Finally it is over! After a fierce presidential campaign, I now can go to my mailbox or turn on my TV or answer the telephone without fear of being inundated with glossy literature or television political advertisements or a recorded message from George W. Bush (or whoever) stating and restating each party’s propaganda. Every once in a while we hear about the pros and cons of term limits. To heck with term limits! I’m ready for a political campaign time limits movement. It is either that or adding more mental health facilities to handle those of us who have been driven insane by all the political rhetoric. And this is coming from a self-confessed political junkie!
While the legislature was in recess for much of the month, there are a few legislative activities on which to report. The following bills may be of interest to our members:
HB 4868 is a bill commonly known as the “mobile home owners’ bill of rights”. It is one of a series of bills relating to mobile homes and is formally entitled “Manufactured Home Owners’ Residency Act”. Basically, this bill would prohibiting owners and operators of mobile home parks from taking certain adverse actions against mobile home owners. Specifically, the bill would prevent park owner/operators from (1) denying a park resident the right to sell a manufactured home within the park to a qualified buyer at a price determined by the resident (2) prohibit the placement of up to two standard-sized “for sale” signs on a manufactured home or in its windows (3) restricting the length of time a political yard sign can be displayed (4) restricting the right of mobile home park residents from meeting with political candidates and public officials on the park premises (5) prohibiting commercial pickup trucks if the park owner were regulating the size and weight of trucks allowed in the park (6) threatening or initiating the eviction of a park resident in violation of applicable laws (requiring just cause) (7) prohibiting a resident from organizing a homeowners association or denying the use of common areas to an association if the association agreed to the terms and conditions which are applicable to other residents. The bill includes sanctions for the violation of any of its provisions. Other provisions of the bill would permit the park owner to offer residents a discount incentive for early payment of utility bills. Park owners would have to give written notice before increasing any fee related to park residency. This bill has passed the House and is under active consideration in the Senate.
SB 1164 is a bill which has been signed into law as PA 372. This new law requires nursing homes to hold beds vacant for patients who are temporarily absent from the home for medical or physician-approved therapeutic reasons provided the nursing home receives payment for the period the bed is held vacant if the home is at 98% of capacity. Under these conditions, the bed may be held vacant for 10 days for emergency medical care or for 18 days for therapeutic treatment purposes.
SB 1269 & SB 5953 are bills which address aid for families of those serving in the military. The bills have been signed into law and are PA 363 & 364, respectively. PA 363 creates the Military Family Relief Fund Act. PA 364 provides for grants to be made from the Fund to a qualified individual or his/her family and defines who is qualified as a member of a reserve unit based in Michigan or a Michigan resident serving in a reserve unit elsewhere. The person applying for assistance would have to be able to document the need for assistance for clothing, food, housing, utilities, medical services or prescriptions, insurance payments, vehicle payments or other necessities pro provided the need occurred either during the time the individual was on active duty or because the individual received a line-of-duty injury or illness. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will receive and review grant applications and authorize payment from the Fund. A qualified individual and his/her family would be limited to not more than $2000 from the Fund within a calendar year unless it is determined to be an emergency or an extreme situation. Funding for this program will come from a $1 income tax check-off applicable for the next four years.
SB 1323 is now Public Act 383. This law permits the State Lottery to have private business advertising and promotional material on the back of tickets and other media material and documents under the control of the Lottery. Such promotional material can include discount coupons for retail goods. No advertising or promotions for alcoholic beverages or tobacco products are allowed. It is anticipated that revenue from advertising/promotion allowed under this new law could generate some $7.9 million for the School Aid Fund.
Flu Shot Limits — Community Health Department Director Janet Olsezewski issued an emergency order limiting flu shots only to those considered most at risk. This order resulted from a shortage of flu vaccine in the United States. Those having the ability to receive flu shots under the order are: (1) children under 2 years of age (2) adults over age 65 (3) residents of nursing homes (4) adults with chronic health conditions (5) children under age 18 on aspirin therapy (6) health care workers having direct patient contact (7) home health care workers. Health workers responsible for giving flu shots who violate the order could be charged with a misdemeanor and subjected to six months in jail and a $200 fine for each incident.
Potential Lame Duck Legislation — There is considerable speculation regarding what issues the lame duck legislature will address before December 31. Governor Granholm has said she wants to get business tax legislation passed while some House members want to take up term limit legislation. There are three House Joint Resolutions dealing with term limits which could serve as vehicles for legislative action. Regardless what is done with term limits legislatively, the voters will have the final word because it requires a Constitutional amendment which must be approved in a statewide election. Legislative passage would merely get the issue before the voters.
Civil Service Commission Authority — In a decision in a lawsuit brought by a state government employee who thought she should be reallocated, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Civil Service Commission has sole authority and control over job classification matters. The circuit .. court had refused to intervene in the matter and the Court of Appeals upheld that action.
Support MI Troops — Governor Granholm and Attorney General Cox announced a program to allow citizens to donate money for Christmas gifts for Michigan military personnel fighting overseas. The program is operated through the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and donations can be made through December 11th. Checks should be made payable to the Recreation Fund for Michigan Troops and sent to the Chamber offices. The cutoff date allows enough time to acquire the gifts and send them to the troops.
Handicapped Parking Decision — In a decision which could have statewide implications, the Court of Appeals ruled that the state vehicle code trumps local parking ordinances. The City of Monroe had a one hour limit for handicapped individuals parking in metered spaces. The state’s motor vehicle code exempts disabled persons from parking violations. The Appeals Court reversed a lower court ruling in deciding that the state’s vehicle code takes precedence.
Attorney General Grants Bonuses — Attorney General Mike Cox granted some $340,000 in bonuses to his staff despite the state’s dismal fiscal picture and the fact that the Governor had disallowed such bonus payments for executive branch employees under her jurisdiction. The bonuses granted by Mr. Cox ranged from 0.5% to 3.0%. Because the Attorney General is an elected official, he does not necessarily have to follow the Governor’s mandates. Governor’s Spending Controls -Governor Granholm issued executive orders renewing the state government spending constraints that were in effect for the last fiscal year. Department heads were told to prohibit non-essential travel (including no out-of-state travel), prohibit the
Attorney General Grants Bonuses — Attorney General Mike Cox granted some $340,000 in bonuses to his staff despite the State’s dismal fiscal picture and the fact that the Governor had disallowed such bonus payments for executive branch employees under her jurisdiction. The bonuses granted by Mr. Cox ranged from .05% to 3.0%. Because the Attorney General in an elected official, he does not necessarily have to follow the Governor’s mandates.
Governor’s Spending Controls — Governor Granholm issued executive orders renewing the State Government spending constraints that were in effect for the last fiscal year. Department heads were told to prohibit nonessential travel (including no out-of-state travel), prohibit the purchase of nonessential supplies, and restrict the hiring of new employees and acquiring contractual services. The Governor is predicting a deficit for the 2005-6 fiscal year (beginning October 1, 2005) of some $500 million. Senate Leader Ken Sikimma predicts only a $72 million deficit. The battle continues — even this early.
Release of Mental Health Report — The special Commission established by Governor Granholm to review the delivery of mental health services in Michigan and make recommendations regarding delivery of those services has presented its findings to the Governor. Some of the recommendations are controversial such as the one calling for parity between the availability/delivery of mental health services and physical health services. Those who pay for health services claim that if mental health services are put on par with physical health services the cost may force businesses to discontinue providing coverage for all health services. This issue has already been hotly debated in the legislature and, with the issuance of the mental health report, will continue to be debated.
People in the News
Michael O’Brien, who served 24 years in the state senate, died at age 62 after a long illness. Mr. O’Brien represented Detroit before being defeated in the primary in 1998. He was succeeded by Hanson Clark in the Senate.
Dorothy Comstock Riley, who became the second woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court died at the age of 79 after a long illness. Ms. Riley gained fame after being appointed to the Court by Governor Milliken and was ousted from the Court by her fellow justices as a result of a controversy between two governors. Milliken had appointed her during the last month of his lame duck term. Governor Blanchard challenged the appointment because it did not take effect until January — when he would be governor. The Supreme Court agreed with Governor Blanchard and expelled her from the Court. Not to be outdone, in 1984, Ms. Riley ran for a Supreme Court seat and defeated an incumbent justice, Thomas Giles Kavanaugh. She was twice reelected.
William Milliken, in a surprise move, endorsed Democrat John Kerry for president. The popular, moderate, former Republican governor said in endorsing the opposing party candidate that President Bush was “pandering to the extreme right wing of the nation”.
Jennifer Granholm — Michigan’s first female attorney general and governor, was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame in a ceremony held in Novi.
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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