Michigan Legislative Update
Week of August 21, 2015
by Judy Augenstein
The House has sent three road funding bills to a House/Senate conference committee where a final deal could eventually be hashed out. After many closed door meetings, the House did not concur in Senate changes made to HB 4612, dealing with registration fees, HB 4613, which concerns warranties and HB 4615, which could raise the diesel tax to put it on par with the gasoline tax. A final deal has not been been formed, but a rough outline of a plan including $600 million in new revenue has been floated by Speaker Cotter.
The conference committee includes Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevenville, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee and Rep. Marilyn Lane, D-Fraser, House Transportation Democratic chair. Senate conference committee members are Senator Geoff Hansen, R-Hart, Assistant Majority Leader, Senator Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, member Appropriations Committee and Senator Morris Hood, III, D-Detroit, member Government Operations Committee. Speaker Cotter contends Democrats are more serious about negotiations and sees the formation of the conference committee as progress.
The plan previously passed by the Senate would have shifted $700 million from the General Fund to roads and increased the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon. the original House transportation plan would have increased only the diesel tax by 4 cents. The diesel parity combined with registration fee increases would have generated $45 million in new revenue.
The legislature recessed today until September 9 without a road budget deal. Governor Rick Snyder wanted the House to include additional millions for the Health Insurance Claims Assessment because of a shortfall. Democrats wanted more road dollars dedicated to Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties and a guarantee to safeguard the state's prevailing wage. Speaker Cotter was short GOP votes to increases road taxes to include these demands in the mix. Speaker Cotter is still confident he will garner votes for a "clean" road funding agreement in September.
This week Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet set a meeting with Martha Yoder, Director, MIOSHA, Mark Long, Director, Workers Compensation Agency, Marnee Wills, LARA lobbyist, John Fowler, Jim Maeder and myself to discuss the competition the Amish create for wood products businesses. Martha Yoder commented that unless the department receives a complaint about a child being harmed, MIOSHA does not have authority to get involved. It was suggested we discuss the issue with the Department of Education, Ben Williams who enforces youth employment. Rep.Dianda is especially interested in finding out how many MIOSHA inspections have occurred in the Mt. Pleasant area since over 40 new "families" have settled there this year and has directed staff to identify how many inspections have been held in that area.
We also discussed the issue of tax dollars lost by the state by ignoring the fact that religious sects are unwilling to pay workers compensation and unemployment compensation. Rep. Dianda was shocked to learn that over 50% of sawmills are now owned by the Amish. Rep. Dianda plans to set a meeting with Ben Williams, Dept. Education, Director Youth Services, Sally Durkee, new Deputy Director Treasury. Sally recently left Governor Snyder's office as his chief lobbyist to take the Deputy Director job at Treasury. Once the necessary research is completed, Rep. Dianda will facilitate the meeting with the Dept. of Ed, Treasury, Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township, HB 4579 bill sponsor, legislation to require religious sects to pay workers compensation, Rep. Joe Graves, R-Linden, Chair, House Commerce Committee and MAT/GLTPA to discuss the unfair competition religious sects create for our industry.