Michigan Legislative Update
January 2, 2015
The 2013-14 Lame duck session is over. The Senate adjourned at 6:19 AM Friday, December 19 and the House adjourned at 6:48 AM. All bills not related to the road budget proposal finished action by mid night Thursday and it took 6 hours to muster votes to support the road budget package.
The formal end of session referred to as "Sine Die" took place on December 30 at 11:30 AM. Only a few legislators attended the formal end of the year session. Typically, the area legislators attend the 30 minute sign off. The Legislature is set to convene at noon on Wednesday, January 14, 2015.
The road plan passed by the Legislature is proposed to ensure that our roads have the $1.2 billion in additional funding needed. The plan does the following:
- Repeals the sales tax on gas
- Replaces it with a new motor fuels tax that is dedicated to funding transportation
- Increases the state sales tax so our schools and local governments have the funding they need
- Provides tax relief to lower income citizens
Michigan citizens will be asked to vote on a ballot proposal in May 2015 that will enact changes; including increasing the state sales tax by 1% (from 6% to 7%), raising $1.34 billion in revenue, eliminating the sales tax on motor fuels, saving $752 million. The legislature also passed bills which included a wholesale tax on motor fuels, vehicle registration increases, ($45 million more from vehicle tags and an additional $50 million from heavy trucks) new transportation related reforms which include measures on warranties and competitive bidding, and the restoration of the earned income tax credit which will provide tax relief for low income citizens. The EITC relief was required in order to muster democratic votes. Nothing will take effect if the May 2015 ballot proposal does not pass. The log plate and truck weights were maintained intact.
The plan is outlined to have the following results:
- $1.2 billion for roads and bridges
- $112 million for transit and rail
- $300 million for schools ($200 per pupil)
- $94 million for local governments
- $260 million in tax relief for lower income citizens
For more information on the proposal click here.
Senate Bill 78, sponsored by Senator Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) was passed by the Legislature during the last night of the Lame Duck session and awaits signature by Governor Rick Snyder. The bill is known as the "biodiversity bill". Brenda Owen, MAT, testified in committee that the bill is designed to balance economic values while managing our forests for all aspects". Henry Schienebeck, GLTPA testified that biodiversity "means measures for maintaining, managing or enhancing biological diversity while ensuring accessibility, productivity and the use of the natural resources for present and future generations."
Other than some procedural maneuvering, no major legislative action took place in either the Senate or the House. In the Senate, Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake and term limited Senator Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw were present. In the House, term limited Rep. Ken Kurtz, R-Coldwater and term limited Rep. Doug Geiss and his wife, Erika Geiss, who was elected to fill his seat attended the session. Since term limits, it is not unusual for spouses, siblings, children or parents to run for a term limited legislators' seat, especially since they can instantly gain name recognition.
Since the Legislature adjourned on December 18, Governor Rick Snyder has been signing bills into law, many passed by the Legislature during the "lame duck" session. Once a bill is presented to the Governor, he can sign it into law, it can automatically become law after it has "sat" on his desk for 14 days with no signature or he can veto the bill. It does not matter that tomorrow is January 1, 2015, a bill can extend over the change of a calendar year.