Politics & Government
6:30 am
Fri November 29, 2013

Abortion, issue ads, Medicaid expansion could see legislative action in December

It could be a busy December for state lawmakers after they return from their Thanksgiving break.

Here are some of the issues that could come up for debate before the end of the year.

Paying for the Medicaid expansion delay – In a procedural vote earlier this year, state lawmakers delayed by about two months the implementation of Michigan’s Medicaid expansion law. In doing so, they created a hole in the budget of more than $70 million.

Legislative leaders say passing a bill to fill that hole is one of their top priorities in the coming weeks.

“We’re not sure how we’re going to do it,” said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe). “But I’d like to do it sooner rather than later. It could happen when we come back, it might trickle into January. But I think the sooner we do it the better.”

                                         

Abortion coverage - Lawmakers could also consider a voter-initiated proposal from Right to Life of Michigan before the end of the year. A state board could send the plan to restrict insurance coverage for abortions to the Legislature as early as next week.

Republican leaders in the state House and Senate have both stopped short of committing to take up the proposal. But officials with Right to Life say a majority of lawmakers in both chambers have committed their support, and they expect it to move through the Legislature before next year.

Governor Rick Snyder vetoed similar legislation last year. But voter-initiated laws are not subject to a veto. If lawmakers do not approve it within 40 days, it will go to the ballot in November 2014.

Campaign finance and “issue ad” disclosure - Earlier this month, the state Senate passed a bill that would double the amount of money individuals could give to political candidates. It would also block a proposal by Secretary of State Ruth Johnson that would require so-called “issue ads” to disclose who paid for them.

Issue ads support or attack candidates or political causes without using words or phrases like “vote for”. That would make them campaign ads, which must reveal who pays for the message.

Ari Adler, a spokesperson for state House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), says he’s not sure what will happen to the bill or to the secretary of state’s proposal in the House.

“They’re competing proposals, so we need to really take a close look at both of them and determine if either one or the other or a combination is the best way forward,” said Adler.

Public education changes – A bill in the state House would require schools to hold back third graders who fail a state reading test.

Another bill would assign letter grades to schools based on student performance. The Michigan Department of Education recently released its new school accountability system, which uses color codes to rate schools. But many state lawmakers say that system is too confusing for most parents and educators.

Republican leaders in the state House say both bills could be a priority in December if they clear the House Education Committee.

No-fault - Lawmakers could also take up legislation dealing with Michigan’s controversial auto no-fault law. Although, legislative leaders say a comprehensive overhaul of the system is not likely to pass before the end of the year. 

Michigan is the only state in the country that offers unlimited lifetime health benefits to people who are severely injured in auto accidents. A bill introduced earlier this year would cap those benefits at a million dollars. It cleared the House Insurance Committee, but has since stalled on the House floor.

House Speaker Jase Bolger’s office suggests lawmakers may try to pass smaller changes to the no-fault law before the end of the year. That could include legislation meant to crack down on fraud and abuse in the system, an idea that has won bipartisan support in the past.

Bolger spokesperson Ari Adler says nothing is guaranteed for the December session.

“We have a number of things that we’re still working on that we want to get done,” said Adler. “And so, what we’ll need to do is determine, time-wise and in terms of moving them between the chambers and getting them to the governor, what can we get done in December and what can wait until the new year?”

The Legislature is expected to meet during the first two weeks of December before ending their session for the year.

NOTE: Here are links to any aforementioned bills and websites…

Campaign finance/issue ads - http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2013-SB-0661

Holding back 3rd graders - http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2013-HB-5111

Letter grades for schools - http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2013-HB-5112

MDE’s accountability scorecard - https://www.mischooldata.org/DistrictSchoolProfiles/ReportCard/AccountabilityScorecard/AccountabilityScorecard.aspx

No-fault proposal - http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2013-HB-4612