Tired of so much political posturing? If so, be grateful that it won’t be too long before it will be greatly reduced. November 6, election day, is coming and relief is in sight. Of course it will never completely be eliminated. With the election will come a degree of normalcy in Lansing and throughout the hinterlands of the state. I personally look forward to that happening. We will see if promises made will be promises kept.
The first of the three debates between Governor Granholm and her opponent, Dick DeVos, revealed a striking difference between the two candidates, both in terms of their political differences and their persona. The debate also brought out the issues of importance to each candidate. Mr. DeVos believes his business acumen will allow him to provide the leadership the state needs while Ms. Granholm believes her plan to change the state from an automotive industry-dependent one to a state requiring a better educated workforce to fill high tech job. One major issue raised during the debates was what will be the means for replacement of the loss of the Single Business Tax revenue. Mr. DeVos’ plan calls for roughly half of the replacement revenue ($1.8 billion) to come from the business community with the other half coming from the cuts in spending. Governor Granholm’s plan does not envision significant cuts in existing programs, but primarily raises revenue from service oriented businesses and the insurance industry. One thing the debates did was to clarify their differences on hot button issues.
The following is a summary of some of the legislation which was definitively addressed during the month of September which may be of interest to SERA membership:
Update on bills reported on in last month’s report:
HB 1364 is now Public Act 375 after being signed by the Governor. This bill establishes a hourly minimum wage for youth at $5.91 which is 85% of the $6.95 hourly minimum wage for adults.
SB 453 is now Public Act 372. This bill establishes a state earned income tax credit at 10% of the amount of a taxpayer’s federal earned income tax credit for 2008 and 20% of the amount of the federal earned income tax credit in 2009.
HB 6213 is now Public Act 373 and corrects the initial bill increasing the minimum wage by excluding the application of the increase to certain job categories which are not included in the federal minimum wage law but which were inadvertently included in the initial bill.
More detail on the above three bills can be found in last month’s report.
SB 880 was recently signed into law as Public Act 399. This bill provides certain protection to seniors in the purchase of annuity contracts. Generally, the bill requires persons selling annuity contracts to know the financial situation of the person to whom a contract is being sold and know that the annuity is suitable for that person. The salesperson is required to make reasonable efforts to obtain the senior consumer’s financial information before executing a contract. The act requires the insurer to provide supervision over the sales staff to assure compliance with the law. The act also permits the Office of Financial Services to order an insurer or agent of the insurer to take corrective action for a senior consumer harmed by violations of the act. The act specifies that compliance with the National Association of Securities Dealers rules will satisfy the act’s requirements regarding recommendations of variable annuities. Consumer is defined as a person 65 years of age or older.
HB 4086 is now Public Act 419. This new law allows county clerks to perform marriages. Previously, only the county clerk (or his/her designees) in Wayne County was allowed to perform marriages. A county clerk is limited to performing marriages in the county in which he/she serves. Other than in Wayne County, a clerk designee may not solemnize a marriage.
SBs 1416-17 are bills which require the parent or guardian of a female 6th grade student, beginning with the 2008 school year to give school officials a statement that the student had been vaccinated with the papillomavirus ( an FDA approved vaccine) to protect the student against cervical cancer or that they had chosen not to have the child vaccinated. The bills were amended to provide this “opt-in” provision as opposed to an original “opt-out” provision in the bills as they were introduced. Under the opt-out provision, the vaccination would have been mandatory and the parent or guardian would have had to inform the school officials that they did not wish to have the student vaccinated. This did not sit well with many people. The bills have passed the Senate and are now in the House Committee on Health Policy.
SBs 1350-52 are bills which would redefine the duties of the State Board of Canvassers. The state elections director would rule on the issues currently handled by the Board (such as the sufficiency of petitions, etc.) with the Board only being able to overturn the elections director’s recommendations by a majority vote of the members of the four member bipartisan Board. Currently, the elections director has no such involvement in the Board’s decision making process. Opponents believe these bills give too much control to a civil servant. The bills have been reported out of the Judiciary Committee and are now before the House Committee of the Whole.
HBs 6014 and 16 are now Public Act 420 and 421, respectively. These bills were introduced to permit Grace Bible College to continue to grant pastoral degrees even though it has not been accredited as a post secondary educational institution as required by state regulations administered by the Office of Postsecondary Education in the Department of Labor and Economic Growth. The new law permits an ecclesiastical corporation to establish and operate a religious college under certain conditions. One of those conditions is that the college has to print a disclaimer on all of its publications that it is not approved or licensed by the Department of Labor and Economic Growth and not subject to its supervision. The college would also have to provide periodic affidavits to the state agency verifying that it is complying with the act. The bills specify and place limitations on the degrees that are issued by the religious college.
Pilot Program for Reduction in Insurance Premiums — A pilot program has been started in Detroit and Flint in cooperation with Auto Owners Insurance Company through a community organization in each location which has formed an insurance pool offering a 10% discount on insurance premiums for homeowners and automobile insurance. Eligible individuals must have a good driving record and a responsible home ownership history. Deeper discounts are available depending on individual owner’s circumstances. The Detroit organizational pool is operated by Detroit Metro Quality of Life Improvement. In Flint, the organization is Unification for Urban Equality. The insurance industry will watch Auto Owners experience with this program and may expand it. Rates in urban centers are higher merely because of their locations and are not individual experience based.
New Stem Cell Research Organization — Senator Carl Levin and Congressman John Schwarz have announced the formation of a new 501( c )3 organization with the mission to educate the public about the potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research and the limits of adult stem cell research and blood stem cell research. The organization is known as the Michigan Citizens for Stem Cell Research and Cures. As a nonprofit organization, the organization will be restricted from partisan political activity.
Appeals Court: Estate Fees Assessed on Total Property Value — The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision regarding the basis for the payment of fees on property in probate proceedings. The Court ruled that fees should apply to actual total value of the property and not be adjusted by security interests such as a mortgage. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit had argued that the mortgage amount should be subtracted from the total value before fees are assessed. The Court ruled otherwise.
Save Our State Ballot Proposal Not Certified — A very controversial ballot proposal to limit state spending will not be on the ballot because of insufficient valid signatures on the petitions submitted to the state. There were numerous errors and deficiencies in the petitions which caused the Board of Canvassers to deny certification of the petitions.
Military Benefits Extended for State Employees on Active Duty — Governor Granholm issued Executive Order 2006-5 indefinitely extending the special pay and insurance benefits which have existed since 2001. The special pay is the difference between military pay and the employees’ regular salary. The Executive Order was necessary because the Civil Service Commission did not extend the benefit program which it had authorized until September 30, 2006.
Probable Cause Not Necessary for License Plate LEIN Check — The 6 Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that police do not need probable suspicion of a crime to check a motorist license plate for possible criminal activity. The Court ruled that the Law Enforcement Information Network is a law enforcement tool and that license plate information is not private and that there should be no expectation of privacy.
State Police Emergency Preparedness Website — The State Police have announced a new emergency preparedness website to give residents information regarding natural disasters, industrial accidents, and terrorists activity. The website is www.michigan.gov/prepare.
ecretary of State Rules for Lobbyists — Secretary of State, Terry Lynn Land has issued new rules regarding a practice used by lobbyists to circumvent individual gifts to legislators. There is a $51 dollar limit on any gift to a legislator. Lobbyists were pooling their funds to buy entertainment ticket which exceeded the $51 limit. Ms. Land ruled that different lobbying firms cannot split the cost of a gift to avoid exceeding the $51 limit for any one firm. For example, three lobbying firms cannot each contribute $50 for a gift valued at $150 in order to avoid the single firm limit.
People in the News
Chris DeRose, Executive Director of the State Retirement Systems, is leaving that position on October 30 to accept the position of Executive Director of the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. DeRose has been head of the SERS since July, 1997. He held other executive positions in the Department of Management and Budget before then. DeRose’s salary for the Ohio position was reported in the Gongwer Reports to be $225,000.
Jackie Vaughn, one of the longest serving legislators in history, died recently at the reported age of 75. He was a Detroit Democrat who began in the House in 1966 and left as a term limited Senator in 2000, even though he had been absent due to illness prior to the end of his final term. He was known for sponsoring the Martin Luther King Holiday legislation in Michigan, fighting for 18 year old voting rights (before it became federal law), and giving tributes to his constituents.
LaMar Lemmons, a Democratic State Representative from Detroit, will go on trial November 29 in District Court for violation of certain campaign finance laws. He allegedly filed late campaign finance statements and before assuming office, signed an affidavit certifying that he was in compliance with all reporting requirements. The Secretary of State brought action against Lemmons through the Office of the Attorney General.
Carl Marlinga, former veteran Macomb County Prosecutor, was acquitted of charges in federal court of accepting campaign funds in exchange for changing his position on two criminal cases while prosecutor. The campaign contributions were for his candidacy for Congress, a race he lost to Candice Miller. He could have been sentenced to ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine had he been found guilty.
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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