Legislative Report

June 2006

We now officially have two gubernatorial candidates. Both Governor Granholm and her Republican Challenger, Dick Devos have filed the necessary petitions to become certified candidates. Even the filing of the petitions became a contentious issue when the Granholm camp accused Mr. DeVos of using paid solicitors for obtaining his petition signatures. For his part, Mr. DeVos continues his aggressive media advertisement campaign while Governor Granholm traveled to Japan to get Japanese business firms to have a greater presence in Michigan. Again, partisan politics played a role in her travels inasmuch as she did not continue on to China with the official Michigan delegation. Republicans accused her of intentionally avoiding China inasmuch as Mr. DeVos has been criticized for his China business connections. The Governor attributes some $51 million and eight Japanese firms coming to or expanding operations in Michigan as the result of her trip.

Meanwhile, the legislature was especially busy during the month of May working on budgets and holding hearings on major pieces of legislation which will have significant public impact. You know it is an election year when politicians introduce legislation appealing to their constituency such as the early retirement bill recently introduced by Representative Rick Jones. Advice to those anticipating early retirement: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!

The following is a summary of legislative action which may be of interest to seniors/retirees:

HB 5607 is the primary bill among three bills authorizing the issuance of a replacement plate for the 24 year old standardized blue license plate. Public Act 177 of 2006 allows the Secretary of State to begin replacing the blue plate in January, 2007 as current registrations expire. The design of the new plate is yet to be determined. It will be a fully reflectorized plate.

HB 5336 is now Public Act 137 of 2006. This law established a 15 person Health Information Technology Commission, appointed by the Governor, to develop a system for the electronic exchange of medical information between health care providers such as doctors and hospitals and help promote such a statewide network.

There were a number of other bills signed by the Governor which have been reported on in previous Legislative Report columns. Space limitations will not permit a detailed recitation of their content. Please refer to recent Sera Nade issues for specific details. The following bills are now law:

HB 5630 is now Public Act 163. This law requires the Department of Community Health to develop a detailed plan for a pandemic influenza outbreak.

HB 4502 is now Public 125. This law increases the penalties for gas station operators/workers which have pumps that dispense less gas that indicated on the pump meter.

HB 4423 is now Public Act 133. This law prohibits a telemarketer from misrepresenting in a message left on your telephone answering machine that there is a matter regarding a (non-existent) business relationship that needs resolution and asking you to return the call.

HB 5887 is now Public Act 148. This law makes it a felony to be a disorderly person within 500 feet of a funeral, memorial service, etc. It is intended to prevent disturbances at military funerals by a certain group of protesters.

HB 5650 and SBs 973-976 are bills which would remove most of the responsibilities of the State Board of Canvassers from that body and transfer them to the Director of the Bureau of Elections. Removed would be the approval of ballot language and certification of valid signatures obtained to get an issue on the ballot. Remaining with the Board of Canvassers would be the certification of elections. The Governor vetoed these bills because she does not believe a civil servant should be responsible for these kind of decisions. She believes this is a function of a body of citizens.

SB 1183 is a bill which would transfer the duties and responsibilities of the Fire Marshal’s office from the Department of State Police to a Bureau of Fire Services in the Department of Labor and Economic Development. Included in the Bureau of Fire Services which would be headed by a fire marshal appointed by the Governor would be the Michigan Firefighters Training Council and the State Fire Safety Board. Basically, all the activities of the State Police Fire Marshal Division would be transferred to the new Bureau in L & E D. The bill has passed both houses of the legislature and is expected to be signed by the Governor.

SB 1202 would prohibit the selling of telephone records by telephone companies, prohibit anyone from trying to procure or attempt to procure a confidential telephone record of any Michigan resident by fraudulent means or without the authorization of the customer to whom the record pertains, and receiving a confidential telephone record of a state resident if it is known that the record was obtained through fraudulent, deceptive, or false means. Violation of this proposed law could result in a five year sentence in prison and/or a fine up to $25,000. The bill has passed the Senate and is now on the House floor.

HB 6007 is a bill which would allow the Secretary of State to issue free ID cards to individuals who do not have a driver license or other photo identification when such individuals present evidence that he or she is unable to pay the fee required. Currently the fee is $10 every four years on the birth date of the card holder. The bill has passed the House and gone to the Senate Committee on Government Operations.

HB 6085 is a bill which would require the citizenship of a person to be shown on a driver license or other official identification. The bill has passed the House and gone to the Senate Committee on Government Operations.


Instant vehicle title service — The Secretary of State has announced that individuals may obtain immediate titles at 33 of its 153 offices throughout the state. Instant title services are available at all SOS PLUS locations and at all SOS PLUS SUPER! Centers. Instant title service is not available for out-of-state, mobile homes, and first assembled vehicles. There is an extra $5 fee in addition to the $15 title fee for this service which eliminates an approximate 10 day wait to obtain vehicle title.

Governor announces new health care plan — Governor Granholm announced Michigan First Health Care Plan which is intended to make available health care coverage for some 550 thousand residents living 200% below the poverty level and for some 500 thousand residents who are not insured but have somewhat higher incomes. This latter group would be able to enroll and pay an amount based on a sliding scale depending on their income. The Governor said the plan is intended to promote wellness and wise behavior. The full details of the plan are still being developed. Unlike Massachusetts’ plan, Michigan’s plan will not mandate that all citizens participate.

Defend Michigan Coalition — A coalition in opposition to a ballot proposal which would cap state spending at the annual rate of inflation and population growth has been formed. The 317,757 signatures needed to get the issue on the ballot are still being collected, but the opposition group is getting a head start. Because health care and gas costs rise faster than the rate of inflation, the proposal is bound to require cuts in other services inasmuch as spending is capped. Opponents fear that the cuts will come from such programs as health care, human services, environmental programs and police and fire services. Colorado has tried a similar program and it has proved disastrous according to a group of Colorado citizens who participated in a rally in opposition to the proposal here in Michigan. Proponents nicknamed the proposal “Stop Overspending.” Opponents nicknamed the proposal “Shaft the State”.

Public Service Commission approves partial energy cost increases — Consumers Energy has been allowed to immediately increase rates for gas service to customers in the aggregate of $18.4 million. Consumers had requested an immediate increase of $75 million as part of an overall $132 million annual increase request. In approving the request, the Commission took into account the cost of natural gas and safety related expenditures. The Public Service Commission will consider the remainder of the overall request later this year.

Attorney General sues tobacco companies — Attorney General Cox has sued tobacco companies in an attempt to recover $30 million in settlement funds as the result of companies attempting to use a loophole in the settlement agreement which allows the participating companies to suspend payments when their market share drops due to impact of those companies which are not a part of the tobacco settlement agreement. Michigan has insisted that non-agreement companies put money in escrow as though they were part of the agreement as a condition for their selling their products in Michigan. Michigan has aggressively pursued compliance from these companies. Thus, the playing field has been leveled for all companies selling tobacco products in Michigan, making the basis of the suspension of payment by participating settlement companies mute.

Loan Giant’s mortgage sales license revoked — Worldwide Financial Services, better known as Loan Giant, has had its license to handle mortgages in Michigan revoked by the Office of Financial and Insurance Services. The Company, currently in bankruptcy, was found to have engaged in improper lending practices, provided false data on loans, false debt data, and improper payoff information. In addition to having its license revoked by the state, the company paid $273,000 in fines and investigative costs.

People in the News

Robert Swanson has been appointed Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Growth by the Governor. Swanson had been a deputy director since 2003 when Dave Hollister appointed him. Previously he served as finance director of the City of Lansing, and the Staff Director of the House Committee on Taxation.

Tadarial Sturdevant, has announced his resignation as Director of the State Police to accept a position in Wayne County in the Children’s Services Division. The 28 year veteran and first black person to hold the State Police director position said his resignation would allow him to be closer to home and his family. Peter Munoz was named by Governor Granholm to replace Sturdevant. A 29 year veteran of the Department, Munoz rose through the ranks to become Deputy Director for Field Services under Sturdevant.

Jerry Zanstra a Grand Rapids area minister and an early announced candidate for the Republican nomination for Attorney General , did not submit enough valid signatures to be certified as a candidate. The Board of Canvassers found he was some 80 signatures short of the required number.

Alexander Lipsey, a term-limited state representative from Kalamazoo, who announced he was a Democratic candidate for Attorney General has dropped that candidacy and instead is running for the Senate seat being vacated by term-limited Thomas George.

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: alwhit@worldnet.att.net.

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