Capitol News

January 8, 2023

In the political world, the beginning of odd-numbered years like 2023 also means new policy makers at all levels of government and consequently new political dynamics. While the drama of 15 votes to select a new Speaker for the U.S. House captured mainstream media attention, our Michigan Legislative and Executive Office changes went smoothly and were announced without much fanfare.

Ceremonial inauguration of our statewide elected leaders occurred on the east side of the State Capitol on January 1 to many speeches and a 19-cannon burst salute in balmy 35-degree, cloudy weather to an audience of about a thousand people. The Governor in her acceptance speech hinted at some of her priorities likely to get a warmer welcome from the Democratic majorities among the new 102nd Legislature. A few days later, Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow announced that she is ending her 50-year elective office career and not running for re-election in 2024, an action likely to set up a cascading scramble among current officeholders.

State Legislators Return January 11 — State legislators begin their official duties on January 11 and will be in session Tuesday — Thursday most of the year including a week in July and August. Lawmakers are scheduled to meet 110 times, up from 86 days last year. Legislative committee assignments are expected to be announced in late January. Likely there will be committee restructuring due to the Democratic control of both chambers with different priorities than the former Republican majority. Early legislative committee meetings in January and February are often tutorials on the issues facing the legislative committee and can be very interesting if you want to watch on the Senate or House TV channels at

SOS and Budget Presentation — Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s State of the State Address will be in person for the first time since 2020 on the evening of Wednesday, January 25. It will be held in the State House Chambers in front of a joint session of the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate and broadcast live throughout the state on TV, radio, and streaming on the Governor’s YouTube channel. We are hoping she mentions senior issues like repealing the pension tax. Her budget message will be presented in early February, taking into account the agreement among the House and Senate Fiscal Agencies and the Budget Office of the Governor at the Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference held on January 13.


The Michigan Legislature only met three days after the November 8 election, the shortest in recent history. There was a rush to pass a few bills to get on the Governor’s desk for various reasons — some by Republicans knowing the bills would be vetoed and some bi-partisan public policy improvements.

Annuity Bill — Lame duck saw hurried action on the annuity bill, House Bill (HB) 4733. We agreed with the Bureau of Investments that annuities are a bad idea for inexperienced young investors compared to the array offered by Voya and are a better option at retirement, which the State offers. Therefore, we opposed the bill and urged the Governor to veto it, which she did.

State Employee Retirees (SER) Act Changes — Technical changes to the SER Act in HB 4264 was also vetoed. Our view was sought on this bill but we were neutral. Some of the changes had already been implemented by the State of Michigan Retirement Board so were unnecessary.

Emergency Orders — In response to the public outcry about inability to see those in health care facilities during the pandemic lockdown, Senate Bill (SB) 450 amended the Public Health Code to prohibit the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or a local health officer from issuing an emergency order that prohibits or limits a patient representative from visiting a patient or a resident in a qualified health care facility for more than 30 days, beginning June 1, 2023, and to prescribe certain requirements for an emergency order after the 30-day period. The Governor signed SB 450 on December 29.

Retirement Tax Repeal — There was no action in lame duck on modifying or repealing the pension tax imposed on income of those born after 1945. However, the issue is likely going to be one of the first tax changes addressed by the Democratic majority in the 102nd Legislature.

REMOVE $300 CAP ON Defined Benefit (DB) RETIREE COLA

There was no action on SB 775 sponsored by ex-Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) that would remove the $300 annual cap on our State employee DB pensioners’ cost-of-living increase. This $300 annual cap has been in place since 1987! Meanwhile the cost of living has increased 162 percent since then. About 70 percent of all DB pensioners have hit the cap and are receiving only $25 per month increase starting each October. It is an injustice that needs to be addressed. If the sentence setting the cap is removed from the law, State employee DB pensioners would get 3 percent a year, similar to education retirees in the original pensions for education retirees.

I have requested sponsorship of a new look-alike bill for the 102nd Legislature by Sen. Sara Anthony (D-Lansing), new chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Delta Township), new chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Former Sen. Hertel is now the Governor’s Legislative Director so we should have some knowledgeable support there. The stars may be in alignment for this issue if we keep up the pressure.

Your Help Is Needed to Move This Issue — Contact the Governor and your new or returning State Senator and State House member to congratulate them on their election and to urge them to sponsor and/or support this new bill when it is introduced. Urge your DB State retiree friends to do the same.

These digital tools will ask for your address and will result in giving you the name, e-mail address, and phone number or provide a way for you to fill in a form with your message.

While in contact with your legislators, ask them to put you on the mailing list for their constituent newsletter and for their constituent public meetings in your community. Then attend their constituent meetings and ask for a report on the status of removing the cap on our COLA.


COVID — As of January 6, 2023, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan is now 2,998,447 including 40,836 deaths. So far, 11,746,992 vaccination doses have been administered. For reference, Michigan has a population of about 10 million.

Benson Honored — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson received the Presidential Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor, on January 6 from President Biden for “exemplary public service to advance free and fair elections.” Other officials, election workers, and police officers were also honored.

Legislature Profile — Of the 148 Michigan lawmakers:

  • 52 percent of the House are new State legislators.
  • 40 percent of both the Michigan House and Senate are women.
  • 52 percent of House members have local government and education backgrounds, and 45 percent in the Senate share the same background.
  • 17 lawmakers are former teachers.
  • 25 come from the business sector.
  • 13 have a military background.
  • 12 come from agriculture.
  • 80 percent of House members and 90 percent of the Senate have a college education and one-third of those have an advanced degree beyond college.
  • There are seven members of the LGBT community in both chambers.
  • There are 17 Black members, down from the 20 who served in the last term.
  • 47 percent of all members are between 41 and 60 years old and 18 percent are over the age of sixty.

Public Acts and Vetoes — The Governor signed 278 bills in 2022 and 344 total for the 101st Legislature. This is the fewest since online records began with the 1999-2000 term. The Governor vetoed 76 bills during the 101st Legislature and that tops the 54 bills she vetoed during the 2019-20 legislative term, the 67 former Governor Rick Snyder vetoed during the 2017-18 term, the 69 then-Governor Jennifer Granholm vetoed during the 2003-04 term, and the 72 Granholm vetoed in the 2005-06 term.

Editor’s note: Mary Pollock is the Lansing SERA Chapter and SERA Coordinating Council’s Legislative Representative. She may be contacted at

Michigan SERA Recent News, a compilation of links to articles of interest to state employees, is no longer produced.

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