September 10, 2023
The 102nd Legislature reconvened September 5 after its summer recess for an autumn full of expected new bill packages on energy and the environment, reproductive health, financial disclosure for lawmakers, housing, and many other topics.
GOV’S “WHAT’S NEXT ADDRESS”
On August 30, Governor Whitmer delivered her view of what the Legislature should be doing in the fall to give her legislative priorities some momentum. In it she proposed a 100 percent clean energy standard, paid family and medical leave, lower health care and prescription drug costs, removing historical restrictions on access to reproductive health, and election security measures.
Though SERA had urged her to include removing the $300 cap on State employee defined benefit retiree’s annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in her remarks, and two replies from her office said the message had been received and referred to her team, the idea was not included in her Address. Admittedly, the topic didn’t fit exactly in her “health” themed speech. We will continue our advocacy on this issue and SERA members should continue to pepper the Governor and your own State legislators to ask them what they are doing to address this issue affecting 85 percent of State employee defined benefit retirees. We don’t just have fixed incomes, we have declining incomes relative to inflation because of the 1987 law capping our 3 percent COLA at $300 that was not indexed to inflation!
Here’s a summary of the Governor’s priorities:
Public Safety — The Governor communicated her support for the work of House Speaker Joe Tate and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on proposed public safety legislation. The reference was to their proposal to earmark 1.5 percent of the money collected from the sales tax’s first 4 percent and placing it into a new Public Safety and Violence Prevention Fund.
Reproductive Health — She urged passage of the 2023 version of the Reproductive Health Act to roll back harmful restrictions on reproductive health care. On September 7, 11 bills in the House and six bills in the Senate were introduced to accomplish this goal.
Health Care Costs — She urged codifying in state law many measures in the federal Affordable Care Act, including:
She also proposed establishing an independent, nonpartisan Prescription Drug Affordability Board made up of leaders in economics, health care, supply chain, and academics. The board would use data and evidence-based research to tackle the cost of prescription drugs.
Climate Health — She urged enactment of a 100 percent clean energy standard for Michigan, including:
Health of Our Economy — The Governor urged:
Health of Our Democracy — Having expanded voting rights, the Governor urged legislative action to shore up election security, saying we need protections from allowing the will of the people to be overturned, and we can’t permit politicians to stay in office despite getting voted out.
In her closing remarks, the Governor urged Michiganders to start a conversation with people from other states with, “Hi, I live in Michigan. Here’s why you should too!” She said we have in abundance:
OTHER RECENT NEWS
House Dem Majority Threatened — The August 8 primary victories of State Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) and State Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) in their mayoral races (they both came in second) set up the possibility that if they win their races, it may reduce the Dem majority in the Michigan House. If both win elections in November, the House will go from 56-54 Democratic majority to 54-54. This will mean from mid-November until special elections can fill the vacancies sometime in early 2024, Democrats will be unable to pass bills on their own. They will need Republican votes. There are 12 currently scheduled session days in November and December.
Early Adjournment — In addition to the Dems possibly losing their majority in mid-November, there is speculation that there may be early adjournment in late October or early November to make it possible for a law to go into effect in time to have a February 27 Democratic presidential primary. In August Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told Gongwer News Service the presidential primary can be held on February 27, even if the law moving the date up from March doesn’t go into effect until earlier that same month. Meanwhile, election clerks need to know if and when there will be a presidential primary so they can adequately make plans, hire staff, rent space, etc.
Adopt and Amend at the Michigan Supreme Court — In mid-June the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal in the Mothering Justice case challenging the cynical “adopt and amend” procedure that was used during lame duck session in 2018 to gut the voter-initiated laws that raised the minimum wage and guaranteed earned paid sick leave. The Court of Appeals had ruled against Mothering Justice, so the plaintiffs asked the Michigan Supreme Court to take the case. The date of oral has not been set.
Guns in the Capitol — The State Capitol Commission approved security procedures for the Capitol that would include banning firearms (or other weapons). Metal detectors have been installed at building entrances. The grounds outside of the building are not included in the weapons ban. Legislators with a concealed pistol license would be exempt. Metal detectors have also been installed in the Anderson House Office Building. No public word yet on the Senate Office Building arrangements. Bills have been introduced to countermand these measures.
Michigan False Elector Scheme — The 16 Republicans charged with felonies for their roles in an alleged false presidential electors’ scheme have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, forgery, uttering and publishing, and election law forgery. Various trial dates have been set between September 5 and December 15. These alleged false electors in Michigan figured prominently in recent federal indictments in Washington, D.C. and Georgia against former President Donald Trump.
Michigan Tabulator Tampering Scheme — Matthew DePerno, the 2022 Republican attorney general candidate, former Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City), and pro-Donald Trump attorney Stefanie Lambert Junttila have been charged with possessing a voting machine, conspiracy to possess a voting machine, conspiracy to commit unauthorized access to a computer or computer system, and willfully damaging a voting machine, each of which are felonies. A statement of facts in the filings asserts that the Department of State Police determined that five tabulators were obtained from three counties and brought to Oakland County without an order, without a search warrant, or without any other legal authority or lawful process. Defendant Junttila filed a motion to move the proceedings from Oakland to Antrim County, but the judge denied it because the tabulator tampering occurred in Oakland County. Junttila also sought to protect the evidence from public disclosure.
Redistricting Challenge — The fate of the maps adopted by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s for the State House and Senate will be determined at trial after a three-judge panel ruled that there were significant concerns with the adopted maps for Black voters in and around Detroit. If those concerns are validated by the panel at trial, it could mean the redrawing of maps containing potentially problematic districts that run afoul of Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A trial date has yet to be set.
Budget Fall-Out — MLive published an analysis of all the earmarked spending in Michigan’s latest general fund budget and found 342 earmarks totaling $1.6 trillion for the 2023-24 fiscal year. Nearly 90 percent of the money was sent to areas represented by a Democrat in the Legislature. A majority of the grants, nonpartisan think tank the Citizens Research Council found, were produced in “the 11th hour,” meaning the public had very little time to review the planned spending. Earmarks are not subject to regular competitive bidding processes. Democrats, who control the Legislature for the first time in 40 years, defended the spending as a correction to years of inequitable spending where the State’s largest cities were mostly ignored. In this budget, MLive found, more than $230 million in earmarks fell within the city of Detroit, $101 million in Grand Rapids and $122 million in Lansing. A table to reference the earmarks by county can be found at mlive.com.
Governor World Travel — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer spent seven days in Japan in early September to recruit investments, assure supply chains, and bring some jobs to Michigan. Previous trade mission trips this year were to Norway and France.
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