Capitol News

May 7, 2018

FY 2019 BUDGET

Both chambers have now passed budgets, but both chambers make major changes to what Republican Gov. Rick Snyder recommended in February. The Revenue Estimating Conference will be May 16 at which the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and the Governor’s office will come to an agreement about revenues available before engaging in negotiations to finalize the budget in conference committees in June.

Key differences among the two chambers and the governor include:

  • The Governor wants to increase tipping fees at landfill sites from 36 cents a ton to $4.75 per ton and use the revenues for environment clean-up. Neither chamber addressed the tipping fee proposal.
  • In the Department of Health and Human Services budget, the Senate included language that would withhold salaries for top department officials unless the federal government approves a waiver requiring able-bodied Medicaid recipients to find jobs.
  • The House and Senate want to close another prison, but the Governor didn’t include that in his proposed budget.
  • The Governor and both chambers support ending the outsourcing of the prison food contract, but the Senate did not include the $13.7 million in transition costs the Governor requested to make the change.
  • In the prison budget, the Senate wants to privatize more than 300 registered nurses who work for the department and turn their work over to Corizon, the private contractor that already handles most prison health care. The House and Senate did not include this in their budgets.

POLITICAL ACTIVITY OVERVIEW

The last day to register or change voting address for the August 7 primary is July 9. October 9 is the last day to register or change voting address for the November 6 general election.

2018 Election Cycle — April 24 was the filing deadline in Michigan for those who want to run for public office. Candidates had a few days to decide to withdraw or their names will appear on the ballot. Legal challenges to candidate petitions is occurring in some districts.

Governor — Republicans Patrick Colbeck, Brian Calley, Jim Hines, and Bill Schuette have filed for Governor. Democrats filing are Gretchen Whitmer, Abdul El-Sayed, and Shri Thanedar. Libertarians filing are Bill Gelineau and John Tatar.

U.S. Senate — Republicans John James and Sandy Pensler and Democrat incumbent Debbie Stabenow have filed for this 6-year term seat.

Statewide State Offices — Over 6,700 Michigan Democrats conducted an “Endorsement Convention” on April 15 and endorsed Dana Nessel to run for Michigan’s Attorney General, Jocelyn Benson to run for Secretary of State, and Megan Cavanagh and Sam Bagenstos for the two seats on the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Michigan Democratic Party will have its nominating convention for other state-wide offices on August 25-26 at the Breslin Center in East Lansing on the MSU campus. To vote there, one must be a member of the Michigan Democratic Party 30 days in advance of the convention.

The Michigan Republican Party will have its nominating convention August 25 at the Lansing Center. To vote there, one must be a Republican precinct delegate selected by the voters in the August 7 primary and then elected at county Republican Party conventions in mid-August to be a delegate to the August 25 convention.

Legislative Races — For Michigan House races, all 110 seats are up for election and 43 are open seats. Of those, 18 members eligible for re-election are instead deciding to run for the Michigan Senate. In total, 444 candidates filed for the House, a number boosted by 33 Libertarians running in the primary for the first time.

Democrats currently hold 46 seats in the House with one vacancy in a strong Democratic seat. They need to hold current seats and add nine seats to gain the majority, which they last lost in the 2010 tea party wave.

For the Michigan Senate, all 38 State Senate seats are up for election. 26 Senators are term limited and cannot run again (19 Rs, 7 Ds). Republicans have held the majority in the Senate for 34 years. Republicans hold a 27-10 majority in the chamber, with one vacancy due to a resignation in a strongly Democratic district. Democrats need to hold current non-term-limited seats and flip nine seats for an outright majority, something last accomplished in 1964. Flipping eight seats plus a Democratic victory in the governor’s race to provide a Democratic lieutenant governor to break a tie also would hand Democrats control of the Michigan Senate.

Congress — All 14 of Michigan’s US Congressional seats are up for election and 3 are open seats in the 9th, 11th and 13th districts. In the 9th, Republican Candius Stearns faces no primary opponent; Martin Brook, Andy Levin, and Ellen Lipton are competing for the Dem nod.

In the 11th, there is a very crowded primary field. Republicans will see Kristine Bonds, Lena Epstein, Klint Kesto, Mile Kowall, Rocky Raczkowski, and Kerry Bentivolio on the ballot. Dems will see Tim Greimel, Sunee Gupta, Dan Haberman, Fayrouz Saad, Nancy Skinner, Haley Stevens and Leonard Schwartz on the ballot.

In the 13th, voters will fill both the remaining term of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, and will elect a new Member of Congress for a full two-year term. For the two-year term, Republican David Dudenhoefer has filed to run in that primary and Democrats Ian Conyers, John Conyers, III, Michael Gilmore, Kimberly Hill Knott, Shanelle Jackson, Brenda Jones, Rashida Tlaib, Bill Wild and Coleman Young II will compete in the Democratic primary. For the partial term, no Republican has filed. Democrats Ian Conyers, John Conyers, III, Michael Gilmore, Brenda Jones, Rashida Tlaib, Mary Waters, Kentiel White, and Bill Wild have filed.

BALLOT PROPOSALS

Marijuana — The Michigan State Board of Canvassers approved on April 26 the www.regulatemi.orgCoalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol’s petition to adopt a voter-initiated law that would legalize marijuana possession and consumption for all adults 21 years and older and set up a regulatory scheme that includes sales and excise taxes.

Under Article II, Section 9 of Michigan’s Constitution, the Legislature has 40 session days from receiving a Board certified voter-initiated law to enact it to keep it off the ballot, take no action in which case the initiated law goes on the November ballot for voters to decide the matter, or alternatively, the Legislature can propose a different measure on the same subject and both proposals would go on the ballot. After the voters approve an initiated law, it would take a three-quarters majority of each chamber to amend it in the future.

Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-Dewitt), who also is a candidate for state attorney general this year, has said he’s not in favor of legalizing marijuana. He has also announced to the media that there’s not enough support to legalize recreational marijuana in his House caucus to keep it off the ballot even though Republicans fear that if left on the ballot, it will attract young voters to the polls and potentially hurt Republican candidates’ chances to win their races. Republicans in the state Senate are working on a plan to approve the citizen petition, but regulate recreational marijuana much like medical marijuana, and tie approval to a cut in the state’s 4.25 percent income tax.

Prevailing Wage Repeal — On April 24, the Michigan State Board of Canvassers deadlocked along party lines to approve the signatures gathered for an initiated law to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage act. At issue is whether an improper address for the petition circulator invalidates the whole petition sheet, and whether the addresses listed for some circulators were valid residential addresses. Proponents of prevailing wage repeal intend to go to court to get a judicial order to put the measure on the ballot.

Redistricting — The Board of State Canvassers’ preliminary review of the 425,000 petition signatures turned in last December by Voters Not Politicians to end gerrymandering in Michigan showed a 92 percent validity rate meaning it is statistical certainty that the proposal gathered the 315,654 signatures required to put the proposal on the November ballot. In early April, the Board of State Canvassers announced the time period for challenge to the proposal ended on April 26. On that date a challenge was filed by Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution with the Court of Appeals and the Department of State alleging the proposal is not an amendment to the Michigan Constitution but an unallowable redraft of it, thus requiring a Constitutional Convention.

CPMC is the same group that successfully challenged the Reform Michigan’s Government Now effort a decade ago. Its attorneys are Bob LaBrant, a well-known conservative election law expert in Michigan, and Eric Doster, the Michigan Republican Party’s counsel. Acting as counsel for the group are several lawyers for Dickinson Wright law firm, including Peter Ellsworth who was counsel to former Governor William Milliken and a former member of the Michigan Civil Service Commission, and former Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. who earlier this year dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.

CPMC’s challenge to the redistricting ballot proposal asks the court to order the Department of State and the Board of State Canvassers to take no action on the petitions, thus keeping it off the November ballot.

Other Ballot Proposals — Other circulating petitions would raise the minimum wage, require earned paid sick leave benefits, put voting rights into the Michigan Constitution, close Line 5 under the Mackinac Bridge, and establish a 30 percent renewable energy standard. The ballot drive to establish a part-time legislature has called it quits. Michigan SERA Coordinating Council has endorsed the League of Women Voters’ proposed constitutional amendment to constitutionalize our voting rights. See www.promotethevotemi.com for more information.

Schedule — Petitions to create a new or amend existing legislation with a minimum of 252,523 qualified voters have a May 30 filing deadline. Petitions to amend the State Constitution with a minimum of 315,654 qualified voters are due July 9, 2018.

By September 7, ballot wording for constitutional amendments and legislative referendums which the legislature wishes to place on the November general election ballot must be presented to the Secretary of State so that ballots can be printed.

NASSAR CASE RESPONSE

The Michigan Senate has passed a bi-partisan package of bills in response to the conviction of Dr. Larry Nassar of Michigan State University and other revelations that he sexually assaulted hundreds of girls (and some boys) under the guise of medical treatment for sports injuries. Over thirty bills have been introduced to strengthen penalties in sexual assault or abuse cases and eliminate government immunity while lengthening the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases. Making coaches and trainers mandatory reporters is also included.

Testimony from the Department of Health and Human Services projected that if Michigan saw a 40 percent increase in child abuse and neglect complaints after expanding mandatory reporters to coaches and trainers, like Pennsylvania did subsequent to the Penn State University child abuse scandal, it could cost about $53 million to deal with the uptick in the first year. Testimony from doctors including pediatricians and ob-gyns expressed concern that felonizing record keeping omissions could discourage doctors from entering the profession. Hearings will continue this month on the bills.

BILL UPDATES

HB 4905 to modify the principal residence exemption for individuals residing in a nursing home or assisted living facility was signed by the Governor on May 2 with immediate effect and is now Public Act 133 of 2018.

HB 4410 to allow exclusion of an adult child in one’s will has passed both the House and Senate on a bi-partisan basis and is on the Governor’s desk at this writing.

There has been no action recently on HB 5231 to require the state to seek contractors to provide annuity options for state employees and retirees.

There has been no action on HB 5653 which would change the State Employee Retirement Act to remove the 8 percent Assumed Rate Of Return and instead allow the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget and the State Retirement Board to determine the AROR. The bill also permits the same entities to approve the actuarial tables used to calculate the financial stability of the pension fund. We have been assured that these measures would apply to future reporting about the financial status of the pension fund and not change any current retiree’s pension, which is protected by the Michigan Constitution.

Editor’s note: Mary Pollock is the Lansing SERA Chapter and SERA Council’s Legislative Representative. She may be contacted at 1200 Prescott Drive, East Lansing, MI 48823-2446; Phone 517-351-7292; E-mail michigansera@comcast.net.

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