With the introduction of the Governor’s budget, the annual ritualistic budget fight begins. Because this year is an election year, it promises to be more brutal than usual. The same punches will be thrown. Each fighter knows the strengths and weaknesses of the other. Each side will be appealing to the audience to cheer them to victory. The Governor has already been accused by her legislative opponents of being overly optimistic in her revenue projections. She has presented a $9.2 billion General Fund budget against an $8.4 billion revenue projection. The legislature believes there is still room for more cuts and will be trying to achieve that goal as the fight goes on. And then there is always the battle of how to jump-start the economy and make Michigan more attractive to the business community. Each side has its own ideas on these matters which differ significantly from the other. If all of this sounds familiar, it is. It is a repeat of the battle that has taken place over the last three years. It is still fun to watch, however!
In the meantime, legislative activity is taking place and bills are being debated and passed. The following is some of the legislative activity which may be of interest to senior/retirees:
HBs 5168 & 5448 have now become law as Public Acts 26 and 27 of 2006, respectively. PA 26 requires a criminal history check on individuals seeking employment, an independent contract, or clinical privileges with a psychiatric facility or intermediate care facility for people with retardation. Employment would be denied to individuals who have been convicted of certain crimes or who has been the subject of a substantiated finding of neglect, abuse, or misappropriation of property in a nursing facility, or had been found not guilty by reason of insanity. The act further requires a facility to request a background check on applicants for employment and to have an applicant’s fingerprints submitted to the FBI. The bill also requires individuals having a work-related relationship with psychiatric or intermediate care facilities to report to the facility if he/she was arraigned for or convicted of certain crimes. PA 27 requires the same type of background check and fingerprint submission to the FBI for individuals who are applicants for a health profession license or registration. A licensing board can for good cause, request a licensee or registrant to have a criminal background check. Those seeking reinstatement from a suspended or revoked license or reclassification of a limited license would have to submit to a criminal history check and submit the results with his/her application.
SB 621 & 622 are now law as Public Acts 28 and 29 respectively. PA 28 expands the requirements for criminal background checks for new employees of nursing homes, county medical facility, hospices, hospitals that provide swing bed services, homes for the aged, or home health agencies and for those seeking clinical privileges or contracts at these types of facilities. PA 29 amends the Adult Foster Care Facilities Licensing Act to basically apply the same provisions of PA 28 to adult foster care facilities. Both acts contain provisions for funding the cost of these new requirements using federal dollars.
SB 128 is soon expected to become law. This bill has passed both houses of the legislature and has gone to the Governor for signature. This bill would require the Michigan State Police to develop an electronic notification system which would allow citizens to subscribe to for notification when a registered sex offender is initially registered under the Sex Offender Registration Act at a location within a specific zip code area or changed his/her registration to such a location. Basically, individuals would be notified via e-mail that a registered sex offender is living within their zip code area at a specific address. The bill would not require notification when a sex offender moves out of the area. The bill, if signed, will take effect January 1, 2007.
SB 351 is now Public Act 30 and recognizes acupuncture as a health care profession and requires registration by those engaged in this profession. “Acupuncture means the insertion and manipulation of needles through the surface of the human body at specific locations on the human body for the prevention or correction of disease, injury, pain or other condition.” The law provides for a Michigan Board of Acupuncture which will be responsible for promulgating rules and setting forth the minimum standards. The Board will be composed of nine members representing the following: four acupuncturists, three physicians, two public members. The Board will coordinate their activities with the Department of Community Health. This new law is basically the same as the bill which was pocket vetoed by the Governor during the last session.
SB 728 is intended to allow the state to enhance emergency preparedness during a public health crisis or pandemic. This bill would allow the maintenance of immunization records for adults as well as children. The major provisions of the bill are (1) changing the name of the Childhood Immunization Registry to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, (2) Requiring the Department of Community Health to promulgate rules to implement expansion of the Registry, (3) permitting the Department of Community Health to use the information in the Registry as authorized by rule, (4) Eliminating the requirement for a local health department authorization when a health professional other than a physician administers an immunizing agent under a physician’s direction. Immunization information must be provided to the Department of Community Health after each immunization administered unless the legally responsible person objects in writing to the reporting requirement. The bill has passed the Senate and has gone to the House Committee on Health Policy.
HB 5630 would require the Department of Community Health to establish and maintain a pandemic influenza plan. The plan would have to be consistent with national preparedness efforts. The plan must be updated annually with the assistance of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and local health departments. The plan and its updates must be made available to the public through the Department of Community Health’s website. An annual report would have to be submitted to appropriate standing committees of the legislature addressing the plan’s effectiveness and the state’s preparedness for an influenza outbreak. The bill has been reported out of the Health Policy Committee and is on the House floor.
HB 5631 would require the Department of Agriculture to cooperate with the Department of Community Health if an epidemic involving the Avian Influenza or any virus or disease that is or may be spread by contact with animals. The Department of Community Health may request the Department of Agriculture to assist in any review and update of the Department’s pandemic influenza plan. The bill has been reported out of the Health Policy Committee and is on the House floor.
HB 4423 would amend Public Act of 1971 which regulates home solicitation sales. This bill would make it an unfair or deceptive act or practice for a telephone solicitor to misrepresent in a message left for a consumer on an answering machine or voice mail that the consumer had a current business or transaction, or a current business or customer relationship, and request that the customer call the telephone solicitor (or another person) to discuss that matter, transaction, or relationship. This is a practice used by some solicitors to try to make a sales pitch when the customer returns the call. The bill has been reported out of the House Committee on Information and Technology.
Cervical Cancer Task Force — The Governor has issued Executive Order 2006-5 creating a Task Force on Cervical Cancer Awareness. The task force will make recommendations regarding educating and informing women about the importance of regular cervical cancer screening. The task force’s report is due September 30.
Feud over Item Pricing law — The Governor’s office has criticized Attorney General Cox for not enforcing the state’s item pricing law. Mr. Cox claims that the Department of Agriculture has not referred specific cases for investigation and possible prosecution to his office. The Department of Agriculture cites some 542 completed investigations turned over to the Department of Attorney General. The accusations began after the Booth newspapers revealed that Mr. Cox had not filed any consumer protection lawsuits during his three year tenure as Attorney General.
Potential ballot proposals — There are several moves afoot to get citizen and legislative initiatives on the November ballots. These include the following: (1) REPEAL SBT is an initiative being pushed by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson to get rid of the state’s very controversial single business tax. (2) Signatures are being collected to get the issue of a unicameral legislature before the voters. This proposal would eliminate the Senate and have only the House of Representatives as a legislative body. The idea behind it is a considerable cost savings. (3) Another proposal which is being introduced in the legislature by Representative Glen Steil would eliminate 50 house seats, leaving a house with 60 members. There would be a considerable savings in legislative and staff salaries and related costs. The proposal would extend term limits to 12 years in the House and 16 years in the Senate. If passed by both houses, the issue would go on the November ballot. It is questionable whether any of these proposals will get on the ballot.
Prohibition on state government PAC deductions — Attorney General Mike Cox has issued an opinion that state government is prohibited by the Michigan Campaign Finance Act from having payroll deduction for union political action committees contributions made by state employees. His opinion states that utilization of state resources such as the activity of putting the deductions on the payroll and transmitting the amount to the PAC becomes a campaign contribution by those state workers involved and is prohibited by the Campaign Finance Act. His opinion further states that even if the union were to reimburse the state for the cost of payroll deductions, the resource utilization would still constitute a violation of the act.
Settlement reached on race-based insurance policies — The Office of Financial and Insurance Services has announced that a $2 million settlement has been reached with Western and Southern Life Insurance Company. The company issued race-base insurance policies in Michigan from 1957 to 1970. Some seventy-six policies are involved. Individuals with proof of terminated policies have one year to file a claim demonstrating that their policies were priced higher because of race. Under the agreement any unredeemed funds will be contributed to charities serving African Americans.
People in the News
Jay Rising, State Treasurer, has announced his resignation from that position to accept the position of Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Detroit Medical Center.
Julie Croll, Chief Deputy State Treasurer, has been named Interim State Treasurer by Governor Granholm.
Gloria Jeff, Director of the Department of Transportation, has resigned from that position. Her future plans have not been announced.
Kirk Steudle, Chief Deputy Director of the Department of Transportation, has been named Director of that Department replacing Ms. Jeff.
Paula Cunningham, former President of Lansing Community College, has been named as Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Development by Governor Granholm. Ms. Cunningham was named to her new position the same day she resigned, under pressure from Lansing Community College.
Mary Waters, House Minority Floor Leader, has announced her candidacy for Secretary of State. Representative Waters is from Detroit.
Ed McNamara, former mayor of Livonia who spent 16 years as Wayne County Executive, died at the age of 79. Mr. McNamara was a very popular and strong political figure in Wayne County before he left County Government. He is credited with influencing the careers of Governor Granholm and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Gretchen Whitmer, a State Representative, was the winner in the Democratic primary for the 23rd District Senate seat vacated by Virg Bernero after he was elected mayor of Lansing. She will face Vincent Green, an Okemos attorney, who won the Republican primary by one vote. The election will be held on March 14.
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: email@example.com.
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