Michigan Legislative Update
Week of March 27, 2015
by Judy Augenstein
This week Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare introduced HJR "M". The intent of the measure is to put on the ballot a constitutional amendment to eliminate lame duck sessions, which traditionally take place between the election date and the start of a new term. Legislative session would adjourn the Friday before the election of even numbered years under the resolution in the attempt to stop "rushed" legislation from passing during lame duck sessions. Rep. Johnson commented "I believe that lame duck sessions can at times result in sloppy and rushed policy and has led to last minute deals on bill packages and flawed policy that afterward needs "fix-it" bills. The resolution was sent to the House Government Committee and would require a two-thirds vote from both chambers.
This week Rep. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Twp. suggested an alternative to increasing the sales tax to improve Michigan's roads. Under Lucido's plan, a combination of the interest earned and the principal from the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association fund would be used to pay for road improvements. "Currently there's almost $18 billion in assets in the fund" said Lucido. "We're paying almost $200 per car per year into this fund and it's time we start putting it to better use, as safety as a key issue." The MCCA is a nonprofit association created by law. The organization is funded through a per vehicle annual assessment to auto insurance companies and then uses the funding to cover the lifetime claims of all persons catastrophically injured in that year.
This week the DNR budget was reported by the House and includes $4 million in restricted monies dedicated for timber cultivation equipment. A new line item requires the DNR to use increased restricted funding available from the increased timber harvest for the purpose of forest management and timber market development which includes investments in technology and equipment aimed at growing the timber economy.
The "cord mandate" was retained by the House and Senate even though the Governor recommended elimination of the boilerplate language. The language directs the DNR to mark and prescribe treatment on 79,000 acres and to prepare harvest of 67,500 acres and requires the DNR to provide a quarterly report to the Legislature. The bill allows the DNR to hire sufficient contract foresters to mark timber which was deleted in the Governor's budget, but retained by the Legislature.
A bill draft was made available this week by Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township to require religious sects to pay workers compensation. The bill is tailored after a Montana law. Goike facilitated a meeting with House Commerce Committee Chair Rep. Joseph Graves, R-Linden to determine if he is willing to scheduled the bill for debate if it is sent to his committee for consideration. Rep. Graves consistently works to make departments accountable. He is willing to hold a hearing on the bill in an effort to highlight the lack of response the departments give to investigating workers compensation violations by religious sects. Rep. Graves intends to hold a hearing on the bill in June before the summer recess. I "guaranteed" that we will be available to provide testimony at any date he deems necessary to hold a hearing on this important issue. Today, Rep. Goike and I worked on gathering co-sponsors for the bill. The plan is to introduce the bill the week of April 15 when the legislature returns from spring recess.
This week I attend the NFIB legislative day along with Al and Margaret Rush, MAT. Senator Jack Brandenberg, R-Harrison Twp., Chair Senate Finance Committee outlined how he has worked on issues throughout his legislative term to make the Department of Treasury accountable to the Legislature and the people of Michigan. Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant outlined the Republican agenda which includes legislation to protect private property rights, road funding, repeal prevailing wage, stop local government wage and benefit regulation, continue cutting regulations and implement right to work law. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive addressed the group and and outlined the Sales Tax Ballot proposal which he supports. Charlie Owens outlined NFIB priorities and explained their opposition to the Sales Tax Ballot proposal. All and all it was a very informative event for NFIB members.