Michigan Legislative Update
Week of October 30, 2015
by Judy Augenstein
The Senate did not hold a vote this week on legislation to raise funding for roads, a complete reversal from expectations earlier in the week. It was thought that the Senate would find the 20 votes needed to pass a slightly amended version of what the House passed last week. A gradual ramp up to $1.2 billion in greater spending for roads through a mix of higher taxes, higher fees and more money from the General Fund.
The major problem for Senate Republicans was that the House plan relies heavily on a substantial increase in vehicle registration fees. The plan the Senate passed in July relied heavily on increasing the gasoline tax. For some senators who voted for the Senate plan, the idea of passing a vehicle fee hike, which motorists would see annually in one big payment, instead of a higher gas tax with motorists paying a little more with each fill-up, makes no sense. House Republicans have strongly indicated that they have no interest in taking up major changes to what they passed, creating the latest jam on the issue.
Now that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published its Clean Power Plan on future emissions requirements, Attorney General Bill Schuette has been blasted for being part of the lawsuit against the air quality rules. Schuette is among critical voices of the proposal that asks the states to reduce carbon emissions an average of 32 percent by 2030 and said he would join other states in attempting to overturn the new rules despite Governor Rick Snyder and his administration has stated they would comply with the carbon reduction plan.
Governor Snyder stated that if Schuette joins the lawsuit against the EPA, he would not be representing the state of Michigan in doing so. A.G. Schuette is concerned about yet another executive order taken by President Obama and the EPA that violates the Clean Air Act and causes the price of electricity to increase, placing jobs at risk and costing Michigan families and businesses more. The lawsuit is being led by West Virginia and so for includes 24 states.
For years, police officer have used portable Breathalyzers to check drivers' blood alcohol level, but there's never been a portable marijuana testing equivalent at the officers' disposal. That could change, according to Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who is sponsoring a bill with Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba and Senator Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek to allow on-site drug checks. The legislation will authorize Michigan State Police to collect Breathalyzer test results and saliva samples during a traffic stop for a yearlong pilot program to be implemented in three Michigan counties, checking drivers not only for alcohol levels, but also drugs.
Michigan could have an official state airplane under a bill passed by the Senate. One that lives on in history as a famous World War II airplane produced by women who served as the inspiration of Rosie the Riveter. The B-24 Liberator was the most produced U.S. wartime aircraft and was used in each of the major theaters of World War II by each branch of U.S. armed forces as well as several Allied forces. Although the United States stopped using the planes shortly after the war ended, the model remains a famous and highly prominent feature in the country's wartime history.
Around 40,000 employees built more than 8,600 of the planes in Michigan at the Willow Run Bomber Plant in Ypsilanti. The plant, operated by Ford Motor Company, is also famous for hiring many women to work in the factories and inspiring the "Rosie the Riveter" imagery. The official Rosie the Riveter, Rose Will Monroe, worked at the plant. The legislative effort to honor the B-24 Liberator was headed by Senator Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor (most liberal senator) and Senator Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton ( most conservative senator) they joked on the Senate floor this week that it is one of the few times they have strongly agreed on an issue.