Capitol News

March 10, 2024


Michigan SERA’s effort to Scrap the $300 Cap on defined benefit (DB) State employee retirees’ annual 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is advancing enthusiastically. SERA Legislative Committee Member Cole Bouck’s efforts with SERA chapters and members, departmental Facebook retiree pages, departmental retiree groups, and State unions and State unions’ retiree groups has produced many letters of support to legislators and some resolutions of support from organizations.

Please Help — If you are reading this and want to help us, go to SERA’s Website home page and choose from many ways to participate: phone calls, sending form letters, circulating a petition, attending legislator community meetings, sponsoring an organizational resolution, or making up your own communications. This problem can only be fixed with legislative and Governor’s approval.

Over 85 percent of DB State retirees have hit the $300/year-$25/month cap. One retiree said he calculated that the $25/month he received as soon as he retired many years ago is worth $7 today. The problem is that the $300 was not indexed to inflation and has remained the same since it was established in a 1987 amendment to the State Employees Retirement Act. The public school employee retirement act was changed to a 3 percent COLA at the same time but there was no cap limiting those retirees’ COLA.

Example — Here’s an example from a member of the SERA Legislative Committee’s own pension experience:

Year Spouse Income 3%
Annual COLA
My income
$300 Annual COLA
2010 $28,454 $39,134
2018 $34,613 $41,534
2022 $37,789 $42,734
Increase $9,335 $3,600

Actuarial Study — We have been informed by Sen. Sarah Anthony’s office that the current year budget contains a $500,000 appropriation to conduct actuarial pension studies like the ones needed to estimate the cost of Scrapping the Cap.

Budget Update — The Governor’s Proposed 2024-2025 Budget Message of February 7 proposed an overall budget for the 2024-25 fiscal year of $80.7 billion gross, a bit smaller than the $81.1 billion allocated so far for the 2023-24 fiscal year. General Fund spending would fall from $15.1 billion in the current year to $14.3 billion under the Governor’s budget.

In the last month, Appropriation Subcommittees have spent their meetings reviewing the Governor’s recommendations, hearing from department directors, and listening to presentations from stakeholders. The plan is to start moving budgets after the Legislature returns from its March 22 — April 9 spring break.


Presidential Primary — Although the Governor and the legislative majority Democrats went to great lengths to move Michigan’s primary from March 12 to February 27 to garner greater influence for Michigan in the presidential sweepstakes, the 2024 presidential primary attracted only 23 percent of Michigan voters according to unofficial vote tallies. However, it was a good practice run for many new Michigan voting laws including nine days of early voting. Over 78,000 voters voted in person at an early voting site. More than 1.4 million voters requested an absentee ballot for the primary, a half million more than in 2020’s presidential primary.

Republican Ticket — Despite disputes over who is the leader and in control of the Michigan Republican Party, 59.4 percent of those voting chose a Republican ballot. Former President Donald Trump attracted 68 percent of Republican voters with 27 percent for former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley; the rest were scattered among six others who had withdrawn. Trump will get 12 delegates and Haley will get four delegates from the Michigan presidential primary. However, most of the Michigan Republican Party delegates were decided at a caucus held on March 2: all 39 caucus delegates were awarded to Trump. Former Michigan Republican Party Chair Karamo held a separate caucus on the same day and elected a competing slate of delegates for some Congressional Districts. The National Republican Party convention will be held July 15-18, 2024, in Milwaukee.

Democratic Ticket — In the Democratic race, President Joe Biden garnered 80 percent of the votes and 12 percent for “uncommitted” with the rest choosing two candidates who had withdrawn, no choice, or a write-in. While the effort to protest the war in the Gaza strip with an “uncommitted” vote didn’t gain 15 percent of the statewide vote that it hoped, it did receive 17 percent in the 6th and 12th U.S. House districts and will have two delegates at the Democratic Party convention August 19-22, 2024, in Chicago.

Local Government — On February 27, there were 154 local government proposals on many ballots, mostly for school, public safety, road, and library matters. 126 Passed, 28 Failed, for an 81.8 percent pass rate.

Upcoming Elections — A Special General Election for Michigan House Districts 13 (Warren area) and 25 (Westland area) will be held on April 16, votes will likely be certified by April 26, and the new House members likely seated the week of April 30. Because these two seats formerly held by Democrats are vacated, the House is evenly divided 54-54. Currently, any bills passing the House must receive 55 votes, meaning there must be bi-partisan support. Consequently, House floor business is very limited.

A General Election will be held in many communities on May 7 for school and other local ballot issues. There will be a General Primary voting beginning July 27 and ending August 6 and a General Election beginning on October 26 and ending on November 5.


Four bills to modernize the value thresholds where surviving spouses and heirs can avoid having to go through the probate process were signed March 6 by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The probate process is often extremely difficult and expensive to navigate, the statutes have not been updated in decades, and do not reflect the current cost of living. The bills increase the value for vehicles and watercraft where a surviving spouse or heir can request a title transfer outside of probate court. The new laws also increase the amount of a gift a minor can receive without the aid of a guardian or trustee that is not subject to court approval.

Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) and Rep. Graham Filler (R-Duplain Township) sponsored the bills (House Bill (HB) 4416, now Public Act (PA) 1 of 2024; HB 4417, now PA 2 of 2024; HB 4418,now PA 3 of 2024; HB 4419, now PA 4 of 2024). PA 1 and 3 took effect February 21; PA 2 and 4 take effect May 21, 2024. The bills and the plain English description of them can be found at


In response to the December 21 federal court of appeals panel decision rejecting the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s maps for seven Michigan House districts, the Commission decided on February 28 to send the federal court panel a redrawn configuration of House districts 1 — 14, including changes to the seven that the court rejected based on a strict interpretation of the federal Constitution’s 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause. The Commission had used race of the voting age population as one factor while attempting to comply with the federal statutory Voting Rights Act (VRA). The Commission appealed the federal court panel decision but, in the meantime, has complied with the court order.

The proposed new map, titled Motown Sound FC E1, was submitted to the court before its March 1 court-imposed deadline. The Black plaintiffs have communicated to the court panel that they want further map changes to House Districts 16, 17, and 18 to create two more majority Black districts entirely within the city of Detroit. It is also asking that District 12 not include St. Clair Shores and District 10 include St. Clair Shores and Harper Woods.

The proposed maps will be reviewed by a court-appointed special master. A second court-appointed special master was appointed to help the court design an alternative remedy map if proposed House maps failed to meet the court’s standards.

According to Gongwer News, if the court accepts the Motown Sound FC E1 map, it could mean some level of change, in some cases significant, to House districts 1 - 14. Regarding potential impact on partisan control of the House, a new 13th District consisting of Roseville, central St. Clair Shores, and eastern Warren has the potential to be competitive in a strong Republican year but leans Democratic. Otherwise, the changes have no effect on competitive seats, only redrawing solidly Democratic ones. The proposed map avoids any incumbent-on-incumbent primaries for Democrats who have a slim majority in the House.

The federal district court is scheduled to decide on the maps by March 29. The filing deadline for candidates for the House is April 23. The court-ordered Michigan Senate maps will be redrawn after the dust settles on the House maps and well before the next Senate election in 2026.


Income Tax Rate — On March 7, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the Attorney General’s Opinion that a 2015 law reducing the State income tax rate from 4.25 percent to 4.05 percent for the 2023 tax year will not be permanent. The law in question says when revenues outpace inflation, “the current rate” shall be reduced. Plaintiffs in the case are represented by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and have already announced that they intend to appeal the ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Campaign Finance Violations — GOP fundraisers Heather Lombardini and Sandy Baxter were charged by the Attorney General’s Office with a variety of felonies and misdemeanors on February 21 in connection with their work for two nonprofits connected to former Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey that funded the Unlock Michigan ballot initiative. It eventually repealed an emergency powers law Governor Gretchen Whitmer used at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. By fundraising through the nonprofits, donors could contribute without being revealed, AG Dana Nessel said. The charges allege that the pair willfully circumvented the State’s campaign finance laws by raising $2.5 million for the two nonprofits, avoiding the disclosure requirements that exist for ballot initiative committees. Shirkey is not charged because he was not a designated recordkeeper for the funds.

Trade Mission — On a recent trade mission to South Korea and Taiwan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer met with Taiwanese President Yoon Suk Yeol and representatives from auto manufacturing companies and announced the opening of a state office in Taiwan to focus on building relationships with a priority in the semiconductor and electric vehicle industries. The Michigan Taiwan Office will be run by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and will focus on securing investments in the automotive, semiconductor, renewable energy, and advanced manufacturing industries.

State Rep. Disciplined Over Racist Posts — State Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford) was stripped of his committee assignments, office allotment, and staff after his race-tinged rhetoric on social media. He posted about the “great replacement” theory, a white nationalist conspiracy theory that holds Jewish elites are conspiring to increase nonwhite populations with the aim of outnumbering European heritage Americans. The House voted 98-5 to pass House Resolution 191, which denounced the “espousal of racist, xenophobic and white supremacist language, theories and images.” Five Republican members voted against the resolution, and two didn’t vote.

A recent poll commissioned by Progress Michigan found that of 818 voters, 68 percent say they would be less likely to support a political party that has candidates connected to white nationalist or white supremacist views, while 20 percent said those views don’t make a difference.

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

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