Michigan Legislature

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.

LGBT flag
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.

Road in need of repair.
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.

 

From the Associated Press:

An upbeat Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan now is adding jobs and living within its means and is poised for an even better year ahead if lawmakers approve new projects boosting the economy such as a bridge linking Detroit and Canada.

Snyder made the comments during his second State of the State address Wednesday at the Capitol.

Governor Rick Snyder has no interest in attempting to make Michigan a "right-to-work" state, which means one where it is illegal for employers to sign labor contracts requiring their workers to pay union dues. But some Republicans in the legislature disagree, and may try to get a right-to-work bill passed this year.

There’s also the possibility of trying to put something on the November ballot, a constitutional amendment, perhaps, that would outlaw the union shop in this state. It’s unclear whether there is really going to be any serious effort to make that happen.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce hopes the legislature will pass several pro-business laws before election year politics starts throwing obstacles in the way this year.   

Rich Studley is the president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. He said there’s probably only a small window before this year’s elections start affecting the ability of the legislature and the governor to get any work done.   

"We believe that between now and the May filing deadline …between now and the end of May and the start of June…there are five months that the legislature and the governor can still work on key issues," said Studley.    

The chamber is pushing for the elimination of Michigan’s ‘personal property tax’ and would like to streamline environmental and other regulations.    

The state’s largest business industry group is also encouraging the governor to move ahead with plans to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, even  if he has to do it without the legislature’s approval.  

One major issue not on the state Chamber of Commerce’s agenda is ‘Right to Work’. Chamber officials say their members have not reached a consensus on the issue.  More than 20 states prohibit agreements between employers and unions that require workers to join the union or pay union dues.

Michigan Municipal League

The Michigan Legislature began the new session this week, and with Gov. Rick Snyder scheduled to deliver his second State of the State address, the agenda for state government is underway.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White asks, what kind of relationship might we see between the Governor and the legislature this year?

She spoke with 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.

 

user: mattileo/flickr

The non-partisan Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency is reporting that the state is bringing in more money than expected with the 2011 fiscal year ending with a surplus. Joining us now are 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.

Michigan Municipal League

This year, ushered in a new Governor, Republican Rick Snyder, and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.

Joining us to take a look back at the year in state politics are 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.

user: mattileo/flickr

With the city of Flint now under an emergency manger, and the city of Detroit under preliminary financial review…we’ve been hearing a lot about Michigan’s emergency manager law.

While Public Act 4, which passed earlier this year, gives E-M’s more sweeping power, the emergency manager law itself isn’t new.

Here to take look at the first E-M law is Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry.

user: mattileo/flickr

With the legislature on their "hunting break" right now and the holidays quickly approaching, there’s not much time to get legislative agenda items pushed through before the end of the year.

In this week's political roundup we take a look at what we might expect between now and the end of the year.

Governor Snyder has to be hoping that the State Senate goes along with the changes the State House of Representatives made to the anti-bullying legislation now before the legislature.

Otherwise, the Michigan Senate will continue to be the object of nationwide scorn, and the governor may have to veto the bill. If you haven’t been following this, there has been steady pressure building for years for Lansing to pass an anti-bullying bill.

There have been a rash of stories about kids who were so tormented in school they took their own lives.

Republicans in the state Legislature want to change Michigan’s workers compensation law. They say the changes would help Michigan businesses by reducing what business owners pay in insurance premiums.

Democrats say the changes would also reduce the amount of money given to many injured workers.       

Michael Czinski was hurt on the job as a police officer a few years ago. He broke his wrist in a fall and damaged an artery that supplied blood to the area. Three surgeries later, he has limited use of his right hand.

Republican leaders at the state Capitol say the recall of Representative Paul Scott will not change their approach to education or economic policy.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville stated:

“You’re not going to see a loss of momentum here. I see just the opposite, that we’re going to continue – we’re not going to slow down. We’re going to keep up the same pace. Nothing is going to change about what we’re doing or how we’re going to do it.”

The election for southern Genesee County voters to choose Scott’s replacement will be February 28th of next year. The winner will serve the final seven months of Scott’s House term.

House Speaker Jase Bolger said Republicans will mount a strong effort to keep the seat.

“The voters have a chance to speak in February in a different opportunity than they had this time,” Bolger said. “This time, they had to say yes or no to recalling one person. In February, they’ll have two cases presented to them on how they want to see the future of the state go. So, they’ll have that opportunity in February and we look forward to them expressing their voice.”

The local Republican and Democratic parties must choose their candidates for the special election no more 15 days after the results of the recall are certified.

Rep. Scott's official website

The vote was close, but it was not close enough to rescue Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) from losing his job. Scott is 29 years old and once was pegged as a rising Republican star. He told a group of supporters that he and Republican reformers in Lansing are the targets of special interests.

“We took the state by storm and we made fundamental changes and we had the establishment government unions living in our community, trying to overturn the will of the voters and we just came up a little bit short in that fight,” said Scott.

All told, $225,000 or more was spent by both sides in the campaign, making this a very expensive legislative race. South Genesee County residents were bombarded since August with TV and radio ads, brochures stuffed in doors, and mailings.

Governor Snyder put forth a bold new message on infrastructure a couple days ago. What he said immediately won praise from columnists and editorial pages across the state.

As a matter of fact, the governor’s plan is being enthusiastically supported by nearly everybody who understands how desperate a shape Michigan’s roads and bridges are in.

I looked at the details of the governor’s proposal when it was unveiled, but deliberately decided to refrain from saying anything about it until it was clear what the reaction would be.

There now seems to be an increasing likelihood that Governor Snyder may bypass the legislature and find another way to build a new bridge across the Detroit River. Late last week, a spokesman for the Ambassador Bridge Company said that would be outrageous.

He said it would be a perversion of the process to build a new bridge after the legislature said no. If that were the case, he might have a point. But that’s not at all what happened.

So, who is Rick Snyder, really? I spent a half hour talking to the governor yesterday, the first long conversation I’ve had with him since he took office exactly eight months ago.

Since then, he’s gotten more through the legislature than the last governor did in eight years. He’s also been the subject of nasty criticism and a recall attempt.

I was curious about a lot of things, one of which being whether he still likes this job he worked so hard at winning a year ago.

Mercedes Mejia

Since taking office Governor Snyder has proposed many new education reform proposals, including mandatory Schools of Choice, which would allow students throughout the state to attend schools outside of their district.

In this weeks political roundup we take a look at Schools of Choice with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow for Public Sector Consultants.

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