Legislative Report

January 2007

The 2005-06 Legislative session is history. While a number of bills were passed in the final days of this session and have gone to the Governor, there are several significant bills which did not pass and consequently did not reach the Governor’s desk. Among this group of bills is a replacement tax bill for the scheduled-to-be eliminated Single Business Tax and campaign finance reform measures. The replacement tax measure will be of primary importance to the 2006-07 legislature and one which will get much attention in the early months of 2007. Measures which were acted upon in the latter days of the legislative session are welfare reform bills and the revision to the Merit Scholarship program. The Governor vetoed a bill which would have transferred the Office of the Children’s Ombudsman as an independent entity in the Executive branch of government to the legislative branch.

Among the measures which may have impacted seniors/retirees that failed to get through the legislative process is the bill which would have prohibited automated political calls being left on recording machines during political campaigns, an annoying practice that I am sure many of us would have liked to see eliminated. Also, the bill which would have revised the item pricing act by permitting certain store items not to be individually marked with a price failed to pass both houses. Thus, Michigan’s item pricing law remains one of the strongest in the nation, which is a positive in the opinion of the writer. Both of these bills were explained in detail in last month’s report.

Any bill which had been introduced and failed to pass both houses is now null and void and will have to be reintroduced in the new legislature. This allows me to only report on those bills which have gone to the Governor for signature (or veto) and which may be of interest to senior/retirees. Because of space limitations, only a brief description of the soon-to- become law measures is provided:

SB 309 which was detailed in last month’s report has gone to the Governor for signature. This bill is intended to protect Michigan citizens from identity theft by requiring any Michigan business which has its data base containing personal identifying information breached to notify those citizens whose names are on that data base and also to notify The Office of the Attorney General and the Department of State Police of such data base breach. It is anticipated that the Governor will sign the bill.

HB 5389 is a bill which has gone to the Governor for signature and which provides a single point of entry for information pertaining to long-term care for seniors, including home health care. The bill is intended to promote consumer choices and quality in long-term care options. A more detailed description has been provided in previous articles.

SB 701 reported on in last month’s report. This bill has been signed by the Governor and makes information regarding any missing senior citizen to be more widely publicized through established law enforcement channels. The bill basically allows broad dissemination of identifying information regarding a missing senior citizen regardless of the physical condition of the missing individual. The bill is now Public Act 446 of 2006.

SB 1241 is now Public Act 565 of 2006 amends the Vehicle Code by making a third or subsequent drunk driving offense a felony and require such offenses to remain on an individual’s driving record for the duration of his/her lifetime. Previously, a third or subsequent drunk driving offense remained on the record for a ten year period. The lifetime duration of the recorded offense has implications for sentencing for future violations.

HB 4328 is a bill which changes the size of petitions circulated in order to get statewide issues on the ballot if certain conditions are met. The petition sheet size could remain at 8.5 x 14 with a horizontal format containing at least seven signature lines, or changed to an 8.5’x 11 sheet format using a horizontal format. If the latter size sheet were used, the full text of the proposal must be printed on one or both sides of the petition, each petition must contain at least seven signature lines, and the sheet size must be consistent for all petitions submitted to the Secretary of State for certification. The bill is expected to be signed by the Governor.

HB 5278 is a bill which requires local governments and/or their agents which issue dog licenses, to inform the applicant of the availability of microchip implantation and registration for dogs by a veterinarian, animal control shelter, or an animal protection shelter and the availability of a statewide tattoo identification registry for dogs maintained by the Michigan Department of Agriculture. This bill has been signed by the Governor and is now Public Act 551 of 2006.

HB 6137 is now Public Act 457 of 2006. This act makes several amendments to the vehicle code and authorizes a new fundraising license plate, the “Support our Troops” plate. The revenue from the sale of this plate goes to the organization Support Our Troops, Inc. of Michigan to be used to benefit troops and their families. Agencies receiving funds from the sale of fundraising plates by the Secretary of State must report annually to the Department of Treasury on the expenditure of such funds.

HB 6348 is now Public Act 557 of 2006. This new law provides that information provided to a crime stoppers organization remain confidential except as ordered by a court. A “Crime stoppers organization” is defined in the law as a private, nonprofit organization which distributes rewards to people. The act provides the conditions under which a court could order the disclosure of the information.

SBs 123 and 124 are now Public Acts 493 and 492, respectively. PA 493 prohibits the selling or offering for sale of any blood pressure recording, measuring, or monitoring devices containing mercury or a mercury compound intentionally added to the devices. The act prohibits the use of such devices beginning January 1, 2009. Beginning January 1, 2009, PA 492 prohibits the sale or offering for sale or distribution of any thermostat for use in regulating room temperature if the thermostat contained mercury or a mercury compound.

SBs 465 and 468 which have been reported on in greater detail in previous articles are now Public Acts 481 and 482, respectively. Public Act 481 prescribes who must maintain medical records, the method, retention period, reporting requirements, and sanctions for violations. Public Act 482 amends the Freedom of Information Act to exempt from disclosure as a public record certain medical information and documents of a personal nature if public disclosure would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of an individual’s privacy.


Information on non-traditional mortgage loans — The Office of Financial and Insurance Services has issued a publication — a consumer guidance document — on non-traditional mortgages. The document is available on the OFIS website (Department of Industry and Labor). The purpose of OFIS issuing the document is to inform citizens with poor credit and thereby allow them to guard against taking high risk mortgages without a full understanding of the terms and pitfalls of such loans.

Long-term care awareness campaign — Michigan is one of six states participating in “Own Your Future — Long-Term Care Awareness” program. Households having residents between the ages of 45 and 65 years of age have received a letter from Governor Granholm about long-term care planning and making available a resource guide. The goal of the program is to emphasize the need for long-term care planning and outline the options available in addition to nursing homes.

Group explores 2010 Constitutional Convention — Citizens for Michigan a group formed in 2003 and consisting of current and former elected officials, business people and representatives of academia are exploring whether to advocate for a Constitutional convention when the issue will automatically be put before the voters in 2010. The current Constitution puts the question before the voters every sixteen years. The Citizens for Michigan group is attempting to jump-start discussions regarding whether there is a need to revise the Constitution. Some of the issues they have been exploring are extending term limits and changes which would allow the governor to appoint all cabinet members, Supreme Court justices and all college and university board members. Another idea they are exploring is making it more difficult to change the constitution. Should the group conclude that there are a significant number of changes needed in the Constitution, they would campaign to get the voters to call for a Constitutional convention to consider the changes they advocate in addition to any others that delegates wish to consider. In 1978 and 1994 voters rejected such a call for a constitutional convention.

Civil Service pay increases — The Civil Service Commission has made its recommendations for classified employee pay increases for the 2007-8 fiscal year. The Commission makes its recommendations at this time so that the funding can be built into the budget for next fiscal year. For civil service employees, they are recommending a 2% increase effective October 1, 2007 and another 2% increase effective April 1, 2008.

Proposition 2 delay request denied — A federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed the decision of a judge of that court and denied the request of the three largest universities in the state for a delay in the implementation of recently passed Proposition 2, formally known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The universities claimed that their selection process for the September, 2007 enrollment has already begun and to have to abandon their current process would work a hardship on them and be unfair to the students currently under consideration. The three judge Court of Appeals panel rejected that argument and indicated the universities must implement the anti-affirmative action proposal immediately. The three universities are considering whether to appeal and/or ask the full Court to consider its request.

People in the News

Mary Lannoye, who has been Governor Granholm’s Budget Director the last four years, has left that position and has been named the Governor’s Chief of Staff.

Bob Emerson, a term-limited Senator from Flint who most recently served as Minority leader in the Senate, has been named by the Governor to replace Mary Lannoye as Budget Director. Emerson has been a legislator for 26 years and served on the Appropriation Committee for a number of years.

Senator Carl Levin, who has been elected to the U.S. Senate five times, announced that he will seek a sixth term in 2008 when his current term ends. Senator Levin will have served some 30 years when his current term ends and will be 72 at the time he runs for another six year term. Upon completion of his current term, he will be the longest serving Senator in Michigan’s history.

Representative Brenda Clack, a Democrat from Flint, has been elected Chairperson of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Representative LaMar Lemmons III, a Detroit Democrat, was convicted in Lansing District Court of misdemeanor charges involving 2004 campaign finance violations. He failed to timely file required campaign reports in the prescribed manner. He was fined $1095, sentenced to 80 hours of community service and one year probation. Mr. Lemmons III was term limited and thus no longer a legislator.

Michael Guido, the popular Mayor of Dearborn, died recently at the age of 52.

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, who was convicted in 1998 for murder for assisting in a suicide and has been imprisoned since that time, will be paroled in mid 2007 the Department of Corrections announced. One of the conditions for his parole is that he will not be allowed to participate in acts of assisted suicides, speak or otherwise advocate for assisted suidcide. It is alleged that Kevorkian is terminally ill.

Geoffrey Fieger, the very outspoken attorney and former Democrat gubernatorial candidate, won a partial victory in federal court when a judge ruled that he could legally challenge the actions of several Michigan Supreme Court justices who he is accused of criticizing on a radio talk show he hosts. The Judicial Tenure Commission lodged unethical conduct charges against Fieger for his comments. The Supreme Court has the final decision regarding the Commission’s recommendations. Fieger asked the justices who were targets of his criticism to step aside and not participate in deciding his fate. The Justices involved refused. The federal court panel ruled that Fieger could continue to pursue his appeal of the justices’ refusal to step aside, allowing that portion of the case to continue in federal court. However, based on jurisdictional limitations, the federal court panel refused to set aside the Michigan Supreme Court’s sanctions against Fieger for his conduct.

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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