Michigan Legislature

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.

As you may know by now, the Michigan Legislature passed a bill  yesterday limiting how much local governments and schools can spend to provide health care for their employees.

The new law, which Governor Snyder is expected to sign, says local governments can contribute a maximum of fifty-five hundred dollars an employee, or fifteen thousand dollars a family.

Their only other option is to split health coverage cost with the employees, as long as the workers pay at least twenty percent.

Local governments can opt out of these requirements, but it won’t be easy. They’d have to do so by a two-thirds vote of their council or school board, and take a new vote every year.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The state Legislature has approved a measure that would mean higher health care costs for some teachers and local government employees.

The bill would require local governments to pay no more than 80 percent of their employee health care costs, or limit the payment to 15 thousand dollars a year per family.

Democratic state Senator Glenn Anderson called his Republican colleagues hypocrites:

“I just find it amazing that anyone that would support this bill would get up and make statements about the federal government dictating to us at the state level what we must and must not do. And yet we’re super-imposing our will on a matter that has always been a local issue.”

 The measure now heads to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

Michigan Municipal League

The Michigan legislature starts its new session soon.  So, what can we expect from Governor Snyder and state legislators in the coming months?

We talk about state politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas Political Analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

 

 

National Organizers Alliance

It's been a very busy legislative year in Michigan. There’s a new tax code, teacher tenure reform, and a new state budget. But across the country, social issues have been major legislative topics, but not so much in this state.

In our weekly political discussion Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks 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.

The primary focus, so far, has been on jobs and the budget according to Demas who says social issues have snuck into legislative talks.

"With the budget, the gay partner benefit issue held up the process for several days with House Republicans trying to get some provisions in that would penalize universities that offer domestic partner benefits. And committees have been doing work on abortion issues, particularly the so-called partial birth abortion issue."

Cedar Bend Drive / Flickr

The federal government is expected to rule soon that Michigan’s system for funding Medicaid is illegal. That would put more than a billion dollars in federal funds and the state’s balanced budget at risk unless the Legislature adopts another plan to come up with that money.

Governor Rick Snyder has been pressuring the Legislature to adopt a one percent tax on all health insurance claims. That would put Michigan in compliance with federal rules. Otherwise, Michigan could lose 10 percent of its funding for the entire Medicaid program.

The claims tax would generate $400 million, and qualify the state for twice that much in federal funds.

The governor says the state’s balanced budget for the coming fiscal year is at stake, as well his promise not to cut Medicaid services for the poor as Michigan is just beginning to emerge from a long recession.

“I think it’s a good thing to do to ensure we balance our budget and we have good Medicaid in our state.”

But support among lawmakers for a new tax has been elusive. The measure failed when state Senate leaders put it up for a test vote.

A new battle over education is shaping up in Lansing -- and this time, it’s not over funding. It has to do with whether community colleges should be able to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees.

Traditionally, this has never been the case. Community colleges, or as they used to be called, junior colleges, had two roles:

The partisan battle over the state’s new maps of congressional and legislative districts kicks off Tuesday at the state Capitol.

Republicans are likely to get their plans adopted. They control the House, the Senate and the governor’s office. A legal challenge would probably be decided by the GOP controlled state Supreme Court.

Democrats charge Republicans manipulated the lines to put two Democratic incumbents together in one district – and to shore up the GOP base for some vulnerable Republicans.

Teacher Tenure

Jun 10, 2011

Everybody whose life has been at all successful has had at least one really good teacher. But most people have had some really bad teachers too. In high school, I had an algebra teacher during the last hour of the day who gave out assignments and promptly left for the racetrack. As far as I know, he was never fired.

On the other hand, there are many good teachers. I was married to one whose students topped the state, year after year, in their performance on the AP history exam. I don’t think she ever worked less than 70 hours a week.

Charley Ballard, Michigan State University economist, spoke with Cyndy about the health of Michigan's economy.
Michigan State University

Governor Snyder and the legislature have come to an agreement on the state’s new tax structure. Does it make fiscal sense?

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Charles Ballard, an economist at Michigan State University and author of “Michigan’s Economic Future.” Here's the interview.

Andy / Flickr

The House Fiscal Agency says it expects Michigan to take in $427 million more by Sept. 30 than earlier forecasts.

It tempers the good news with a warning that the new business tax cut just enacted will create a deficit in the next budget year that will have to be filled with about $77 million of the extra revenue.

The agency released its figures Friday in anticipation of Monday's revenue estimating conference where state economists will forecast how much tax money the state will take in through 2012.

Drunken Sailors

Apr 15, 2011

I’ve been following the Michigan legislature’s attempts to approve various sections of the state budget, and the cliché that first came to my mind this morning was the wrong one. I was tempted to tell you that they have been behaving like drunken sailors.

Unpopular Votes

Mar 18, 2011

For the last two months, Michigan has been consumed with debate over Governor Snyder’s proposed new budget --  and with a number of his other deal-changing priorities as well, such as the just passed tough new Emergency Financial Manager law.

But there are other issues, and a lobbyist for one showed up in Lansing yesterday to urge the legislature to vote to change the way we elect presidents. Tom Golisano, a millionaire businessman and philanthropist, is the spokesperson for a group called National Popular Vote, which is beginning to have some success.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Two controversial measures have cleared the Michigan Legislature and will soon await Governor Snyder's signature.

One would repeal the law that requires store owners to put price tags on most items in their stores, and the other would grant sweeping power to emergency financial managers.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he agrees with Governor Rick Snyder that Michigan’s item pricing law is outdated, and it’s time to allow retailers to upgrade their systems.

"I've been a proponent for, I don’t know, most of my career I’d say," said Richardville.

Once signed into law, store owners will soon no longer be required to put price tags on almost every item on their shelves.

Richardville says removing price tags will not hurt customers or confuse seniors:

"I don’t think anybody’s trying to maliciously cheat senior citizens. I think if the market demands such, people will make it easy to see what the prices are. Whether it’s individual item pricing, or something different, I think the store owners are pretty responsive to their customers," said Richardville.

Democrats say price tags protect consumers from being overcharged in checkout lines.

The item pricing vote fell mostly along party lines, but that wasn’t the only partisan bill moving through the Legislature.

The Republican-led House also gave final approval to a proposal that gives more authority to emergency managers of cities, townships or school districts.

The legislation passed on party-line votes.

Democratic House Minority Leader Rick Hammel says there are many "union-busting" pieces to the emergency manager bills, including elimination of collective bargaining rights at the local level.

"And on top of that, doing away with contracts of other folks that are just doing business with the local unit of government, so a lot of things that are really problematic for us in this," says Hammel.

Democrats railed against the measure for eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.

Representatives for the labor movement say they will be at the Capitol all week protesting those and other Republican proposals.

Senate.michigan.gov

A Michigan lawmaker is defending the decision to shut down the state legislature again today as the state continues to dig out from Wednesday’s storm. 

The snowstorm that battered many parts of Michigan   prompted lawmakers to cancel legislative sessions and committee meetings again on Thursday.

State Senator Rick Jones defends the decision. He says it’s in the best interest of the public.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The announced closings continue. Now state government is getting in on the action.

From the Associated Press:

The expectation of a winter storm will close down the Michigan Legislature. The state Senate and House have canceled sessions and committee meetings previously scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday because of a snowstorm that's expected to dump more than a foot of snow in some parts of Michigan. Wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph also are expected Wednesday in some areas with temperatures around 20 degrees. Both chambers were open for business Tuesday. Legislative offices will be closed Wednesday but might be open Thursday depending on the weather.

Some republicans in the Michigan legislature are beginning their push for a repeal of the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

It's a credit that bell-weather conservatives, like Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, have supported on the federal level.

Terry Johnston / Flickr

Michigan lawmakers, both new and returning, are at the state Capitol today being sworn into the state Legislature. The 2011 session began at noon. Laura Weber is at the Capitol and filed this report:

Dave Hildenbrand is a Republican who will be sworn in as a state Senator. He served six years in the state House. He says House and Senate Republican lawmakers are focused on the same things:

The public spoke very clearly that they want things done differently here in Michigan, and so we’re ready to get to work to help strengthen our state and just make it a better place for the people who live here.

Hildenbrand says lawmakers want to deal the state’s complicated business tax quickly. He says the Legislature needs to help create a better business climate in Michigan.

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.

Matthileo / Flickr

Michigan's four new legislative leaders all sat down together yesterday for an interview.  The four include Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger and Democratic House Minority Leader Rich Hammel.  The four are known as "The Quadrant."

In an interview on the public television program "Off the Record," the Legislature’s new Republican leaders said public employees and local governments will have to share in the pain of budget cuts to help address Michigan’s fiscal problems.

As Rick Pluta reports:

Richardville and Bolger said state employees will likely see reductions in their paychecks and benefits. The Democratic leaders said they want to work with Republicans, but will fight efforts to impose more cuts on public employees and local governments.

To find out more about the state's four new Legislative leaders check out Dome Magazine where columnist Susan Demas has a great profile of The Quadrant.

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