The primary elections are over. The choices of candidates have been narrowed. The electorate’s focus is clearer. The State Party conventions have been held. The parties’ slates have been named. It is now time for voters to carefully evaluate the candidates who are running for various offices. Once again, I remind you of the admonition of Brian Dickerson, Detroit Free Press columnist, to evaluate political candidates as carefully as you would evaluate a contractor to build a home or make repairs to your home. Look at what their track record shows — what their past performance has been, not necessarily at what they say. We just might get better elected officials as a result.
Not much legislatively was happening in Lansing during the month of August. The politicians were busy campaigning for reelection or, in the cases of many term limited officials, election to some new position. It is interesting to note that there are 29 open seats (no incumbent running) in the House. Twenty-one of those seats are the result of term limits, five result from House members running for the Senate, and three seats are vacant, primarily due to the previous occupants being earlier elected to other offices.
While not particularly directly related to retiree/senior issues, the following bills saw action during the month of August:
HB 6213 was finally passed. This bill corrects an error in the previously passed minimum wage bill by excluding certain workers from receiving overtime (i.e. truck drivers, waiters, etc.) to make the state minimum wage bill consistent with the federal law. Businesses would have had to lay off workers if the error had not been corrected because of the additional cost. The Democrats seized the moment and refused to give immediate effect to HB 6213 unless they got passage of legislation they sought in return. The fight was over what legislation proposed by the Democrats would the Republicans agree to in order to get the immediate effect vote of the Democrats. An agreement was finally reached and the two bills that follow were finally approved. All three bills were tie-barred to each other, meaning they all had to pass for any of them to pass. The bill is on its way to the Governor for signature.
SB 453 would amend the Income Tax Act to allow taxpayers for tax years beginning after December 31, 2007, to claim a refundable credit against the state income tax equal to a portion of the amount of their federal Earned Income Tax Credit for the same tax year. The credit would be 10 percent of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the 2008 year, increasing to 20 percent of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the 2009 tax year and beyond. This bill is tie-barred to HB 6213 and HB 1364. This bill is on its way to the Governor for signature.
HB 1364 amends the recently passed minimum wage legislation to reduce the minimum hourly wage for an employee who is 18 years old or less to 85% of the general minimum hourly wage. This means that instead of a youth making the new $6.95 hourly minimum wage, he/she will make $5.91 per hour when the new rate becomes effective October 1, 2006. This bill is also tie-barred to HB 6213 and SB 453. The bill is on its way to the Governor for signature.
Court of Appeals Decision — Disability Retirement — A decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned a ruling by the State Retirement Board regarding denial of non-duty disability retirement to an individual who had left state government several years prior to a change in the law pertaining to time limits for filing a request. In 2002, the law was changed to provide a one year time limit, after a person ceases to work for the state as the result of a disability, in which the person would be able to file a retirement request. The plaintiff had not worked for the state for some two years prior to his requesting a non-duty disability retirement. The Retirement Board denied his request because of the time limit factor. The Court of Appeals, in upholding a Circuit Court ruling, ruled in favor of the former employee noting that such changes in law cannot be retroactive unless such retroactivity provisions are clearly stated in the law.
Impact of Attorney General Opinions — In 1996, the legislature enacted a law which became effective on March 31, 1997 requiring citizens to produce a photo ID when at the polls to vote. Then Attorney General Frank Kelley ruled the law unconstitutional. Last year, the legislature passed basically the same law (PA 71 of 2005). House Speaker Craig DeRoche asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on the issue of whether the use of photo identification for voting is constitutional. The Court then asked Attorney General Cox to submit two briefs — one in support of the question posed by the Speaker, and one in opposition to it. A public argument then began between Mr. Cox and Mr. DeRoche, both of the same party, regarding the impact of a formal Attorney General Opinion such as that issued by then Attorney General Kelley in 1997. Various groups have weighed in on the issue by submitting briefs to the Supreme Court. Most recently, House Minority Leader Diane Byrum submitted a brief on behalf of the Democrat House members arguing that the issue was a non issue inasmuch as it was settled by Mr. Kelley’s opinion back in 1997. A number of people are anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision which could reverse years of precedence regarding the sanctity of Attorney General Opinions.
Elections and Political notes
Opening Long-Term Care Facility — The Department of Community Health has announced the opening of a long-term care facility for the elderly in Grand Rapids. The facility will provide comprehensive medical and social services to seniors. The program is called PACE (Program for all-inclusive Care for the Elderly). A similar facility is operating in Detroit.
Ballot Proposals — The fate of two ballot proposals is still undecided. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is still before the federal courts. A U.S. District Court in Detroit ruled that while some of the signatures to get the issue on the ballot were fraudulently obtained, the federal Civil Rights Act was not violated because circulators did not seek out one race to hoodwink in obtaining signatures. The plaintiffs are appealing this recent decision to the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The other contested ballot proposal is the Stop the Over Spending (SOS). The opponents to this measure contend that over 40% of the signatures submitted to get the measure on the ballot are either duplicates or those of non-state residents. The Secretary of State concurs and is advising the Board of Canvassers not to certify the petitions.
People in the News
Douglas Drake, Calvin Frappier, II, and Harry Posner have been reappointed to the State Employees Retirement Board by Governor Granholm. Drake and Frappier represent retirees. Posner represents active employees.
Stephen Dresch, a former Republican state representative from the Upper Pennsula, died recently at the age of 62. He served in the House for one term (’91-’92) and left to run for U.S. Congress against Bart Stupak, an election which he lost.
Stephen Adamini, a term-limited Democratic representative from Marquette, was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in his hometown. He was arrested in 2004 for the same offense.
John Hertel, Michigan State Fair Manager for the last 13 years, is leaving that position. He is credited for putting the State Fair on solid financial footing during his tenure. Mr. Hertel has accepted a new position of CEO of the Regional Transportation Coordinating Council.
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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