January 1, 2020
The Legislature broke for the winter holidays on December 19 amid a flurry of activity to settle many of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget disputes. The legislative session resumes on January 8, 2020.
BUDGET IMPASSE RESOLVED
More than nine months after Governor Whitmer introduced her budget, legislative chambers sent negotiated supplemental spending bills to her on December 10, 2019, for the fiscal year which began October 1, 2019. Included were items in Governor Whitmer’s original FY 2020 budget that were not part of the legislatively enacted budget, items that would provide partial or full restoration of items vetoed by the Governor on September 30, items that would provide full or partial restoration of transferred items by the State Administrative Board on October 1, and other priorities. The supplemental includes line item appropriations of $459.3 million, including $256.7million for General Fund/GeneralPurpose.
Signed on December 20, 2019, were Senate Bill (SB) 152, SB 154, House Bill (HB) 5176, HB 5177, HB 4336, and HB 4574.
SB 152 restores funding for the county jail reimbursement program, electronic tether replacement within the Department of Corrections, health care clinics on Beaver, Mackinac, Drummond, and Boise Blanc Islands, Healthy Michigan work requirement implementation, rural hospital payments, auto insurance reform implementation, county veteran grants, secondary road patrol, census-related funding, Proposal 2 redistricting implementation, payments in lieu of taxes for state-controlled land and for tax-reverted recreational forest lands, and other programs.
The Governor’s use of the State Administrative Board to transfer funds within a department budget was a huge issue for legislative Republicans as it encroached on its appropriation authority. Boilerplate provisions in the bill allow the Legislature by a simple majority vote to transfer funds within departments if the State Administrative Board first makes those transfers. However, the Legislature’s reverse transfer authority expires at the end of the current fiscal year.
SB 154 would provide $114.5 million to school programs. Included are the charter school per-pupil increase ($235 million), early literacy coaches ($10.5 million), summer school literacy intervention grants ($5 million), the tuition grant program ($38 million), Michigan competitive scholarships ($6 million), and others.
HB 5176 would require the Executive branch to give notice before using the State Administrative Board to transfer funds and provide either six session days or 30 calendar days for the Legislature to make that transfer before the Executive branch could.
HB 5177 would require the Legislature to present a budget by July 1.
HB 4336 and HB 4574 provide access to the Auditor General of certain Executive branch office records.
The vetoed money for Pure Michigan is absent, along with other items that may still receive attention in the new year.
NO ADVISORY OPINION ON ADOPT AND AMEND
After oral argument at the request of the Legislature, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to issue an opinion on whether the Legislature could first adopt a voter-initiated law and then, within the same legislative session, drastically alter it. The issue arose over voter-initiated laws to boost the State’s minimum wage and create employee paid sick leave. The Michigan SERA endorsed the proposals and submitted a friend-of-the-court brief urging the high court to hold that the Legislature cannot adopt and amend in the same legislative session.
NON-MEDICAL MARIJUANA SALES IMPLEMENTED
The Governor recently took action to remove some regulatory roadblocks and in December, sales and use taxes on recreational marijuana were rolling in. By the end of the year, there were 50 businesses approved: 26 marijuana retailers, 13 class C licensed growers allotted to six different growers, five processors, three secure transporters, two marijuana event organizers, and one marijuana safety compliance facility.
ONLINE AND SPORTS BETTING
Former Governor Rick Snyder surprised legislators when he vetoed sports betting bills in late 2018. The bills were reintroduced in March 2019 but received little attention until December. Signed into law are ten bills that provide for online gaming, including fantasy sports, charitable gaming, and horse race betting. The Department of Treasury estimates that legalization will bring in $19 million in new revenue per year to bolster the School Aid Fund and the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund. Michigan is the 20th state to legalize some form of sports betting.
Before implementation, the Michigan Gaming Control Board must first pass several sets of administrative rules. It is likely that Detroit casinos will be the first permitted to conduct in-person sports betting; tribal casinos are regulated by federal law.
GUARDIANSHIP BILL NOW LAW
The limited guardianship bill is now Public Act 170 of 2019 after being signed by the Governor on December 20, 2019, with an effective date of March 19, 2020. The law will allow a probate court judge to approve a limited guardianship to supervise visits with incapacitated individuals. Testimony in hearings indicated that some guardians or others responsible for an incapacitated individual are denying visits from relatives and friends. The bill would give relatives and friends of an incapacitated individual who have been denied visits the right to approach the probate court to appoint limited guardianship to supervise visits.
DOUBLE DIPPING EXPANDS
Passed in the House and awaiting full Senate approval is House Bill 4156 which would allow retired State employee mental health professionals, other than psychiatrists, to work for the Department of Health and Human Services in State psychiatric hospitals without forfeiting their retirement benefits. The bill’s provisions would apply to individuals who retired before October 1, 2015, and the provisions would expire on September 30, 2023. The hiring would be permitted only if the retiree had the appropriate experience and if the hiring were the most cost-effective option. Current State statute already allows the rehiring of retired psychiatrists at State psychiatric hospitals under certain circumstances; this bill would apply to other mental health professionals.
SUPREME COURT JUSTICE PAY
House Concurrent Resolution 10 approving the recommendation of the State Officers Compensation Commission to give 5 percent pay increases to Michigan Supreme Court Justices in 2021 and 2022 has passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The Commission recommended that salaries and expense allowances for members of the Legislature, the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State not be changed.
Currently the salary of a Supreme Court Justice is $186,505, which would increase to $195,405 in 2021. There is concern that the high court will soon be paid less than Court of Appeals judges. The salary of judges, except the Supreme Court Justices, increase at the same rate as State classified employees. Justices haven’t received a pay increase in nearly 20 years. Even with the proposed increase, their pay will still be less than comparable state’s according to testimony.
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