The battle continues over the state budget and how to jump-start the state’s economy and attract new businesses to Michigan, albeit in a more civil and orderly fashion. The new battlefield is in the form of a “workgroup” consisting of a legislator and staff member from each chamber and a representative from the Governor’s office. The workgroup will tackle four separate issues: (1) the single business tax (2) 2005-6 budget (3) the merit award program (4) a bonding proposal to improve economic climate. It is anticipated that the group will work thorough the issues and arrive at a solution acceptable to the legislature and the governor. Time to finalize the 2005-6 budget is getting close and the negotiations are getting serious. It did not help relationships after the governor characterized the work of the legislature to date as “unproductive” prior to the creation of the workgroups.
There is not much legislative activity to report inasmuch as the legislature did not meet during much of the month. Scheduled Senate Wednesday meeting dates were cancelled. The following is a summary of activity relating to legislative action:
HB 5048 — is a bill dealing with the issue of securitization, a word we will hear a lot about in the coming months. Securitization refers to the selling to investors the rights to the annual tobacco settlement payments, due to be paid the state over a number of years. The investors then sell bonds and use the revenue from the bonds to pay the state a discounted rate for the total settlement amount. (Conceptually, this is similar to a major lottery winner taking a lump-sum payment in lieu of being paid over some 20 or 25 years.) Under HB 5048, a Michigan Tobacco Settlement Securitization Authority and a Tobacco Settlement Securitization Fund would be created. It would authorize three-fourths of the remaining future tobacco settlement payments to be sold. This bill would create the mechanism for handling the revenue from the sale of bonds. This bill will not move very fast because of legal, political, and cost considerations which are still being ironed out. Among the questions yet to be answered are how much revenue will be generated, what amount of the tobacco settlement money would be securitized, what use would be made of the revenue gained from securitization, and what legal prohibitions exist against using the securitized fund for certain purposes. The bill has been reported out of the committee on Commerce and is on the House floor where controversial issues are being debated.
HB 4959 — is the bill which would totally prohibit the shipment of wine in Michigan. This bill was reported on in last month’s report. Some 58 House members signed on as sponsors of the bill. But after ten newspaper editorials criticizing the bill and complaints by the independent wine producers and the suggestion that lobbyist money was behind the original support, a number of original sponsors have withdrawn their support. It appears that there will now be some compromise to the total shipping ban embodied in the bill.
The following bills most of which have been reported on in previous Legislative Report columns have been signed into law by the Governor:
HB 4322 & SB 189 — are now Public Acts 86 & 87, respectively. These bills control the sale of the drug ephedrine or pseudoephedrine products. Sale of these products is limited to individuals 18 years or older who must show photo identification and the product must be maintained behind the counter or in a locked case and sales of the product must be recorded. The bill provides other control measures and penalties for violation of the acts.
HB 4434 & SB 352 — are now Public Acts 72 & 73, respectively. These bills remove the prohibition against pharmacist filling prescriptions by mail and allow for the central filling of prescriptions. These bills have been reported many times in this column. The bills do not provide for a 90 day supply for one co-payment at a local pharmacy.
SB 522 — is now Public Act 103. This bill allows for easements along state highways to be used for public utilities, if approved by state authorities, without the expressed approval of the local government in which the highway may be located. It resolves a long standing fight by the City of Lansing to prevent a gas line from being run along the I-96 corridor in Lansing. The City of Lansing’s opposition to the pipeline brought the issue to the forefront.
SB 513 — is now Public Act 71. The act makes various changes to local election procedures and requirements. One of the most significant provisions of this act allows the secretary of state and all county, city, or township clerks to capture and reproduce the signature of an elector from a voter registration application, and transmit that signature to the qualified voter file. The signature could then be used by an election official to verify an elector’s identity through signature comparison needed for election matters.
The following bill was vetoed by Governor Granholm:
HB 4275 — which would limit the authority of the state board of canvassers to declaring a ballot question petition sufficient unless it was determined the petition was not in proper form or that the number of valid signatures was less than the required minimum number. The board could not consider the substance of the proposal contained on the petition or the manner in which the signatures were collected. The Governor vetoed this bill because of an ongoing recent issue involving the authority of the state board of canvassers. There were accusations of fraud and misrepresentation by circulators of the petitions for the anti-affirmative action petition. The accusation centers around petition circulators deliberately misrepresenting the intent of the content of the petition. A number of affidavits were presented to the board of canvassers by signers indicating they were duped by circulators into believing the petitions were in support of affirmative action programs. The opposite is true. Among those presenting affidavits were two judges. The Attorney General advised the board of canvassers that consideration of these issues was beyond their scope of authority. After a lengthy hearing the four member board voted 1-2-1 against certifying the petitions. The one no vote and the one abstention were by Republican members. The two yes votes were by the Democrat members. It is almost a certainty that the issue will have to be resolved by the courts. Through her veto, the Governor chose not to add fuel to an already burning fire, thus maintaining the status quo authority of the board.
Formal Democrat Legislative Complaint — Two House Democrats have requested an investigation and possible prosecution of two Republican members of the House because of the manner in which a procedural matter was handled. In attempting to amend a bill on the floor of the House, the Democrats submitted 22 signatures to request a recorded vote on the amendment. The Constitutions requires that one-fifth of the members of a chamber request a recorded vote. Representative Jerry Kooiman was presiding and refused to acknowledge the request for a recorded vote. The Democrats are claiming that Kooiman and Representative Chris Ward who is the floor leader were guilty of the crime of“felonious misconduct in office.” The State Police are investigating the matter and will confer with the Attorney General and the Ingham County Prosecutor before deciding what action to take.
Supreme Court beach-walking decision — In a very controversial decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled 5 to 2 that the public has the right to walk the beaches of the great lakes below the high water mark without the permission of the adjacent property owners. The majority opinion concluded that the state has an obligation to guard the public trust along the lake shores and one right under the public trust is to walk the beaches. The opinion further indicated that there were limits to the type of activity the public could conduct, but among approved activities were swimming, fishing, and walking. The Court adopted Wisconsin’s 1914 definition of “high water mark.” It is defined as where “the presence and action of the water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark either by erosion, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, or other easily recognized characteristics.” Justice Stephen Markman wrote a 67 page dissent.
Same sex benefits lawsuit — After Attorney General Cox issued an opinion stating that the Constitution amendment passed in 2002 banning same sex marriage extended to same sex benefits for non-married gay couples, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state. Because Mr. Cox’s opinion is inconsistent with Governor Granholm’s interpretation of this issue and Mr. Cox is the official state lawyer, Governor Granholm requested the appointment of a special counsel to represent the state in the lawsuit. Mr. Cox asked the court for permission to intervene. It should be a very interesting court case with two state officials having vastly differing opinions on the interpretation of the Constitutional amendment.
Change in support for closing Newberry Correctional Facility — In a quick turn of events, House Speaker Craig DeRoche withdrew his support for closing Newberry Correctional Facility as a budget cutting measure. This change seems to be connected to the change in voter attitude toward Republican Representative Tom Casperson who represents the area and who originally supported the closing. It appears that it became clear that Casperson had lost much voter support which put his reelection in jeopardy. DeRoche’s statement appeared to signal to the Newberry area voters that his change in opposition was in deference to Mr. Casperson.
Traffic accident report access — The State Police have announced that interested parties, such as persons involved and insurance companies, may purchase for a $10.00 fee reports of an accident by using a website. In order to get a copy of the report, the purchaser must provide crash data, driver license number, and accident/case number.
New state telephone directory available for purchase — For the first time since 2000, the state has published a new state telephone directory. The telephone book is available on line in PDF format at http://michigan.gov/som/0,1607,7192--113777--,.html or copies may be purchased on line at http://mi.mall.michigan.gov/.
People in the News
Mitch Irwin has left his position as Director of the Department of Management and Budget to accept the position of Director of the Department of Agriculture.
Lisa Webb Sharpe was named by Governor Granholm to be the new Director of the Department of Management and Budget. She most recently was Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor. Ms. Webb Sharpe previously served as a department liaison in the Former Detroit Mayor Archer’s administration.
Dennis Archer, the former Supreme Court justice, Detroit Mayor, and President of the American Bar Association has been named Chairperson of Governor Granholm’s reelection campaign. Archer is currently Chairman of the Detroit law firm of Dickenson Wright.
Representative David Law, a Republican from West Bloomfield, was arrested by Royal Oak police for driving under the influence of alcohol. He has apologized to his constituents and indicated he will not fight the charges.
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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