Michigan Legislature

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The Michigan Court of Appeals has sided with House Republicans in the dispute over the "immediate effect" rule in that chamber.

"Immediate effect" allows bills to become effective right after the Governor signs them. The Michigan Constitution requires that bills go into effect 90 days after the end of a legislative session unless two-thirds of the legislature supports the bill.

Democrats in the House say Republican leaders have not been allowing these immediate effect votes to go forward. They took the issue to court last March.

Today's ruling is another blow to their effort to stop the practice.

From the Detroit Free Press:

In an opinion released today, a three-member panel of the appeals court sent the lawsuit back to Ingham County Circuit Court with instructions that it be dismissed.

The court said taking a voice vote is in compliance with the House rules, which the courts do not oversee.

We asked political analysts Susan Demas and Ken Sikkema about the hullabaloo last April. Here's what they had to say:

According to Sikkema, more than 90% of bills passed in the last 25 or 30 years got immediate effect. “I was elected in 1986, and the first 6 years I was in the House I was in the minority…the same thing occurred to me that House Democrats are complaining about today.”

So, could there be backlash for Republicans? “That’s certainly what House Democrats are aiming for here,” Demas says. “This is part of their ongoing, Republican corruption theme, and their assertion that they [Republicans] are not doing a good job.

Gov. Rick Snyder
Rick Snyder for Michigan / Facebook.com

Update 3:18 p.m.

MPRN’s Rick Pluta reports that reactions to Gov. Snyder's vetoes today were divided across party lines:

Republicans – including Secretary of State Ruth Johnson – said the bills were reasonable ways to ensure only people who are supposed to vote cast ballots. She says the veto will not stop her from including a box on voter registration forms affirming their U.S. citizenship.

The governor did sign 11 other bills in the package. But GOP leaders in the Legislature expressed disappointment in their Republican governor’s decision to veto some of their work.

House Speaker Jase Bolger quickly issued a statement expressing his disappointment in the vetoes.    

Democrats, on the other hand, praised the decision as “courageous.”

House Democratic Leader Rick Hammell said the vetoes were “brave,” and Michigan AFL CIO President Karla Swift praised the governor for standing up to “extremists” in his party.

The governor said in a veto letter that “voting rights are precious and we need to work especially hard to make it possible for people to vote.” 

2:07 p.m.

The Michigan Election Coalition publicly thanked Gov. Rick Snyder for vetoing three election bills today. The group is a collection of organizations with the common aim of ending what it calls "voter suppression legislation" in Lansing.

In an MEC press release, Sue Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan said,

“On the eve of Independence Day, this is a huge victory for our American democracy. We want to thank Gov. Snyder for doing the right thing by vetoing this unfair and unjust legislation. While today’s action is a step in the right direction, the League of Women Voters will continue to educate voters about their rights to make sure every eligible voter can make their voice heard at the ballot box this November."

In the press release another MEC member, Melanie McElroy, Executive Director of Common Cause Michigan, said,

“Gov. Snyder’s veto pen should send a strong message to Lansing politicians that it’s time to halt these voter suppression efforts once and for all. Our elected leaders need to stop the partisan games, and start working together to expand access to voting in Michigan.”

The AP reports that Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says he's "deeply disappointed" his party's governor vetoed "very reasonable" changes to election laws.

More from Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta to come.

12:35 p.m.

Gov. Snyder has vetoed three bills in a Republican-sponsored package.

The vetoed bills would have required people to affirm their U.S. citizenship and show a photo ID before they can get a ballot, and require people to get training before they can register voters. In both cases, the governor says, the measures would have created too much confusion about who can vote or register people to vote.

The governor signed 11 other measures including ones that would require ballot petitions to be submitted in advance for the Secretary of State to post online, and forbid the use of campaign funds to cover legal expenses unrelated to campaigning.

user tobym / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court won't upset a decision that keeps limits on campaign contributions for Michigan House and Senate races.

The court says a federal judge in Grand Rapids made the right call when she refused to issue an injunction. Republican political strategist Greg McNeilly says the limits hurt his free-speech rights. He's challenging the $500 cap for state House candidates and $1,000 maximum donation to state Senate candidates.

The appeals court said Tuesday that Michigan's restrictions still don't seem to stop challengers from running competitive campaigns.

In 2010, Judge Janet Neff refused to issue an injunction two months before the general election. She says the law has been in place for decades.

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a reduction in the state income tax.

Last year, Gov. Snyder and the Legislature delayed a reduction in the income tax rate to January 1 of 2013. This measure moves it up a little. Now, the rate will drop -- slightly -- to 4.25 percent on October first. There will also be an increase in the personal exemption.

Democrats say the tax relief offered is a pittance – about 50 cents a week – compared to the dozen tax breaks for working poor households, homeowners, and seniors on pensions that were eliminated last year as part of a Republican-led tax overhaul. That did not stop most from voting for the rollback.  

Republican leaders say the economy – and, therefore, revenue – has improved enough for the state to afford a tax cut. It also happens to coincide with an election year. The two Republican sponsors of the tax rollback come from competitive districts.

Flickr user Timothy J

The Michigan Legislature has approved bills that would give biological fathers some rights to their children, even if the mothers were married to other men at the time of birth.

Michigan law now presumes that a woman's husband is the father of her children, making him responsible for their support and denying parental rights to the biological father.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Retired lawmakers would pay the same 20 percent of their health care premiums that other public retirees are being asked to pay under legislation passed by the Michigan House.

A set of bills aiming to more strictly regulate abortion providers in Michigan is on the way to the state House floor after clearing committee by a wide margin. 

Update 5:19 p.m. -From Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta:

The measures are backed by the Catholic Church and by the anti-abortion group Right to Life. Ed Rivet of Right to Life says critics are mis-representing their motives. He says the purpose is to ensure women have safe facilities 

“Every time we’ve  done this either women are going to die, or they’re going to be denied access to abortion and neither of those is true," Rivet said. "Those threats are always veiled, empty threats that never come true. The fact that 28 out of 32 abortion clinics in Michigan are not inspected or licensed is a fact.”

3:55 p.m.

The Detroit News reports that House Bills 5711-13 would make abortion providers follow new guidelines when handling the remains of aborted fetuses and require facilities where abortions are performed to seek the same licensing as surgery facilities, even if they only administer oral abortion medications. The bills would also make it a criminal act to coerce a woman into having an abortion. 

From the News:

In written testimony, the head of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan said the bills place "burdensome requirements" on women's health care clinics that only dispense oral abortion medication to upgrade their facilities to handle surgical abortions they do not perform.

"Women rightfully don't turn to politicians for advice about mammograms, prenatal care or cancer treatments," said Lori Lamerand, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan. "Politicians should not be involved in a woman's personal medical decisions about her pregnancy."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State lawmakers have passed a budget plan for most of state government for next year.

The House and Senate passed an Omnibus spending bill that covers all of state government, except education.   The state House passed the bill on a 61 to 49 vote.   The bill passed the state Senate on a 20 to 16 vote.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House plans to begin consideration of measures moving up an income tax cut from January to October and increasing how much income someone can earn before taxes kick in.

screengrab from the War Room on Current TV

Yesterday, a meeting of the Michigan House Redistricting and Elections Committee was disrupted by protesters angry about proposed changes to the state's election laws.

Chief among protesters' concerns was a measure, now headed to the state House floor, that would strengthen ID requirements for voter registration in Michigan.

gophouse.com

A House committee meeting in Lansing was interrupted today by a group of about 50 protestors angry over proposed election law changes.

The House Redistricting and Elections Committee planned to vote on a series of changes including one that would require either a photo ID or birth certificate to be presented when registering to vote.  Opponents argue that the new rule would create unfair hurdles for some potential voters.

Protestors yelled slogans including "respect our vote" and some people were escorted outside.

According to the Detroit News, the protest was led by Pastor W.J. Rideout and Rev. Charles Williams Sr., the latter of whom told committee members "you're killing democracy" before leaving the meeting.

Another man, the News says, told committee chairman Rep. Pete Lund that, "The blood of Martin Luther King Junior is on your hands."

Despite the disruption, the committee voted to have the bill move to the House floor. 

-John Klein Wilson,Michigan Radio Newsroom

Flickr user/jemasmith

The Roman Catholic church says a newly formed prayer caucus in the Michigan Legislature that specifically endorses Judeo-Christian tradition should open itself to officials of "any faith." About 30 lawmakers and Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley sang "God Bless America" and prayed at Wednesday's launch.

The caucus says in its founding statement that it's "a bipartisan body of believers of Scriptural Truth, adhering to established Judeo-Christian principles."

The statement has drawn criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations based on what the group's state director Dawud Walid says is its "exclusionary language."

 The Michigan Catholic Conference has weighed in as well, saying it hopes that "elected officials of any faith are made to feel welcome." Caucus co-founder Rep. Ken Kurtz says anyone may join.

user Biodun / themedicalhealthplus.com

Elected state officials in Michigan can be more secretive about money than federal officials. At the state level, the disclosure laws on money and politics make it easier to hide conflicts of interest and influence on politicians.

When Governor Rick Snyder delivered his State of the State address last January, he tucked into it a quick mention about making state government more open.

Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia commons

A plan to roll back taxes...that some criticize, but others rely on...is expected to clear a major hurdle this week. A legislative committee is expected to wrap up hearings on the plan, and send it to the floor of the state Senate.

Maufacturers say there would be more hiring and investment in factories if not for Michigan’s unique tax on industrial equipment. The Senate plan would phase out the tax – starting next year -- by 2022.

But the Republican proposal would not replace all the revenue lost to local governments that rely on the tax as a source of funding for services. Communities with a big industrial presence would be hit the hardest.

They say with no guarantee that all the revenue will be replaced, they could be forced to cut services more than they have already, or increase other taxes to make up the difference.

user RyAwesome / fotopedia

The state Senate has amended a budget bill to add a new exception to Michigan’s workplace smoking ban.

The Senate version of the human services budget would prohibit spending money to enforce the smoking ban against an annual charity cigar dinner in Traverse City and other events like it.

Republican state Senator Howard Walker sponsored the budget amendment.

"It has to do with non-profits that have been in business for over 10 years for their charity which will help some of the needy folks in the community,” Walker said.

Specifically, the amendment would allow the Father Fred Foundation cigar dinner to go forward without running the risk of a citation.

Organizers have been trying to find away around the smoking ban since 2010.

Right now, the only exceptions to the smoking ban are the casinos in Detroit and on tribal land.

Anti-smoking groups oppose the exception.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Teachers turned out by the hundreds in Lansing to oppose legislation that would force them to pay more for their pensions and retirement health care, or have their benefits reduced.

Some of them protested outside a state Senate committee hearing today on the legislation.

One of them was Pinckney teacher Sam Ziegler. He says the measure would break a promise to his profession.

"I knew I wasn't going to be a millionaire teaching," Ziegler said. "But it was something that was worthwhile that benefited others and myself, and I was told that I'd have a pension to go to and now it’s just slowly eroding and I see the danger that it will keep eroding away."

But some Republicans like state Senator Patrick Colbeck says the public school employee pension fund has liabilities so big the system could go insolvent if nothing is done. 

"Somebody’s got to pay for that eventually, later and right now that’s being pushed off because – if we’re talking about dealing with unfunded liabilities – being pushed off to the same kids that we're working hard to educate right now," said Colbeck.

Teachers say state government has increased the stress on the system with budget cuts that reduce districts capacity to pay into it, and forced layoffs that mean fewer people paying into the system.

For the last fifteen months, Republicans have controlled everything in sight in Lansing -- the House, the Senate, the governor’s office and the Supreme Court.

They have the majorities to pass essentially anything they want, and even if something is constitutionally controversial, they are secure in the knowledge that it’s almost certain that the disgracefully partisan Michigan Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

antiochla.edu / Antioch University

At the state Capitol, a Democratic lawmaker has called for expending Michigan’s civil rights law to protect people who are gay, lesbian or transgender from many types of discrimination.

State Senator Rebekah Warren says expanding the civil rights law would send a message that Michigan is trying to attract creative workers and entrepreneurs.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update:

The state Senate could vote this week on the first major amendment to the Michigan medical marijuana law since it was adopted by voters in 2008. A measure approved Tuesday by a Senate committee would remove the eye disease glaucoma from the list of conditions that would qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card.

Doctor David Newman is the president of the Michigan State Medical Society. He says glaucoma never should have been part of the proposal.

“The medical marijuana act was approved by public referendum but the language presented to the voters presented unclear information and, in this case, was contrary to the medical evidence on glaucoma,” Newman said. 

Newman says marijuana, at the most, can only offer very short-term relief from the symptoms of glaucoma. He says the bigger problem for doctors is that patients use it instead of proven medical strategies for controlling the condition and preventing blindness.

But some glaucoma patients like Barbara Knox showed up at a state Senate committee meeting to oppose the bill. Knox says she uses marijuana along with her prescribed medication.

“If you had my eyes, would you not do everything you could to prevent blindness?” Knox asked. “The thought of going blind just terrifies me. Please, please help me save my right to use an alternate medicine to aid in the treatment of my glaucoma.”

Knox says her doctor would prefer she not use marijuana.

Amending the voter-approved medical marijuana would require super-majorities in the House and the Senate.

3:52

A state Senate committee has voted to strip glaucoma from the list of conditions that qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card. The state Senate could vote on the amendment to the voter-approved medical marijuana law later this week.

More details to come soon.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers might soon take some initial votes on bills related to abortion law in the state.

Legislation awaiting a vote in the Republican-led House would require a doctor or an assistant to do some screening before an abortion to make sure a pregnant woman isn't being forced or coerced to have the abortion against her will. Other bills would provide penalties for coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will.

Ingham County

Legislation that would allow counties to scrap their road commissions is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

Once the governor signs the bills, it would be up to county commissions to decide whether to get rid of their road commissions, and take over their responsibilities.

The bills cleared the state House today along largely party-line votes.

State Representative Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) voted against the measures.

She says it would be too easy for county commissions to divert money currently used for plowing and repairs to other purposes.

“I have sincere concerns about what will happen if the county road commissions are absolved into the county board and what will happen to those road funds,” said Byrum. “Currently, they’re designated to be used on roads but, I just - I have some serious concerns.”

But State Representative Dale Zorn (R-Ida) says county commissions won’t abolish their road commissions unless it makes financial sense.

“Because that, I believe it will work in some counties. In some counties, it won’t be as advantageous for them to do,” explained Zorn. “It really depends on how much money is being paid in the cost of administrative services.”

Road commissioners say the legislation puts too much local politics into road management.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are continuing votes aimed at reducing the number of probate, district and circuit court judgeships statewide through attrition.

The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a series of bills that would make some of the reductions. The measures return to the House.

Overall, the Legislature plans to trim an estimated 36 judgeships statewide. That includes legislation already signed by Gov. Rick Snyder that eliminates eight judgeships across the state.

Lawmakers originally had sought to reduce about 45 judgeships. The plan largely follows recommendations made last year by the State Court Administrative Office.

Peter Ito / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is looking for more money to support transportation costs in Michigan. That includes more than $1 billion to fix roads and bridges.

We talk to Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State House Democrats say it’s time to beef up Michigan’s campaign finance and political ethics laws.

House Democrats unveiled a set of proposals that include a constitutional amendment that would require corporations to disclose political and lobbying activity, and a measure that would prevent state lawmakers from being lobbyists in the state for two years after a political term.

 “Every year that goes by that we have not passed meaningful reform is another year that the bad actors in the state are allowed to spend money to influence public opinion with little or no accountability,” said State House Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal.

Ari Adler is the press secretary for Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

Adler says at first glance he’s not impressed.

“Saying you support better campaign finance and ethics laws is like saying you support the sun coming up tomorrow. It’s difficult to argue with the concept, but the devil is in the details, and we need time to look at them,” said Adler.

Adler says he is particularly concerned that labor unions are exempt from some of the disclosure proposals.

Democrats say unions are already required to follow federal financial disclosure laws, and corporations in Michigan should be held just as accountable.

Democratic House Minority Leader Richard Hammel said their measure addresses one of Governor Rick Snyder’s key concerns for 2012.

“The governor touched on it when he called for campaign finance and ethics reform in the state, in his State of the State address,” said Hammel. “It has now been two weeks since that address, and we have yet to see majority Republicans hold any hearings on the changes the governor said are needed.”

A spokesman for House Republicans said the package of bills would need major changes before winning bipartisan support.

Benny Mazur / Flickr

Six unpaid tickets triggers sanctions at the Secretary of State's office.

Now that might change to three. From the Associated Press:

The state Legislature has approved a bill that would make it tougher and more expensive for motorists who pile up unpaid parking tickets to get their driver's licenses renewed.

The Senate passed a bill by a 27-11 vote Tuesday that would lower the number of unpaid tickets needed to prompt sanctions from the Secretary of State's office. The bill already has passed the House so it's on the way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Motorists now are blocked from getting or renewing their driver's licenses if they have six or more unresolved parking violations. That number would drop to three unpaid parking tickets under the bill.

The AP reports in 2018, the law would expire and go back to six unpaid tickets needed for sanctions.

Michigan Municipal League

Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Indiana’s legislature has passed a “right-to-work" bill. It now goes to that state’s governor and he’s expected to sign the bill into law.

Some Michigan lawmakers say this puts additional pressure on the Michigan legislature to pass its own version of these laws.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A proposal at the state Capitol would cut the Michigan income tax rate to 3.9 percent over the next five years. Right now the rate is 4.35 percent.

Republican state Senator Jack Brandenburg sponsored the measure. He said people in Michigan were promised the reduction during messy budget and tax deals made in 2007. Brandenburg said he told his Republican colleagues about his plan earlier this month.

“At our caucus retreat, we were all asked to list our priorities, and I made it clear that this is one of my priorities,” Brandenburg said.

He said an estimated $450 million budget surplus convinced him it’s a good time to propose the rollback.

“I wanted to wait to see what kind of surpluses we were having. One-tenth of a point represents  $175 million,” said Brandenburg

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville cautiously supports the proposal, but he said he’s hesitant to spend money that could be added to the state’s rainy day savings fund.

Democrats say surplus should be used to restore cuts made to K-12 schools and higher education.

user Snappy.joneS / Flickr

Last week, Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark reported on a bill introduced in the Michigan Legislature that would "create a specialty license plate to raise money for the Right to Life of Michigan Fund."

Now, the Associated Press reports that the bill has cleared its first legislative hurdle, garnering unanimous approval  from the Michigan Senate Transportation Committee.

From the AP:

The legislation would allow Michigan residents to buy a "Choose Life" license plate with a portion of the money going to Right to Life. The organization says the money would go to abortion prevention projects.

The bill will now make its way to the state Senate floor, the Associated Press reports.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Flickr user fellowship of the rich

A package of bills soon to be introduced in the Michigan Legislature is expected to propose higher vehicle registration fees and tax changes to raise more money for road repairs. The bipartisan bills will have support from Republican Governor Rick Snyder. He says Michigan is under-investing in its roads to the tune of $1.4 billion a year.
    

Snyder says it would make more financial sense to start addressing the problem now. The repair bill will be even worse the longer Michigan waits to address the problem.
    

Governor Snyder’s state of the state speech last night didn’t provoke the kind of excitement it did a year ago.

And that’s not necessarily bad. In fact, it demonstrated two things; a grasp of political reality, and responsible common sense. Last year was one of revolutionary change in the way state government does business. The governor proposed a series of breathtaking programs and far-reaching changes.

To the astonishment of the experts, he got pretty much everything he wanted through the legislature, with one exception -- the New International Trade Crossing bridge.

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