Randy Richardville

State Capitol
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It looks like a decision about whether to ease restrictions on medical marijuana will come down to the final days of the state Legislature’s 2014 session.

The state Senate has been debating for almost a year whether to allow dispensaries and edible forms of medical marijuana in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to pass House Bills 4271 and 5104 in December. But he says some groups are still concerned the legislation could lead to more illegal pot sales.

  

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss whether the legislature will be able to come up with a plan to fix Michigan's roads before the end of the year, a challenge to a Grand Rapids law decriminalizing marijuana, and what’s next on Detroit’s road to recovery.


Sen. Arlan Meekhof, Michigan's next Senate Majority Leader.
Jake Neher / MPRN

Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, will be the new state Senate majority leader in 2015.

Republican senators chose Meekhof to replace term-limited Sen. Randy Richardville to lead their caucus.

Republicans will likely add one seat to their 26-12 majority in the Senate next year, although Democrats are considering a recount in one race.

Senate Democrats selected Sen. Jim Ananich of Flint as the next state Senate minority leader. He will replace term-limited Sen. Gretchen Whitmer.

Republican state Representatives will choose a new state House Speaker this afternoon.

Lame ducks?
Simone Walsh / Flickr

This is the last week the state Legislature is scheduled to meet before the November election. Lawmakers probably won’t take up any controversial bills until their “lame duck” session in December.

Supporters of legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s civil rights law are still optimistic lawmakers will pass it before the end of the year.

“I’m pretty heartened by the openness that [state House Speaker Jase Bolger] has shown to us in having those discussions,” said Shelli Weisberg with the Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union .

“But it’s going to be tough.”

Weisberg admits it would be a setback if the bill has to wait until 2015.

“I think it does make it harder to go into a new legislative session because we’ve got new members and we have to really put forth a whole new, kind of fresh education effort,” she said.

Gov. Rick Snyder says his top legislative priority before the end of the year is boosting funding for roads and infrastructure.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to relax term limits on state lawmakers.

Lawmakers could also approve bills to relax restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan during their lame duck session.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

There's been talk in Lansing about whether term limits should be extended, and that talk is heating up. 

Michigan voters approved term limits for state lawmakers back in 1992, but Republican Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville thinks maybe it's time they are extended.

Richardville says Michigan has the most restrictive term limits in the country. Other states have either rescinded or eased term limits and, he believes Michigan should review the legislation as well.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst, and he says term limits have been an unmitigated disaster. 

One of the things I’ve noticed over the last few years is how many local hospitals seem to have been taken over by McLaren Health Care, a chain that originally started in Flint.

That in itself may not be bad; there have certainly been cases of local stand-alone hospitals that lacked the resources to properly serve their communities.

But it sometimes seems to me that while America once had wards between rival steel and railroad magnates, we now have hospital system wars. And we now have a case of sheer hospital arrogance.

Phil Incarnati, McLaren’s president and CEO, seems to believe the state’s rules for allowing where hospitals can expand are just fine – as long as they don’t apply to him. Over and over again, McLaren has been denied permission to build a new hospital near Clarkston, an affluent area in northern Oakland County.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
senate.michigan.gov

The state Legislature is scheduled to meet about 20 more days between now and the end of the year.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he has two top priorities he’d like to accomplish before then. The first is to find a way to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads. The second is to ease term limits on Michigan lawmakers.

Richardville says there’s too little experience in the Legislature, thanks to current limits.

“People in general say, ‘I like the idea of term limits.’ But I don’t think they’d like it to be as restrictive as they are. If they knew how quickly and how much turnover there was here, I think they would rethink it,” said Richardville.

Richardville says he’s considering a plan that would allow term-limited lawmakers to collect a certain number of petition signatures allowing them to run again. He did not say exactly how long lawmakers should be allowed to serve.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville will be out of a job in less than six months, thanks to term limits.

This means his career in elected politics may be over.

And I am beginning to be sorry about that. In the last few months, Richardville, a former Monroe businessman, has evolved into a leader capable of looking beyond a narrow partisan agenda.

The roads are one example.

In past years, he virtually sneered at Governor Snyder’s call for the Legislature to appropriate billions to fix our crumbling roads. This spring, Richardville switched, came up with a creative plan to finance long-term road repair, and made a valiant, if failed effort, to get it through the Legislature.

He said this was because all he heard from his constituents was “just fix the damn roads.” That may be true, but he did see the light when other members of his caucus were bizarrely talking about trying to push through another tax cut instead.

User Eljoja / Flickr

The top lawmaker in the state Senate says he’s now on board with legislation to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, is now also embracing a bill that would allow state-certified patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

Richardville was not a fan of the legislation when the state House approved it late last year. But he says that has changed as he’s heard more from supporters of the bills.

“This is for well-meaning people and it’s all for medical purposes. And [patients and caregivers] came and gave some moving testimony,” said Richardville.

“There’s so much to learn about that topic, and I didn’t know a lot about it. And I didn’t realize how difficult smoking is for some people and the different ingestion techniques that are important to them.”

Supporters of House Bill 4271 say dispensaries allow people to get treatment right away, instead of having to wait for a caregiver to grow and cultivate marijuana. They say that process can take months. Patients with certain diseases, such as cancer, sometimes don’t live long enough to get the benefits of medical marijuana.

A number of state Supreme Court rulings in recent years have made it impossible for dispensaries to operate the way they did when Michigan voters first approved the state’s Medical Marijuana Act in 2008.

Advocates say House Bill 5104 is also necessary because a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling limited legal medical marijuana use to smokable forms. They say children and people with respiratory illnesses should not be forced to smoke cannabis. Products like candies, lotions, and oils can produce unique benefits and some don’t produce a “high” effect, according to patients and caregivers.

Richardville chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, where the bills sit now. He expects to move the bills to the Senate floor over the summer. He says a vote in the full state Senate could come as early as September.


So now that the Michigan Senate has approved a new, higher minimum wage, with bipartisan support (14 Rs, 10 Ds) no less, this is practically a done deal. Right?

Not so much. The headlines and stories that said it would “kill” the petition drive are speculative and premature.

This Senate bill is – at the bottom of it all – an effort to pull the rug out from under the ballot drive to raise the Michigan minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. It's a cause beloved by Democrats and progressives.

So why then did 10 out of 12 Senate Democrats go along with it? Particularly after some had already blasted the proposal as a gimmick and too paltry – especially for workers earning the lower tipped wage?


Republican state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, may have just turned up the heat in the fight over increasing Michigan’s minimum wage. But the petition campaign – headed by Raise Michigan – is already planning its pushback.

Richardville proposed yesterday his own legislation to raise the state minimum wage from $7.40 to $8.15, and a boost for tipped workers, too. But, really, this is not so much about raising the minimum wage as derailing the petition drive underway to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour plus a really big raise for tipped workers.

The Richardville proposal is separate from an earlier bill sponsored by Senator Rick Jones, R-Eaton Rapids, that would also raise the minimum wage. That one also meant to blunt the petition drive.

Both were introduced because it appears the petition drive is on track to turn in the necessary number of signatures before the deadline at the end of the month. Under the Michigan Constitution, once those signatures are certified, the state Legislature would have 40 days to vote it into law. If it doesn’t – the question goes on the November ballot.

And the polling shows, it’s pretty popular. Popular enough, Democrats hope, to boost turnout among their voters who tend to stay home in mid-term elections.

It’s Michigan minimum wage redux. This week, conservative Republican state Senator Rick Jones introduced a bill to increase Michigan’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $8.15 an hour. The measure would also increase the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.65 to $2.75 an hour.

Yes, you read that correctly. A Republican lawmaker wants to increase the state’s minimum wage.

user frank juarez / Flickr

Lawmakers in the state Senate hope to move forward this week on a plan to fund the implementation of new school standards.

Republican leaders in the Senate had hoped to introduce a resolution last week to fund the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) says it was a good idea to wait because there were so many concerns that had to be addressed.

“I want people to have a good look at it and hear from some other experts before we do anything,” said Richardville. “It’s always on our radar screen because it’s an important issue. We’re not going to let that one drag out forever.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

The Republican leader in the state Senate says he's not yet willing to commit to taking up a measure that would ban insurance companies from including abortion coverage in standard health plans.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville told reporters Tuesday that he doesn't consider it a top priority. He says he still needs time to speak with his caucus about the issue.

The group Right to Life of Michigan turned in more than 315,000 signatures last week to send the measure to the Legislature. Those signatures still need to be certified by a state board. If that happens and lawmakers fail to pass the measure, it will go on the ballot.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week in Michigan politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss Medicaid expansion, Governor Rick Snyder's political status, and the Michigan Tea Party.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s now up to the state House to decide whether to send a bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.

That’s after the state Senate narrowly approved the bill yesterday.  

But the Senate may have also delayed when the expansion could actually take effect.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A bill to expand Medicaid in Michigan could get a vote in the state Senate as early as tomorrow.   So could two other alternative plans to extend health insurance to low-income Michiganders.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says whichever route he and his colleagues decide to take, they have to address the issue this week.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A plan to improve Michigan’s roads and infrastructure will probably not be on the November ballot. That’s according to leaders of both parties in the state Senate.

Governor Rick Snyder wants the state Legislature to boost road funding by more than a billion dollars a year. But lawmakers have not embraced his plan to raise registration fees and the state’s gas tax to pay for it.

Instead, multiple plans have surfaced that would include asking voters to increase the state’s sales tax.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A state Senate panel has approved legislation to expand Medicaid in Michigan. The bill would extend coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents through the Affordable Care Act.

The panel also advanced two alternative Medicaid proposals. Neither would expand Medicaid. But proponents say they would expand health care coverage – either through other state programs or the free market.

Senator Bruce Caswell  is sponsoring legislation that would create a state-run health care program for low-income residents who are not currently eligible for Medicaid.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There could be a vote in the state Senate in late August on a bill to extend Medicaid health coverage to thousands of un-insured working poor people.

That’s despite Governor Rick Snyder’s call for a vote earlier than that.

The governor has said waiting until late August could jeopardize the state’s ability to get federal approval, and then sign up people in time for coverage to begin when the new federal healthcare law takes effect in January.

The state House has already passed its version of a Medicaid bill.

State Senator Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

A group of lawmakers working on Michigan’s Medicaid expansion are meeting today to discuss their progress.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said today he expects a Medicaid substitute bill could be ready by next week.

Richardville put together the group earlier this month. The workgroup wants to place certain conditions on Medicaid expansion in Michigan -- reforms that may need federal approval.

MPRN will report on the group’s findings.

- Melanie Kruvelis, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss Governor Snyder and Randy Richardville's final efforts to expand Medicaid, a bill recently signed to dissolve financially struggling school districts in Michigan, and another ballot initiative to ban wolf hunting.

State Senator Randy Richardville
Photo courtesy of www.senate.michigan.gov

A state Senate panel is expected to start discussing a bill next week to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) expects a vote in the full Senate before September.

The Majority Leader has been taking some heat from Governor Rick Snyder since last week.

That’s when Richardville allowed the Senate to leave on its summer recess before taking a vote on Medicaid expansion. But Richardville defended the decision today on the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record.

“I don’t think this legislation is complete. I don’t think we had the votes to get things done that day, and it would have been forcing a less-than-adequate package to his desk,” said Richardville.

The governor says the state stands to lose millions of federal dollars if the legislation isn’t approved soon.

That’s because the plan needs to be approved by Washington – a process that will likely take months. But Richardville said he doesn’t want to rush the legislation if it’s not ready.

"I understand that he has to talk to the federal government, and these waivers are going to be difficult to negotiate," said Richardville. "But I think we’ll have a product for him to look at before July is over."

Richardville says he generally supports the idea of overhauling and expanding Medicaid.

“But we have some other reforms, some other things that we think should be done to make this legislation better. And we need a little time to look at it,” he said.

Meanwhile, a legislative workgroup is also trying to get the bill ready for a vote. The workgroup originally consisted of six Republican senators.

But Richardville now says he plans to add some Democrats to the group as well.

Richardville says he expects to have a proposal in place before August, and a vote of the full Senate before September.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Budget awaits Governor Snyder's signature

State lawmakers passed a budget that would increase funding to local governments and schools.

"Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville calls it the best budget he’s ever helped pass.  But the budget does not include Snyder’s request to expand Medicaid or increase road funding by more than a billion dollars," Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Senate voting to protect DIA

The Michigan Senate is expected to vote today on a measure to protect the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr has warned the Institute's assets could be at risk if the city goes bankrupt. If this bill passes, the same protections would apply to collections in other museums across Michigan.

Michigan gas prices amongst highest in nation

Gasoline prices in Michigan are the second highest in the United States right now. It could be several weeks before there's any relief at the pump.

"Analyst Patrick deHaan of GasBuddy dot com says there are fewer gasoline refineries in the Midwest than other parts of the country, and gasoline commodity traders are also driving up the prices," Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports.

Christopher Webb / Flickr

The Michigan Senate has passed a budget bill that would boost state funding to public schools by about 3%. Universities and colleges would also get a roughly 2% increase.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R- Monroe) praised the schools budget, saying it addresses issues like teacher retirement costs while giving more money to districts.

“The education budget this year may be the best that I’ve seen since I’ve been up here,” said Richardville.

But many Democrats say the plan does not do enough to make up for cuts to education over the past couple of years.

The Commonwealth Fund

Michigan will be part of the federal government’s health insurance exchange, instead of being a partner in a joint effort.

That’s because the state Senate began its spring break yesterday without meeting a deadline to vote on accepting federal funds for the project.

Republicans in the state Senate defied the wishes of Governor Snyder and a lot of business groups by refusing federal funding for a joint federal-state health insurance exchange.

That’s where customers will go to comparison shop for coverage. Instead, Michigan customers will shop on the federal government’s exchange.

The state Senate’s top Republican says he’ll once again try to ward off big cuts to Michigan’s film industry credits.

For the second year in a row, Governor Rick Snyder is proposing a budget that would cap the state’s film incentives at $25 million for the year.

And for the second year in a row, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he’ll fight to give the industry at least twice that.

“To that particular industry and to the mostly blue collar workers that benefit from that in Michigan, it would be devastating to them,” says Richardville.

Office of Governor Rick Snyder / Wikimedia Commons

Two top Republicans in Lansing say they’re not on board with a plan to split Michigan’s Electoral College votes.

Lawmakers have been expecting a bill that would divide the state’s electoral votes by congressional district.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said that would make the state less important in presidential elections.

“At this point in time, I’m still sticking to my guns. I think the bigger package of votes for the winner brings more attention to the state and keeps us united. So I haven’t been convinced otherwise yet,” Richardville said.

courtesy of Richardville's office

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The top Republican in the Michigan Senate says he has concerns with calls to divide the state's Electoral College votes proportionally.

Changing from a winner-take-all system would have helped Mitt Romney, who lost Michigan to President Barack Obama by 9 percentage points.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said Tuesday he doesn't think the current system is broken, so he doesn't know if he wants to fix it. He says that Michigan got more attention from presidential candidates because they could win all 16 electoral votes.

A bill is expected to be reintroduced in the state House to divide the votes by congressional districts. Such a change would give the GOP an advantage, at least for now. That's because Republican voters outnumber Democrats in more congressional districts.

Teachers and other school employees will soon be paying more of their salaries for health care and pensions.

Governor Snyder is expected to sign bills that require school workers to pay four or seven percent of their salaries for retirement benefits, depending on what plan they have.

School employees will also pay more for their health insurance when they retire.

Randy Richardville is State Senate Majority Leader.

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