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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of October 6, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

Governor Rick Snyder has revealed his administration is "exploring" the idea of bringing an unknown number of refugees from the Middle East to Michigan.  One of the state's largest refugee organizations is pushing Michigan to accept more of the refugees that have been streaming over the borders of Syria and other Middle Eastern countries. Snyder would not reveal what countries he is referring to or how many refugees Michigan would take.  Snyder wants to make sure if there is an opportunity to help that Michigan be proactive.

A five bill package that includes a proposal to hike the state's current maximum speed limit to 80 mph is not going to speed out of committee.  The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee began taking testimony on the package this week.  The bills are spear headed by Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford.  Committee chair, Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque, said the panel is a long way from voting the bills out of committee.  The proposal includes how speed limits should be set, defines how school zones should be handled and how some low level speeding tickets would be handled.  Chair Pettalia commented, "There are just so many aspects of this that have to be brought out". 

The Quadrant (the four leaders) and Governor Rick Snyder continue to discuss a mutual road funding package---but no solution was found again this week.  Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba shared with me this week that a resolution to the road funding dilemma is "expected" by the end of October.

Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge has introduced SB 534 which would end benefit opportunities for unmarried partners of state employees and their dependents.  The current system, which extends many state employees' health benefits to other eligible adult individuals they live with, was approved by the Civil Service Commission in 2011.  The agreement to include unmarried live-in partners in health benefits was seen at the time as a means to legally incorporate same sex couples.  Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled same sex marriage is legal throughout the country.  Senator Jones hopes to end that program with SB 534.  Jones said if barriers to same sex marriage were the reason the system was changed in the first place, those issues are now resolved and taxpayers should not have to be on the hook for the benefits of unmarried couples.

This week, I met with staff to Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township and Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville and his staff to discuss the ongoing unfair competition the Amish create for tax paying wood products businesses.  Rep. Barrett has received a commitment from Rep. Joe Graves, R-Linden, Chair, House Commerce Committee to have the committee tour Johnson Lumber in Charlotte.  We are in the process of finding a day to do the tour.  This tour will NOT replace the tour of Maeder Brothers located in the district of the Speaker of the House, Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant.  John Fowler, Jim Maeder and I will be attending a fundraiser for the Speaker next Wednesday, October 7.  We are attempting to cover all bases in our effort to be successful with the effort to level the business playing field for our members.

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