lawmakers

Christian Jansky / wikimedia commons

  Lawmakers in the state House are back for a special summer session day tomorrow. It’s just one day and it’s the last session day before the Legislature returns from its summer break in September.

MLive’s Lansing reporter Jonathon Oosting joined Stateside today to talk about what will be covered in the session.

First: Wolf hunting.

Oosting said the Senate initiated legislation would enact the third wolf hunting law in as many years. Two of those have already been suspended by anti-wolf-hunting groups. This third law would render those two moot. If the House approves this legislation tomorrow, wolf hunting will continue to be allowed in Michigan regardless of what voters say in November.

Second: Building protection for LGBT rights.

Oosting said legislation still needs to be introduced. Lawmakers have been debating the issue behind the scenes for months. There is a possibility legislation would appear tomorrow, but we're more likely to see it in September. Republicans seem to be willing to have the discussion, but are still sympathetic to arguments regarding religious freedom.

Third: IBM ruling

It is a Supreme Court ruling dealing with tax liability in the state. Oosting said the Supreme Court found that the state left a few loopholes in place when it eliminated the Michigan business tax. As a result, IBM is owed what could be $1 billion by next year.

*Listen to the full interview with Jonathon Oosting above. 

Alberto G. / Creative Commons

Michigan state lawmakers are about to be put to the test.

A bill in Lansing would require members of the state board of education, the state superintendent of education, the governor, senators, and representatives to take the standardized tests normally administered to students in the third, eighth, and eleventh grades. Their results would be published online.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

Some state lawmakers say it’s time to drop a set standards meant to evaluate schools across the country.

A House panel heard testimony today on a bill to opt out of the Common Core Standards Initiative.

Republican Representative Tom McMillin says it’s a federal takeover of school curriculum.

“We don’t want our kids to be common. We want our kids in Michigan to be exceptional. And this certainly lowers the bar, and makes it so that we have no ability to raise the bar.”

Tiberius Images / Flickr

State lawmakers are beginning to wrap up their work for this session before they head out for their Spring recess.

It seems it’s as good a time as any to review what they have (and haven’t) accomplished since the beginning of the New Year.

Governor Snyder  has not been getting a whole lot of love from fellow Republicans. He announced he will take federal money to expand Medicaid rolls in the state.

But Republicans aren’t happy with this. They say they want Medicaid “reform” in exchange for their support.  Is Snyder going to be willing to make this type of deal? After all, he likes to say he doesn’t engage in ‘horse-trading.’

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder signed the Blue Cross/Blue Shield bills into law on Monday. He vetoed the law originally, last year, after it was passed in the lame-duck session of the legislature with measures having to do with abortions that he didn’t like.

And, something we’ve talked a lot about here on Stateside: the creation of a health care exchange mandated under the Affordable Health Care Act.

Michigan will be a hybrid, run between the state and federal government. At first, it was the state House that was dragging its feet. Now, Republican state Senators are stalling on the creation.

Matthileo / Flickr

The Republican-led state Senate approved a Congressional redistricting map yesterday… that means it now goes to Governor Snyder for his signature. The bill passed 25-13, mostly along party lines. But, that might not be the end of the story. Reports this morning seem to indicate that the maps could be challenged in court.

From the Detroit News:

The state Legislature on Wednesday sent new political district maps to the governor for signing, but the final configuration of congressional and state legislative boundaries could still end up being decided in court… Democrats claimed throughout the review process that wildly irregular districts — especially in Metro Detroit — were engineered to protect Republican incumbents.

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer refused to comment on whether the party would file a lawsuit charging one or more of the maps don't meet the requirements of state and federal laws to protect voter rights.

"We'll be consulting with the congressional delegation about our next steps," he said. "That's all I can say right now.”

The article continues:

Court challenges are nearly a given, according to Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.

"We wouldn't be surprised (by a court challenge) because that tends to be what happens — whichever party is in charge, the other disagrees with the maps," Adler said. "That's why when we looked at our maps we addressed them so they would pass muster with the federal government and with any court."

Common Cause of Michigan will consider filing a court challenge, Executive Director Christina Kuo said late Wednesday.

And, the Detroit Free Press notes, "...legal challenges to the new districts, which dropped from 15 to 14 because of population losses in the state, are likely from any number of sources including the Michigan Democratic Party, Congressional Black Caucus and Michigan Legislative Black Caucus."

Matthileo / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers will be back at the state Capitol today after a two-week Spring break and it appears that their attention will turn to the state budget.

Budget-related subcommittees in both the House and Senate are scheduled to meet today.

The state faces a projected budget deficit of around $1.5 billion for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. Governor Rick Snyder says he wants lawmakers to finish the budget by May 31st.

Many lawmakers, however, say they don’t think the budget process will be finished before this summer.

Ifmuth / Flickr

State lawmakers have begun their two-week spring break, but many of them say they will still be in Lansing working on budget issues. That includes negotiating with Governor Rick Snyder on tax reforms.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says he expects lawmakers to meet Governor Snyder’s May 31st deadline to complete work on the budget.

“Any time that we waste right now adds time on the back end, and we really owe all the constituencies who depend on state an answer before we get to the same type of timeframe that we’ve dealt with in the past. So, it’s not really fair to put these things off until fall or even late summer.”

Snyder has proposed a tax on pensions, a new corporate income tax to replace the Michigan Business Tax, and scaling back tax credits.

Calley told lawmakers that if they don’t like Snyder’s plan, they need to put something else on the table that will help end the budget deficit.

Republicans in the Senate are expected to unveil a plan that includes an expanded corporate income tax, and to hold off on taxing pensions.

Ifmuth / Flickr

The state Senate is expected to vote this week on a proposal to give emergency financial managers more control when they take over the budgets of cities, townships or school districts.

State Senator Phil Pavlov says the purpose of the proposal is to help communities that are in financial trouble fix their problems before they have to be taken over by an emergency financial manager.

He says it sets warning signs so problems can be dealt with earlier. But he says if emergency managers do step in, they need to have total control of the situation.

“The emergency manager would be able to make some very difficult decisions, and we know that we have to have somebody with the power to do that under extreme situations."

Unions oppose the proposal because it would allow managers to throw out contracts.

Governor Rick Snyder asked the Legislature to approve the increased power for emergency financial managers during his State of the State speech.

Troy Holden / Flickr

People with medical marijuana cards may soon be unable to smoke together in their support groups. A bill approved by a state Senate committee would prohibit so-called “marijuana clubs” or bars.

Republican state Senator Rick Jones says people who gather to smoke marijuana away from their homes could easily become a danger on the roads to other drivers.

 “There’s really no good reason for people to gather and consume marijuana. If somebody really needs to know how to use it, their care provider can go to their home and teach them. They don’t need to gather in a bar-like atmosphere.”

Medical marijuana supporters say the bill is a continued attempt by lawmakers to add rules to the constitutional amendment approved by voters. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was approved by voters by a wide margin in 2008.

Greg Pawlowski is a representative of medical marijuana support groups. He told lawmakers that regulation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act is an attempt to stifle the voices of patients. 

 “I applaud you so much for taking the time to talk to us, but now you need to hear what we have to say, and not talk amongst each other that we’re wrong. Because this is not an issue of being right or wrong, this is a human issue. I should not have to be a second-class citizen and have to have a patient card.”

Matthileo / Flickr

Update 12:08 p.m.:

Lt. Governor Brian Calley is detailing the Snyder Administration's tax plans to members of the House Tax Policy committee at the Capitol, the Associated Press reports. And, as the AP notes, Budget Director John Nixon answered questions this morning from members of the House Appropriations Committee:

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration is trying to shore up support for some of its budget proposals that are running into opposition in the Michigan Legislature... The Republican governor's plan to eliminate tax exemptions on pensions is drawing opposition from some members of his own party.

Lawmakers also are concerned about proposed cuts to education funding and proposed cuts to tax revenue sharing payments made to local governments.

6:57 a.m.:

Lawmakers at the state Capitol are set to hear details today about Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal.

Legislative committees are scheduled to hear details about Snyder's tax restructuring plan, the Associated Press reports.

From the AP:

Lawmakers also will hear testimony from some university officials, including from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Universities could lose at least 15 percent of their state aid going into next fiscal year.

Groups concerned about proposed cuts to tax revenue sharing payments also are expected to testify. Snyder and lawmakers are trying to eliminate a projected budget shortfall of roughly $1.4 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder spent yesterday defending some of his controversial budget plans, including the taxing of pensions.

Lloydpictures.com

Republican state senator Rick Jones says Michigan’s film tax credit might need to be trimmed, but he doesn’t think it should be eliminated. 

Governor Rick Snyder has said he’s going to put Michigan’s generous film tax credit policy under the microscope.

Movie companies can get up to a 42 percent tax credit if they film here.

But State Sen. Rick Jones says movies made in Michigan can be good for the state, because a hit can bring residual money into a community:

A good example would be "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeve." We still have people traveling to Mackinac Island to see where that movie was made. There are still souvenirs sold, and it increases tourism.

Jones says his position has nothing to do with the possibility that the next Batman movie may be shot in his hometown of Grand Ledge.

Another movie, “Red  Dawn,” was also filmed in  Grand Ledge  and is awaiting release.

Michigan Legislature
Matthileo / Flickr

The state Legislature is taking a second snow day. Sessions and committee meetings are canceled today because of this week's winter storm. The Associated Press reports:

Thursday's cancellations include previously scheduled full sessions of the Senate and House, at least three Senate committee hearings and at least five House committee hearings. Lawmakers will resume their regularly scheduled sessions and committee hearings Tuesday.

Lawmakers usually don't hold session on Mondays and Fridays.

Well, it’s Groundhog Day, there’s a foot of snow, and I’d guess  most of the state’s woodchucks aren’t even thinking about coming out of their burrows, let alone looking for their shadows.

Our lawmakers aren’t anywhere near the Capitol Dome either; they prudently took a couple of days off. But they’ll be back soon, and hopefully at work straightening out the state’s finances.

People may differ on how our lawmakers should balance the books, and put our state on a permanently sounder footing.

But nobody wants any further repeats of Groundhog Day. As in the movie of that name where the main character has to keep repeating the same day over and over. 

He had to do that, as I recall, until he learned a profound lesson about life. Our legislators have been doing a version of that for years.  Papering over serious problems; going for quick fixes, kicking problems down the road for future generations to deal with.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Republican state Representative Wayne Schmidt of Traverse City introduced a bill yesterday in the state House that would transfer $20 million into the state's 'Pure Michigan' tourism ad campaign. That would be an increase from the $10 million that's currently planned.

Matthileo / Flickr

Republican state Representative Dave Agema introduced a bill yesterday that would amend the state's constitution to create a part-time legislature, rather than the full-time legislature that Michigan currently has.

The Associated Press calls it a, "long-shot" as efforts to make the legislature part-time have failed in the past. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry agrees. He says he doesn't think the bill will go anywhere.

The AP reports:

Advocates say it would save money and force lawmakers to be more efficient when conducting business at the state Capitol.

Peter Luke of Mlive.com explains:

Agema’s amendment would limit the Legislature, which convenes on the second Wednesday of every January, to 150 consecutive days of session. Budget bills would have to be completed by June 15; it’s now Sept. 30. Extra days could be scheduled, but only for extraordinary reasons that aren’t specified.

Photo courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama gave this year's State of the Union address last night to a joint session of the legislature. Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation were in attendance and many of them released statements quickly after the President finished his address.

Here's what a few lawmakers from Michigan thought about what the President had to say:

  • Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow: "I am pleased that the President focused on the most important issue for Michigan: helping our businesses grow and create jobs. As he said tonight, the way we do this is by out-innovating, out-building, and out-educating our competition. I am also happy he will continue to seek bipartisan action to address the budget deficit in a responsible way."
  • Republican Congressman Fred Upton: “Yes, jobs and the economy should be our number one focus.  No State has had a tougher time.  We also know that Washington has not worked well together through the past number of years and the challenge for Congress was echoed in the President’s earlier statement as to ‘whether we can work together tomorrow.’  Whether it’s fighting spending or helping our economy, we really have no choice but to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  That will be my mission."

  • Democratic Congressman John Dingell: "President Obama called on us to find common ground for the future of this great Nation— we need to manufacture in America, educate in America, and invest in America.  This country has a history of rising to immense challenges and far exceeding expectations set for us.  We are a great country and not only can we continue to compete globally, but we simply must.  This means we have to invest in the future and create an atmosphere where innovation and ingenuity flourish."

  • Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller: "I sincerely hope the President understands we cannot continue to borrow and spend money because our current debt and level of spending is completely unsustainable and is limiting the opportunities for our children and grandchildren.  It is also limiting our ability for job creation and economic growth. This past election was a historic pivot for our nation, where the voters demanded we chart a new course.  It is time for both the President and the Congress to make clear that we heard the message.”

  • Democratic Senator Carl Levin: "The president gave a compelling and upbeat call to bipartisan action. His priorities were the right priorities, focusing on the economy and job creation, and on promoting innovation, new technologies and education as the path to achieving recovery and growth. I very much approve of his commitment to finish the mission in Iraq on schedule, and to begin the reduction of American troops in Afghanistan in July because I believe only a strengthened and enlarged Afghan army and police force can ensure success of our mission in Afghanistan by taking over responsibility for the security of their country."

Terry Johnston / Flickr

A bill that would repeal Michigan's unpopular Driver Responsibility Fee is expected to be introduced in the state Senate this week, Laura Weber Reports. The annual fee goes to Michigan drivers who have seven or more points on their license. A repeal of the fee was approved by the state House last year but it stalled in the state Senate.

Democratic state Senator Bert Johnson says most lawmakers want to get rid of the fee, but don’t want to lose the money it brings in to the state, Weber reports.

Matthileo / Flickr

On the first day that Michigan lawmakers were allowed to submit legislative proposals, legislators in the state House introduced 85 bills and a half-dozen resolutions. As the Associated Press reports:

The first bill introduced Thursday would repeal a surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax. It's likely to pass as part of a broader, still-developing plan to reshape business taxes. Other proposals would repeal Michigan's mandatory motorcycle helmet law in some circumstances and eliminate caps on the number of charter schools.

State lawmakers began the 2011 legislative session on Wednesday by taking the oath of office and officially announcing new legislative leaders.

Tracy O / Flickr

Lately, you've probably heard or read a Michigan Radio story that includes this number: 1,800,000,000. In case you haven't had your morning coffee yet... that's 1.8 billion. Economic forecasters predict Michigan's budget, for the fiscal year that begins October 1st, is $1.8 billion in the red.

However, later today, that figure could change. That's because economists are meeting today for what's called a "revenue estimating conference" at the state Capitol. The economists will come up with an estimate of just how much money the state can expect to receive through the next fiscal year. As the state's website explains:

The Revenue Estimating Conference held each January is a major part of the budget process. During the conference, national and state economic indicators are used to formulate an accurate prediction of revenue available for appropriation in the upcoming fiscal year. This conference first convened in 1992, pursuant to Act No. 72 of the Public Acts of 1991. The principal participants in the conference are the State Budget Director and the Directors of the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies or their respective designees. Other participants may include the Governor and senior officials from the Department of Treasury.

Waiting for the Governor

Jan 13, 2011

The new legislature convened for the first time yesterday, nearly two weeks after their terms began. They posed for pictures and elected officers. They officially announced who would have what positions on which committees.

These are all things that had been worked out days or weeks before. What then followed was sort of the equivalent of lining up their pencils and making sure they are sharpened.

To a great extent, they are waiting for the governor. That is to say, they are waiting for Rick Snyder to set forth his program and put forward his proposals for balancing the state budget.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers began the state's 96th legislative session yesterday in Lansing.  We take a quick look at what the headlines across the state have to say about the Legislature's first day:

During their first day in session, lawmakers took the oath of office and elected legislative leaders.

Matthileo / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers return to the state Capitol today for the first day of the 2011-2012 legislative session. Lawmakers will be sworn-in and adopt rules, including a dress code.

As the Associated Press reports, the majority of lawmakers in both the Senate and the House will be new to their jobs:

The turnover is caused partly by the state's term limits law and a strong showing by Republicans in last year's elections. Republicans built on their advantage in the Senate and grabbed control of House from Democrats.

Lawmakers will begin the new session with a new Republican Governor and a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Both the Senate and House will also see new legislative leaders. Republican Randy Richardville will be Senate Majority Leader and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer will be the Senate Minority Leader.  In the House, Republican Jase Bolger will be Speaker and Democrat Richard Hammel will be the House Minority Leader.

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers return to Lansing this week. The new state legislature will be sworn in at the state Capitol. 

Michigan Public Radio's Laura Weber filed this report from Lansing:

New and returning lawmakers will be greeted in Lansing by a nearly $2 billion budget deficit, and no new federal stimulus to help them fill the holes. Many new Republican lawmakers say they were elected to cut state spending and reduce the size of government. Republican leaders in both the House and Senate say local government revenue sharing could be on the line for deep cuts. The Legislature has several months to balance the budget. This week lawmakers will be sworn in, choose their seats on the floor, and establish rules of the chamber.

Flickr

The politicos over at NBC's First Read have put together a look at the 112th Congress by the numbers:

  • In the House: Republicans will hold a 242-193 advantage.
  • In the Senate: Democrats will hold a 53-47 majority. (Two senators are independent but caucus with the Democrats).
  • There are 96 new members of the House (87 Republicans, nine Democrats).
  • The House will include 43 Tea Party-backed members.
  • The Senate will have five Tea Party-backed members.
  • In total, in the Senate, there will be 16 new members (13 Republicans, three Democrats).
Three New Michigan Congressmen
Photo courtesy of huizengaforcongress.com

Michigan's congressional delegation is getting a makeover. One-third of its 15 members will be new when they're sworn in later this afternoon at the Capitol.  Here's a rundown of who is in... and who is out:

1st District

Republican Dan Benishek won the race to succeed veteran Democrat Bart Stupak in Michigan’s 1st District which covers all of the Upper Peninsula and parts of the northern Lower Peninsula. Stupak announced last April that he would not seek a 10th term in Washington. Benishek was a Tea-Party favorite and was endorsed by former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

2nd District

Republican Bill Huizenga beat Democrat Fred Johnson in Michigan’s 3rd District in western Michigan.  Huizenga takes the seat left open by Republican Pete Hoekstra who was a GOP candidate for governor in the state’s 2010 primary.

3rd District

West Michigan freshman state lawmaker Justin Amash beat his Democratic challenger Pat Miles in Michigan’s 3rd District which covers parts of west Michigan. At 30 years old, Amash will become one of the nation’s youngest U.S. Congressmen.  He had Tea-Party backing.

4th District

Republican Dave Camp won an 11th term as Representative of Michigan’s 4th District.  Camp beat his democrat challenger Jerry Campbell.  The 4th District includes parts of Saginaw County, as well as northern and central Michigan.

Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.
Flickr

Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation will take the oath of office today at the nation's Capitol. As we've reported, the state's delegation is full of new faces. The Associated Press reports:

Longtime congressmen and first-termers alike are scheduled to be sworn in en masse at the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon, and incoming House Speaker John Boehner is to hold individual ceremonies for some lawmakers later in the day. One of those getting an individual swearing-in ceremony is Justin Amash, a Republican from the Grand Rapids area. New Michigan Republican congressman Tim Walberg of Tipton also will be sworn in individually by Boehner around the same time.

There are 15 members of the state's Congressional delegation, five of them are new.  Although, GOP Representative Tim Walberg could be considered a 'second year freshman' as he won a seat in Congress in 2006 but lost it in 2008.  He won back the seat in this past November's election.

General Motors' Headquarters, Detroit, MI
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Dan Akerson, Chairman and CEO of General Motors, is planning to meet Friday with members of Michigan's congressional delegation.  That's according to an official familiar with the meeting.  The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that, "it will give Akerson a chance to meet some Michigan lawmakers for the first time".

Akerson was named GM's CEO in September, 2010. GM has not yet commented on the meeting.

As the AP notes:

Michigan's 15 House members and two senators were key allies for GM as it underwent a government-led bankruptcy in 2009. The Detroit company had its initial public offering last November, reducing the government's ownership share to 33.3 percent.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / Flickr

Leaders in the state legislature have called lawmakers back to the Capitol today for a final meeting of this year's legislative session. The news comes after lawmakers had called it quits earlier this month. As Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network reports, lawmakers have to go back to Lansing to correct a few procedural mistakes from the earlier lame-duck session:

The state Senate has a few bills sent back from the House for final approval, including a measure that would lower the minimum age for blood donation from 17 to 16. The House also needs to meet Wednesday to approve a resolution to adjourn for the year. But it's unclear if enough lawmakers can be wrangled on short notice to return to the state Capitol to vote.

And, as The Associated Press reports:

Lawmakers might enroll and send to Gov. Jennifer Granholm legislation allowing sale of the Michigan School for the Deaf site in Flint to a developer who wants to redevelop the property and keep the school open. Bills that would regulate billboards for sexually oriented businesses are among the others that need final approval or procedural votes before they can be sent to Granholm.

It doesn't appear that either chamber will take up controversial measures including teacher-tenure reform or insurance for autism treatments.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Terry Johnston/Flickr

Well, it appears that state lawmakers aren't quite done with this year's lame duck legislative session.

It's been announced that both the Democrat-led House and Republican-led Senate will convene at the state Capitol tomorrow.  The news comes after lawmakers declared their two-year session was done on December 3rd.

However, the Associated Press reports, that neither chamber is expected to take up any controversial issues:

The House is expected to deal with legislation cracking down on human trafficking and a few other issues. The Senate will deal with bills that can't be sent to GovernorJennifer Granholm because they didn't get an immediate effect vote or because they were changed by the House. Lawmakers aren't expected to take up insurance coverage for autism, teacher tenure rules or other sensitive subjects that were left unaddressed before adjourning earlier this month.

Capitol Building, Lansing
Terry Johnston/Flickr

It's expected that the debate over whether insurance companies should be required to cover autism treatments for children will continue at the state Capitol next year.

Legislation that would have required insurance companies to cover autism treatments stalled in the GOP-led state Senate in the final hours of the 2009-2010 legislative session.

Republican Lieutenant Governor-elect Brian Calley has an autistic daughter.  He's been one of the most vocal proponents of the reforms.  Calley said:

Eventually the facts will catch up with the decision-makers and this will happen. I plan to advocate for this starting immediately next year and help education the incoming members, the new members, on this issue, and find a solution for the 15,000 families in Michigan that are struggling through this right now.

Calley said he hopes leaders in next year’s Republican-controlled House and Senate will approve the reforms.

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