Capitol News

May 5, 2024


Actuarial Study — SERA has agreed that an actuarial study is needed before serious consideration of a bill like Senate Bill (SB) 775 of 2021. Therefore, our efforts in the last few months have been focused on getting language in the appropriations bills to conduct and finance this study. At our meeting with the Governor’s Legislative Director in April, we learned that financing the study was a concern.

State Senate — Our State Senate Champion, Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has successfully sponsored new language in the Senate Appropriations bill to require an actuarial study of options for an increase in the State of Michigan Defined Benefit (DB) annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA). DB retirees with a $10,000 or above pension at their retirement have been limited to a $300 maximum per year accumulating (not compounding) COLA since 1987. During the last five years, that has meant a 0.96 percent COLA for these new retirees. Meanwhile, inflation has exceeded 170 percent since 1987 for those of us in the DB pension system since the late 80s!

The following boilerplate was added to SB 760 S-1, the Senate General Government Appropriations bill:

“Sec. 894(1)The office of retirement services shall contract with the state’s actuary to conduct a study that provides an array of options and corresponding costs related to providing an increase in the cost-of-living adjustment in the state employees’ retirement system created under section 2 of the state employees’ retirement act, 1943 PA 240, MCL 38.2, which is currently the lesser of $300.00 or 3% of a retiree’s pension.
 (2)The study must include all of the following:
(a) Options for 1-time and permanent adjustments.
(b) The number of individuals impacted.
(c) The short- and long-run costs of providing cost-of-living adjustments.
 (3)The cost of the study must be paid for from work project funds established and available for the purpose of conducting actuarial studies.”

State House — In the State House, the route to success was through our State House Champion, Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Okemos), a member of the full House Appropriations Committee, who sponsored an amendment to HB 5516 H-2, the House General Government Appropriations bill, to add the actuarial study. Brixie said many state employees live in her district, and she felt that it was important to be included. Section 822 of HB 5516 H-2 contains the same language as the Senate 760 S-1, Section 894.

GRS Study — The actuarial study would be done by the State’s actuaries, Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Company (GRS), contractors with the Office of Retirement Services in the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. GRS knows State pension plans very well and has done many actuarial studies over the years. Very precise details as to variables and parameters of the study remain to be determined.

Full Chamber Approval Needed — The next step is approval by the full State Senate and House of the same language during May and early June, and then, if successful, on to the Governor’s desk. The Governor may veto line items in appropriation bills.

Your Voice Is Needed Again — Much of SERA’s success has been because SERA members have raised their voices with their own legislators, legislative leadership, and the Governor through phone calls, snail mail, e-mails, at community forums, and fundraisers. As your lobbyist, I heard this feedback from them! So, it is time to do it again (or the first time if you’ve not done it before)! Contact the Governor and your own State Senator and State House member urging support for the actuarial study and Scrapping the Cap on our $300 COLA. Find them through these methods:


By phone:
Leave a message at 517-335-7858 (Constituent Services)

By snail mail:
Governor Gretchen Whitmer
P.O. Box 30013, Lansing MI 48909

By email

State Senator:

By e-mail

By snail mail:
Michigan State Senator _______
Box 30036, Lansing MI 48909-7536

State Representative

By e-mail

By snail mail:
Michigan State Representative _______
PO Box 30014, Lansing MI 48909-7514


Full House — As expected, Democrats won the two open seats in the Special Election held April 16. Mai Xiong (D-Warren) and Peter Herzberg (D-Westland) were sworn into office on April 30. The House Democratic Caucus has now returned to its slim one-vote majority of 56 members in the 110-member chamber. Substantive policy matters have been held in abeyance in the House since mid-November 2023 when the two Democratic Representatives resigned after being elected mayors of their cities.

Presidential Ballot — On April 18, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., son of former U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who was assassinated during the 1968 presidential campaign, was nominated by Michigan’s Natural Law Party to be its presidential standard bearer. In 2020, Rocky De La Fuente was the Natural Law Party’s nominee. He attracted 2,976 votes or 0.05 percent of the 5.5+ million votes cast. The other major and minor parties will nominate their presidential candidates at conventions later this summer. Without an established Michigan minor party nomination, Kennedy would have had to collect 15,000 valid signatures from registered voters with at least 100 such signatures from at least seven of the State’s 13 U.S. House districts to run as an independent candidate without party affiliation.

Battleground Michigan — Michigan is one of several swing states that both major parties and their allies are targeting with campaign megabucks. With Sen. Debbie Stabenow retiring, there is an open U.S. Senate seat where the Democrats have a current one-vote majority in that body. There are two of 13 open U.S. House races in Michigan currently held by Democrats that Republicans with only a five-vote majority in the 435-seat U.S. House would like to flip. There is a factionalized state Republican Party with new leadership and depleted finances but former Governor Rick Snyder is heading up a Take-Back-the-House fundraising effort. There is a one-vote Democratic majority in the State House with every seat up for election. (The Michigan Senate is not up for election this year.) With all of this as a background, the April 23 candidate filing deadline, April 26 candidate withdrawal deadline, and April 30 challenge deadline were much anticipated.

U.S. Senate — After the dust was mostly settled, the U.S. Senate race will see three Democratic candidates (Nasser Beydoun, Hill Harper, Elissa Slotkin) and four Republican candidates (Justin Amash, Sherry O’Donnell, Sandy Pensler, Mike Rogers) on the August 6 primary ballot.

MI-7 Congressional District (CD) — In the 7th District Congressional race (Clinton, most of Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, and Shiawassee counties) there are two former Lansing area State Senators vying for the open seat being vacated by U.S. Representative Elissa Slotkin who is running for the U.S. Senate seat: Democrat Curtis Hertel (East Lansing) and Republican Tom Barrett (Grand Ledge).

MI-8 CD — In the Genessee, Saginaw, Bay and most of Midland Counties 8th Congressional district being vacated by retiring U.S. Representative Dan Kildee, there are three Democrats (Matt Collier, Kristen McDonald Rivet, Pamela Pugh) and four Republicans (Mary Draves, Anthony Hudson, Paul Junge, Nikki Snyder) running in their primaries.

Other MI CDs — Six of 11 incumbents running for re-election face primary challengers in the other districts. Two first-term U.S. Representatives are defending their seats in competitive districts: John James, R-Farmington Hills, in the Macomb County-based 10th and Hillary Scholten, D-Grand Rapids, in the west Michigan 3rd. Also facing primaries are Democratic Reps.Shri Thanedar and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Haley Stevens of Birmingham, along with Republican Reps. Jack Bergman of Watersmeet and Bill Huizenga of Holland.

Mid-Michigan State House Races — There are no primary contests in either major party in House Districts 73 (current incumbent Julie Brixie [D-Okemos]), 74 (current incumbent Kara Hope [D-Holt]), and 75 (current incumbent Penelope Tsernoglou [D-East Lansing]). In House District 76 filing in Eaton County, current incumbent Rep. Angela Witwer (D-Grand Ledge) will not have a primary whereas two Republicans, Peter Jones and Andy Shaver will compete in the August 6 Republican primary. In House District 77, current incumbent Emily Dievendorf will face Angela Matthews in the Democratic primary, and Jule DeRose and Cady Ness-Smith will face off in the Republican primary.


Officeholder Financial Disclosure — The first annual financial disclosure reports from lawmakers and statewide officers required by Proposal 22-1 and its implementing legislation passed in November 2023 were due April 15. Most officials reported the bare minimum required under the law and nothing more. The reports include employers for the official and their spouse, sources of earned and unearned income, liabilities, assets, and gifts from lobbyists. However, the specific dollar amount is not required nor is the name of the lobbying organization. Candidates for public office must file by May 15. For details, go to and search for Personal Financial Disclosure.

AG Opinion Requested — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has asked Attorney General Dana Nessel for a formal opinion on multiple aspects of the State’s new financial disclosure law which she is required to implement with an online portal. Included in the request was a question about whether the financial disclosure law requires lawmakers and candidates to report all gifts and travel payments received rather than just those reported by lobbyists.

BRITE Act — In a related matter, the House Ethics and Oversight Committee heard testimony on April 18 on the BRITE Act, a seven-bill package designed to increase government transparency. The bills would provide immediate injunctive relief for campaign finance violations and implement a "cooling-off period" of one year for legislators before they could be hired as lobbyists. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel both testified in support of the package. The bills are HBs 5580 – 5586.

Chatfields Indicted — As a reminder of why financial disclosure and the BRITE Act are needed, former House Speaker Lee Chatfield and his wife, Stephanie Chatfield, were charged by Attorney General Dana Nessel on April 16 with multiple felonies related to alleged misuse of 501(c)(4), Political Action Committee, and government funds and resources. The Chatfields are alleged to have improperly used the resources to fund lavish vacations, dining, and other personal credit card expenses. Two one-time Chatfield top aides, Rob and Anné Minard, were charged earlier this year with financial crimes. The Minards and Chatfields have pled not guilty to the embezzlement and corruption charges.

Chatfield became the second former Michigan House Speaker in a year to be charged with felonies, the other being former Speaker of the House Rick Johnson (2001-2004) now serving 55 months in federal prison for accepting more than 40 bribes as the chair of the now defunct medical marijuana licensing board.

Senate Redistricting — The Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission (MICRC) continues to work on redrawing the Senate District maps for the court-ordered 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 11 and any other nearby districts caught in the crosshairs. Some tentative maps are available on the MICRC web page at Three public hearings were planned in Warren, Southfield, and Detroit on May 7 – 9 to collect input on its work thus far and factors it should consider as it draws the Detroit area Senate seats. Commissioners have placed a focus on collecting communities of interest input, which has been one of the top guiding constitutional criteria for their work. Members of the public may file written comments at the MICRC web page.

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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