Michigan Legislative Update
Week of October 15, 2015
by Judy Augenstein
Leadership discussions on an annual $1.2 billion road funding package hit an impasse this week over an income tax rollback component Republican leaders want included in the final deal. GOP legislators want some form of an income rollback to make the final deal as a way to give some relief to taxpayers who would pay more in state gas taxes and registration fees. Democrats want a higher Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or Homestead Property Tax Credit exemption, tax cuts they see as benefiting the middle class as opposed to an income tax cut which they see benefiting the wealthier taxpayer.
The alleged road plan is $800 million in new taxes and $400 million in budget cuts. Governor Snyder and the Democrats opposes budget cuts. They contend there is no "fat" in the current budget and many programs would be stressed.
This week, the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee took more testimony on a bill to raise the speed limit to 80 mph. This week a compromise maximum of 75 mph on certain rural limited access freeways was suggested. The idea of pilot projects for the speed limit reforms was floated. Some say, that way, the state could see the impact of the changes before expanding them further. The committee will continue debating the measure next week.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported a bill that would prohibit the open carrying of firearms in gun free zones and allow those with concealed pistol licenses to carry on a concealed basis in those zones. SB 442 was reported by a vote of 4-1, with Senator Steve Bieda, D-Warren in opposition. All four Republicans on the committee voted "yes".
Gun free zones consist of schools, houses of worship, day care centers, sports stadiums, bars, hospitals and most buildings on college or university campuses. Concerns about open carrying on K-12 school property prompted the bill. Schools have gone into lock down upon seeing someone openly carrying a firearm on school property, fearing a shooter.
After a teacher's life was threatened by a student in Grand Rapids with no apparent recourse for the school district without the threat of being sued, Senator Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell introduced legislation that would require a school board to expel a pupil in grade six or above who threatened to kill a school employee, volunteer or contractor. Under SB 208, school boards would be required to report all such threats to law enforcement officials and prosecutors.