A new chapter is being written in the history of Michigan’s fiscal crisis. The legislature is trying a new method to resolve the budgetary problems. Using the concepts outlined in the popular book “The price of Government: Getting the results we need in an Age of Permanent Fiscal Crisis”, legislators are using citizen focus groups to help prioritize government services which will then be determined by available resources for the 2005-6 fiscal year. These new approaches are somewhat faddish and are commonly referred to as “results driven budgets” and “outcome based budgets”. The bottom line is that there is not enough revenue to provide traditional government services and neither the Governor nor the legislature has the political will to call for meaningful revenue increases.
Continuing the partisan political battles, the Governor’s Executive Order to partially resolve the current year $380 million deficit was approved by the House Appropriations Committee and rejected by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Without both Committees’ approval, the Executive Order is rejected. There were complaints by legislators that the Governor did not consult with them to get their ideas of where cuts could occur before issuing her proposed cuts. The Governor will have to modify her original EO and resubmit it. She now knows the specific areas where the legislators disagree with her proposed cuts. And the sparring continues...
Amid all the battles over the current budget and the Governor’s proposed 2005-6 budget, bills were introduced and considered by legislative committees. Among those which may be of interest to our members are the following:
SB 14 6 which would remove the prohibition against Michigan pharmacists using the mail to receive prescriptions and dispense medications has passed the House and gone to the Senate Committee on Health Policy Committee. It is anticipated that another bill related to the processing of prescriptions soon will be introduced by Representative Scott Hummel. This bill would amend the current law to allow for the filling of prescriptions brought to a local pharmacist at a central/remote location. The customer would bring the prescription to the pharmacist who would then electronically transmit it to a central facility to be filled. The central filling facility using state-of-the-art equipment would fill the prescription and overnight the medication back to the local pharmacy where the customer could pick it up. Alternatively, the customer could choose to have the prescription sent from the central filling facility directly to his/her home. Implicit in this concept is a cost savings which eventually would allow local pharmacies to compete with the traditional mail order pharmacy firms (in allowing one co-payment for a ninety day supply, for example). Such cost savings is not a part of the current legislation. The Hummel bill will be sent to the Health Policy Committee when introduced.
SBs 54 & 151 are bills intended to address computer “spyware” concerns. “Spyware” are computer programs which are insidiously installed on a person’s computer to unscrupulously obtain information. SB 151 would prohibit the installation or the causing the installation of such programs on another person’s computer, prohibit the use of a context-based triggering mechanism to display a “popup” advertisement in a way that interfered with the user’s ability to view the internet, and permit the Attorney General or an adversely effected person to bring action against one who violate these provisions. SB 54 defines the penalties for violating the provisions of SB 151 and establishes sentencing guidelines for such violations. The recently introduced bills have been reported out of the Committee on Technology and Energy and are on the Senate floor.
HB 4226 is a bill which would prohibit legislators, state elected officials, and major department heads from engaging in lobbying activities within one year after they leave their position as state officials. The intent of the bill is to prevent conflicts of interest or the appearance of conflicts of interest. The bill has passed the House and is now in the Senate Committee on Government Operations.
HB 4237 was recently introduced and would require the Department of Management and Budget to determine the true cost of operating and maintaining the state’s payroll system within 120 days after the effective date of the bill. Further, the bill would require Management and Budget to solicit bids from vendors to operate and maintain the payroll system within 240 days after the effective date of the bill. If bids are received that reflect a cost less than 98% of the Department’s true cost, the Department would then have to enter into a contract with a vendor. The bill has been reported out of the Committee on Government Operations and is before the full House.
SB 127 was recently introduced and ban an individual’s cell telephone number from being included in a national directory unless the individual grants specific written permission to have the number included. The bill was referred to the Committee on Technology and Energy.
SJR “B” & HJR “C” are two Joint Resolutions dealing with the same subject. These two resolutions would, if passed, put on the ballot in 2006 the question of whether the Superintendent of Public Instruction should be appointed by the Governor and have his term of office set by the Governor. Currently the Superintendent is appointed by the elected State School Board. There was a recent battle between the Governor and the now-resigned Superintendent Thomas Watkins over his contract renewal by the School Board. The Resolutions require a two-thirds vote of both chambers to get on the ballot in 2006 as a constitutional change.
Confidentiality Compromised — Some 2,318 Michigan residents may be subject to potential identity theft as the result of a compromise of the database of ChoicePoint, a credit reporting agency which provides information to banks and insurance companies. Hackers were able to get into their computer system and obtain confidential information on some 145,000 people nationwide. ChoicePoint mailed out letters to all individuals whose information was compromised during the first week of March. If you did not receive a letter, consider yourself lucky. If you received a letter from ChoicePoint the letter instructs you of the steps to take in order to reduce the possibility of identity theft.
Free Credit Reports — Beginning March 1st, Michigan residents may obtain a free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. This is the result of federal legislation signed into law last year. It is suggested that people spread out their requests for the credit reports during the year inasmuch as the information contained in the reports may change. One report should be requested now, one at mid-year, and the other in the latter part of the year. The three firms which will make reports available are: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. There are three methods for requesting the reports — via telephone: 1-877-322-8228; via internet: http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com; or by mail: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You will have to provide your Social Security number when you request the free report. Such reports may be requested every twelve months from each of the three firms.
JCAR Action on Credit Scoring — The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules appears prepared to reject the rule change issued by the State Insurance Commissioner which bans the use of credit scores in determining automobile and home insurance rates. However, any attempt to get a bill through the legislature to formally overturn the rule change will probably be in vain because legislators realize that the Governor will most likely veto such legislation. This means that the rule change will most likely stand and become effective July 1, 2005 unless the insurance industry files suit to block them.
California Joins Mega Millions Game — California becomes the twelfth state to be a participant in the Mega Millions Lottery game. This will mean even larger jackpots for the popular multi-state game. Some 150 million people now live in Mega Millions jackpot states. Michigan, of course, is a participating state.
Anti Dove Hunting Petition Drive — It appears that the leaders of the drive to obtain the necessary signatures needed to get the 2004 law permitting dove hunting before the voters will be successful. They have until the end of March to obtain the required signatures to put the issue on the November, 2006 ballot. Reports filed by the Committee to Restore Dove Shooting Ban show that they raised some $57,484 in 2004 and spent all of it except $3596 in their signature campaign effort.
Anti Affirmative Action Campaign — The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which opposes affirmative action in college admissions and government hiring practices and is trying to obtain a Constitutional amendment to achieve this end, spent some $713, 464 in 2004 in their successful drive to get the issue on the ballot in November, 2006. They have $5,103 left. Citizens for a United Michigan, the group supporting affirmative action and opppsing the Constitutional amendment has some $870 on hand, although their major efforts have just begun.
Detroit Legislative Caucus — For the first time, the eleven House members representing Detroit residents have formed a “Detroit Caucus”. The Caucus has a twelfth member who represents some 25,000 Detroiters but primarily represents the Grosse Points. Having a caucus allows the group to leverage their voting power to obtain legislation which is in the best interest of Detroit and its citizens.
People in the News
John Bowman a former Democratic legislator from Wayne County died at the age of 83. He served in both the House and the Senate from 1955 to 1977. Mr. Bowman was instrumental in establishing the Lottery resulting in the Act bearing his name.
Jelt Sietsema — a Democrat from Wyoming who served 18 years in the House died at the age of 83. He is best know for sponsoring the law that required street curbs to be cut to accommodate wheelchairs.
Saul Anuzis — A Lansing area businessman was elected Chairman of the Republican Party at its recent convention. Mr. Anuzis had worked as a legislative staff member in the past.
Michael Boushard — A former legislator and current Oakland County sheriff retracted his announcement to be a candidate for Governor in 2006. In his retraction, he indicated he has a health problem which will prevent him from the rigorous schedule of a gubernatorial candidate.
David Gorcyca — The Oakland County prosecutor who was rumored to be a candidate for Governor announced that he would not be a candidate for the position. He indicated that his commitment to his young children prevented him from running.
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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