October 10, 2021
The volume and speed of relevant news is picking up in Lansing! But first…
Good News — COVID-19 vaccinations in Michigan may have helped prevent about 8,500 seniors from contracting the virus, 1,400 from dying, and 3,900 from being hospitalized from January through May 2021, according to a medical study published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on October 4. The study notes that before COVID-19 vaccines were available, nearly 80 percent of deaths during the first nine months of the pandemic in 2020 were among Medicare-eligible Americans ages 65 and older. Vaccinations also likely prevented about 5,600 deaths nationally among nursing home Medicare beneficiaries, who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
The Pfizer booster shots were approved and became widely available September 25 for seniors 65+ and other eligible people at least six months after completing the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna and J&J booster are in the FDA pipeline for review in the next few months.
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), as of October 4, approximately 58 percent of Michigan’s residents 12 years and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Around 62.5 percent of residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
Visit www.Michigan.gov/COVID-19 to find local health departments and other local vaccine clinics that are ready to book appointments. If no access to the internet or need help with vaccine translation services, call 2-1-1 and press ’5’ for free, confidential assistance. Additional help navigating the vaccine scheduling process is available at the COVID-19 hotline at (888) 535-6136 (press 1).
About 32,000 of the more than 5.26 million Michiganders who have been fully vaccinated have had breakthrough cases, about 0.7 percent.
How should you space your COVID vaccination or vaccination booster and your annual flu shot? You don’t need to, according to several medical authorities.
Bad News — As of October 4, a total of 1,039,337 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 (about 10 percent of the population) and 21,139 have died from it. Some schools are experiencing outbreaks resulting in quarantining and return to online learning.
STATE BUDGET AGREED UPON
State government shutdown was averted when the GOP-controlled Legislature and Democrat Governor Gretchen Whitmer came to agreement on a Fiscal Year (FY) 22, record-breaking $70 billion budget for State government and for higher education. She declared 60 sections of boilerplate unenforceable, largely because they conflict with the constitutional separation of powers. Among the rejected sections were staffing requirements in the Department of State Police, directives on how to conduct bidding for vendors, and a slew of reports to the Legislature. Struck out was language in the MDHHS budget stripping local health departments of state aid if they have an emergency health order in place without the assent of their county board of commissioners. The Governor line-item vetoed a little more than $15 million that Republicans had added to promote alternatives to abortion in the MDHHS budget. The Governor also declared that language in the higher education budget directing the State’s public universities with COVID-19 vaccine mandates to offer exemptions was unconstitutional under the autonomy clause for public universities.
Senate Bill (SB) 82, now Public Act 87 of 2021 for the general state budget includes:
Future $$$ — $5.7 billion in federal COVID-19 recovery funding (American Rescue Plan) is not yet allocated and State revenue collections between May and August have greatly exceeded the May revenue estimates on which the FY 2022 budget was based. So, there may be a $5.3 billion state revenue surplus when FY 2022 is finished. That’s a total $11 billion yet to argue about in the coming months. The Governor has already communicated to Legislature leadership what she wants – economic development policy and funding.
$300 COLA UPDATE
As reported last month, Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) has agreed to sponsor a stand-alone bill to remove the $300 cap on the defined benefit (DB) State employee retiree’s annual supplement (cost of living adjustment or COLA) that was established by statute in 1987. The cap affects approximately 85 percent of DB retirees now and today is worth just $129 due to inflation in the last 34 years. If the cap is removed entirely, DB retirees would get an annual 3 percent cumulative (not compounding) supplement similar to school employee retirees in the Member Investment Plan (MIP). That is, 3 percent added to whatever your wage at retirement was, then 3 percent of that the next year, and so on.
Sen. Hertel has received the draft bill from the Legislative Service Bureau and has asked the Office of Retirement Services (ORS) for its opinion on the bill, the usual procedure with bills affecting departmental programs or expenditures. No reply from ORS to report yet.
The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) that voters approved in Proposal 2 of 2018 is approaching the most important part of its work after many months of tedious and detailed mapping of U.S. House, State Senate, and State House district lines that will determine the fate of election outcomes for the next ten years. The proposed draft maps can be found on the Commission’s website at www.michigan.gov/micrc.
In order to acquire more time for mapping, the Commission cut back the nine proposed second round of public hearings to five, the minimum required by the Constitutional provision:
Doors will open at 12:30 p.m. and the meeting/public hearing will be held from 1 – 3:30 p.m. A second session will be conducted from 5 to 8 p.m.
There are seven criteria in ranked order that the MICRC must use in drawing maps pursuant to Michigan Constitution, Article IV, Section 6:
(13) The commission shall abide by the following criteria in proposing and adopting each plan, in order of priority:
ELECTION BILLS MOVE, VETOED
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the veto of four bills September 3 while speaking at the Detroit NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner that she said would weaken voting rights. In her veto message she said:
Enrolled House Bills [HBs] 4837, 4838, and 4492 attempt to suppress the vote or perpetuate the “Big Lie”: the calculated disinformation campaign to discredit the 2020 election. I will have no part in any effort that grants an ounce of credence to this deception, so injurious to our democracy. The 2020 election was free, secure, and accurate. The results were certified and officially audited by trusted local election officials, as required by law. Judges appointed by both Republicans and Democrats rejected more than 60 lawsuits challenging the outcome. HB 4837 implies that outside parties had access to the state’s qualified voter file. They did not. HB 4838 implies that electronic poll books were connected to the internet and vulnerable to tampering. They never were. And HB 4492 would make it more difficult for seniors and persons living in large apartment complexes to vote. While HB 4528 is worth further consideration, it must have the necessary funding to accomplish its purpose.
HB 4492 prohibited polling places in senior centers or large apartment complexes unless certain more stringent conditions were met. The other bills reiterated or expanded upon current Secretary of State practices or policy.
Likely facing a veto are a slew of bills originating in the House or Senate with the same premise that something was wrong with the 2020 voting process and a fix is needed. These include bills moving in September or early October: SB 277, 302, 303, 304, HB 5007 and HB 5268 (would prohibit sending unsolicited absent voter ballot applications).
Secure MI Vote — These and other bills using the same premise help tee up the initiated law petition drive sponsored by GOP-related groups to significantly restrict in-person and absentee voting by generally adding more requirements. The petition drive is opposed by a number of groups including Promote the Vote that sponsored Proposal 3 of 2018, and Voters Not Politicians, the sponsors of the anti-gerrymandering ballot Proposal 2 of 2018.
The measure began circulating October 8 at a kick-off event in Howell. The sponsors need 347,047 valid voter signatures; if successful, the measure would go to the GOP-controlled Legislature for a simple majority vote without the ability of the Governor to veto. The 100-word summary approved by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers:
“Initiation of legislation amending the Michigan Election Law, 1954 PA 116, MCL 168.495, 523, 759, 759a, 759b, 761, 761b, 764b, 813, and adding 168.523b, 760a, 946, to: require partial social security number for voter registration; require photo ID for in-person voters; require driver’s license, state-ID, partial social security number or photo ID on absentee ballot application; require voters who don’t provide this ID to present ID in person within 6 days after election to have their vote counted; provide state-funded IDs to applicants with hardships; specify minimum times clerks must accept absentee ballots for in-person or dropbox delivery; prohibit officials from making absentee ballot applications available except upon voter request; prohibit donations to fund elections.”
VULNERABLE ADULT PROTECTIONS
Vulnerable adults in Michigan will have new protections in place as the Financial Exploitation Prevention Act, Public Act 344 of 2020 (enrolled SB 464) took effect September 26. The statute enacts new requirements on financial institutions to ensure they have training and procedures in place to better recognize the signs of financial exploitation and take action to protect those who are unable to protect themselves from abuse, neglect, or exploitation because of a mental or physical impairment or because of advanced age.
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 email@example.com.
Michigan SERA Recent News, a compilation of links to articles of interest to state employees, is no longer produced.
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