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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of June 18, 2015

by Judy Augenstein

Senate Majority Leader is supportive of parts of the House road plan adopted last week and forwarded to the Senate for review.  Meekhof supports eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit as does most of his caucus, but other bills in the package are up for debate.  Senate Republicans continue to have daily discussions about what it believes could be the right combination to fix the $1.2 billion and growing road funding problem.   The Senate does not expect to put a proposal on the table until early July.  The Senate plans to be in session through July and August as the House plans to be in session intermittently through the summer  in order to continue work on a road plan.

Last week, the House passed a 12 bill package designed to fix roads.  Among some of the more controversial elements were bills to eliminate the EITC, increasing registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles, and cutting funding for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Legislation tailored after Wisconsin law to allow a multiple trip permit is being written by the Legislative Service Bureau and should be ready for introduction this summer.  The bill will be sponsored by House Transportation Committee Chair, Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle.  Rep. Pettalia shared with me this week that any and all transportation bills will be put on the back burner until a road funding plan is resolved.  I am also working to have the issue inserted into another bill dealing with truck permits being drafted by Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township, member of the House Transportation Committee.

Elders from the Amish community made lobby visits to Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township, Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare and Rep. Joe Graves, R-Linden this week to present their arguments against HB 4579.  The bill requires religious sects to pay workers compensation.  Goike is the sponsor of the bill, Johnson is a co-sponsor and Graves is the chair of the House Commerce Committee where the bill was referred for debate.  Legislative staff shared with me that the Elders were from northern Michigan.  The legislators suggested the Elders work with the Bureau of Workers' Compensation to set a special fund similar to a group fund since they do not support HB 4579.

The Elders based their argument on "religion".  Rep. Ken Goike told the group that this is not a religious issue, but a cost of doing business issue.  The Amish also tried to make a case that they take care of their "own" and should not be required to pay WC and in fact "should" have a clear exemption from the law.  I commented to the legislators that our member companies choose to not pay workers compensation either and would take care of their own too, but the law prohibits that possibility---they commented "exactly".  The heat is on!

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