP. But State Superintendent Mike Flanagan said in April that the MEAP was simply “not an option."

Brian Smith has been reporting on the Common Core and Smarter Balanced vs. MEAP tussle. He said that as the issue moved forward, the Department of Education started to talk to testing vendors and see what could possibly be done.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

    

The intense Michigan winter has put roads funding at the top of the legislative agenda. Things lagged for the past few months but began to heat up as the Legislature prepares for summer break which begins next week.

Why has it been so difficult to get consensus on a funding package?  

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

Listen to the interview above.

It is not exactly true that the Michigan Legislature can’t get anything done.

For example, our lawmakers did pass a bill to allow a fur dealer to hold a license to trap beaver.

Don’t you feel better about that? The governor signed it yesterday.

On the down side, they completely failed to get done the voters' most important priority, fixing our terrible roads.

You see, fixing the roads would cost money.

It would also require making hard choices, which many elected officials seem allergic to, especially in an election year.   

Some of our lawmakers seem dead set against raising any taxes, even though polls have shown this is the one thing voters are willing to pay for. Some can’t see past their narrow ideological blinders enough to simply get the job done.

Vu Bui / Flickr

Friends, partners or neighbors in Michigan who make legal medical decisions for a person when alive are not allowed the same right when the person passes away.

House Bill 5162 would change that by allowing someone who is not related to the individual to be designated as his or her funeral representative.

Anita Clos, assistant director of medical social work at the University of Michigan, says social workers witness the trauma families experience because of the way current law works.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are trying to curb methamphetamine use by making it harder for certain people to buy its main ingredients.

The House passed bipartisan legislation Thursday to use a database to stop the sale of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to people with meth convictions. The drugs are most commonly found in over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan is edging closer to ending its very unpopular Driver Responsibility fees.

The state fees were created a decade ago to help raise much needed-money for the state budget.

People with driving violations, like drunk driving, have to pay the fees which can climb to a couple thousand dollars.

Joe Haveman is a state representative from Holland. He says the fees are unfair.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are tackling some hefty issues like fuel taxes, Detroit's bankruptcy and the minimum wage in the last weeks before their summer break.

They're also trying to finalize Michigan's next spending plan.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A proposal to greatly increase Michigan’s gas tax goes before a state Senate committee tomorrow.

The proposal has already cleared the state House. Among other things, it calls for taxing fuel based on price, instead of volume. It would generate about $500 million in new tax revenue. That's about a third of what Gov. Rick Snyder and others say is needed to fix the roads.  

Governor Snyder hopes the State House will make progress toward approving the ‘Grand Bargain’ this week.

Critics complain it’s not fair for the rest of the state to pay for Detroit’s financial missteps. Supporters say restoring Detroit to financial health is important to all of Michigan.Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan RadioEdit | Remove

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder hopes the state House will turn its attention soon to a proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage.

The Senate already approved a bill to increase Michigan’s minimum wage, in steps, to $9.20 an hour.

Snyder says it was good to see the bill pass in the Senate with bi-partisan support.

“I hope the House will take it up relatively soon. And make a serious review of it,” says Snyder.

Supporters say Michigan’s minimum wage has needed an increase for a long time.

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