Perhaps the priorities of Lansing based politicians for the last month — and for the next several months — could be summed up as follows: Getting re-elected if you are not a term-limited House member, trying to find a job in or out of politics if you are one of the 37 House members who are term-limited, and trying to prevent any of your official activities in Lansing to be counter-productive to your top priority. This makes for some interesting dynamics. Meanwhile, the Senate members are attending to constituent affairs and preparing for the state and national conventions.
It does not appear that the Governor and the legislature are any closer to an agreement on how to balance the 2004-5 budget which becomes effective October 1, 2004. There are two political hot potatoes that are preventing any final resolution. The first is the increase in tax on the Detroit casinos. The House passed a measure to double the tax — increasing it 18% to 36%. The Senate passed a version increasing the tax by 6% to a new level of 24%. The bill is now in a conference committee where the difference in the two versions will be resolved. The second major piece of the puzzle is the so called racino bill which would allow casino type gambling at race tracks. This bill, too, is in a conference committee while the conferees try to reach agreement between the house and senate versions. Meanwhile, the Governor is holding on to a piece of the puzzle she thinks will go along way to solve the budget dilemma: an increase in the liquor tax. Stay tuned!
The following is some of the legislative activity for the last month which may be of interest to SERA members:
HB 4062 is a bill which was reported on in last month’s report. This bill establishes a complaint system for nursing homes and assures timely follow-up to and resolution of the complaint. Complaints could be made to the Department of Community Health on a 24 hour toll free hot line. The nursing home resident or his/her family will receive a copy of the response to the complaint. (See last month’s article for more detail). This bill has been signed into law and is Public Act 189 or 2004.
HB 4260 is a bill which increases the penalties for the embezzlement of funds or property from a vulnerable adult if the person committing the crime knew the person was a vulnerable adult. Vulnerable adult means “an individual 18 or over who, because of age, developmental disability, mental illness, or physical disability requires supervision or personal care or lacks the personal and social skills required to live independently; a person placed in adult foster care; or a vulnerable person at least 18 years old who is suspected of being or believed to be abused, neglected, or exploited.” This bill is now law having been assigned Public Act 255 of 2004.
HB 4127 is a bill which prohibits an automobile insurance company from steering a customer to a specific automobile repair service company. This bill was explained in the June Legislative Report. It allows automobile owners to choose where they wish to have their vehicles repaired. This bill has been signed by the Governor and is now Public Act 190 of 2004.
HBs 5174-77 are bills which would prohibit a person from knowingly or recklessly adulterating, misbranding, removing, or substituting a drug or medicine in a manner that rendered it injurious to health. Additionally, the selling or offering for sale an adulterated drug as well as possessing for sale, causing to be sold, manufacturing for sale an adulterated, misbranded, removed, or substituted drug or medicine would be prohibited. Violation of the above prohibitions would be classified as felonies for which the bill specifies penalties. The bill also provided for administrative sanctions by a disciplinary committee of a health profession. These bills also have been signed by the Governor and are now laws as Public Acts 213 through 216 of 2004.
HB 5653 and 5463 are bills which would allow a taxpayer to claim a credit, generally not in excess of $50 for an individual taxpayer or $100 for a joint return, against the income tax or single business tax an amount equal to 50% of the fair market value of an automobile to a qualified recipient. The value of the automobile would be claimed by the receiving qualified organization or by the industry guide book, whichever is less. A qualified organization may exclude the sales tax on an eligible automobile to a qualified recipient from the gross proceeds used to determine the organization’s sales tax liability. The bill defines qualified recipient and qualified organization and eligible automobile. These bills are now law as Public Acts 301 & 302 of 2004.
SB 544 is the first of a series of bills relating to mobile home taxation and governance going through the legislative process. This bill would prohibit a municipality from charging a mobile home park more than it would other customers for the same type of water and sewer services. It also revises the membership of the Commission and changes the name of the governing organization from the Mobile Home Commission to the Manufactured Home Commission. Finally, the bill adopts the Federal law definition of “manufactured home” .This bill has passed the Senate and in now in the House Committee on Local Government and Urban Policy, Yet to be legislatively addressed is the very important and potentially controversial “mobile home tenants’ bill of rights”.
State Officers Compensation Commission — The SOCC which recommends the salary of the elected state officials, will make its recommendations prior to November 1. The Governor recently named three new members to the Commission. They are Gary Corbin, a former state senator, Penny Dietch, a Compuware Corporation official, and Larry Leatherwood, a retired Department of Transportation official. All three have been named to represent the general public. Their terms expire June, 2008. Their recommendations must be approved by a majority vote of the legislature to go into effect.
Supreme Court Decision — The Michigan Supreme Court recently overturned a 23 year old decision regarding eminent domain, the term applied to the government’s taking of property. The Court ruled that property could only be taken if it was going to be used for a public purpose or for the public good. The decision said that generally private property cannot be taken and then put to private use. At issue was the taking of private property near the Metropolitan Detroit airport for an industrial park. The court ruled that Wayne County could not take the property because an industrial park was not of specific benefit to the public. In making this ruling, the court overturned a 1981 Supreme Court decision known as the “Poletown” decision which took private property to build a General Motors plant.
Ralph Nader Controversy — A political battle is brewing involving both major parties regarding the designation Ralph Nader will carryon the November presidential ballot. The secretary of state refused to certify Nader as the Reform Party candidate because another faction of that Party claims to be the “real” Reform Party with another candidate. Meanwhile, petitions were circulated to get Nader’s name on the ballot as an Independent candidate. With a tremendous amount of assistance from the Republican party, enough signatures were obtained to get Nader on the ballot as an Independent. The Democratic Party is crying “foul” because they believe the Republicans circulated petitions for Nader in order to split the Democrat vote in November. The Democratic officials are threatening to sue to keep Nader off the ballot as an Independent.
Women Against Anti-Affirmative Action Initiative — The Michigan Chapter of the National Women’s Caucus has announced its opposition to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. the attempt to change the Constitution to ban race as a consideration in the admission policies of universities. This effort is now stalled in terms of being on the ballot in 2004 because various legal decisions bogged down the collection of the required number of signatures. Supporters of this anti-affirmative action initiative promise to get it on the ballot, in 2006.
Governor’s Ban on Supply Purchases — Governor Granholm has issued a ban on the purchase of supplies by state agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year due to the state’s fiscal crisis. Exempt from the ban are items required by court order, items necessary for the health and safety of state residents, and items required to meet the basic needs of those institutionalized in the state.
Sale of State Hospital — After finally selling Northville State Hospital, the state has announced the acceptance of bids for the sale of Ypsilanti Regional Hospital, the old Ypsilanti State Hospital. Of course, proceeds from the sale will be used to assist in the budget deficit.
People in the News
John Cherry, Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor has been named Treasurer of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.
Editor’s note: Alvin Whitfield is former President of the Lansing SERA Chapter and former Chairperson of the Michigan SERA Council and current Legislative Representative for both the Council and the Lansing Chapter. He may be contacted at 1241 Runaway Bay Drive, C-3, Lansing, Michigan 48917; phone 517/703-9666; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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