Michigan Legislative Update
Week of September 23, 2015
by Judy Augenstein
Discussions continue on how to fund the state's ailing roads. The one thing that seems to be gaining footing is that the final solution will be solely focused on roads and transportation issues. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof commented that the plan has to be a "clean" plan by not loading it up like the plan that "sunk" Proposal 1. Meekhof stated that voters indicated that they accept the idea of paying more for roads but only if paying more is just for roads.
Senate Meekhof denied that the major hang up in discussions among the Legislative Quadrant was at what rate to cut current spending. The Senate had proposed $750 million and the House countered with $600 million, but Governor Rick Snyder does not like either of those figures because he thinks it would put too much pressure on the General Fund. Meekhof commented that "There's other things to talk about, how much do overweight trucks pay? How much do electric and hybrid vehicles pay if they're not paying for fuel?" Senator Meekhof said those issues are related and have to be addressed in transportation funding.
Michigan would join a compact to develop and adopt a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution under SB 306, sponsored by Senator Mike Green, R-Bay City. The bill passed the Senate 26-11 along party lines. A total of 38 states are required for the compact to take effect. It is estimated that the amount of debt at the end of the Obama term will be close to $20 trillion.
The Michigan Campaign Finance Network stated this week that in the first seven months of the year, lobbying firms spent $21 million on efforts to lobby legislators. Leading the way on spending was Government Consultants Services, at $947,832, followed by Karoub Associates, Kelly Cawthorne, RWC Advocacy, the Michigan Health Hospital Association, Public Affairs Associates and Muchmore Harrington Smalley Associates.
In a meeting with Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township this week I obtained a copy of a letter to Rep. Joe Graves, Chair, House Commerce Committee, where HB 4579, legislation to require religious sects pay workers compensation, is awaiting debate. Mark Long, Director WCA, outlines their concerns with the bill and contends the Amish are working within the law as written. Staff to Rep. Graves has requested I provide him a list of Michigan sawmills in order to determine what percentage are Amish. I have requested sponsor Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet to research the question.
Rep. Ken Goike has also prepared a bill to require employers verify work comp insurance if they are on site for an investigation or inspection. I added to the request that the employer also have MIOSHA requirements posted as other employers are required. Sometime ago, I was told by a senator that the Amish told him to get a message to me that they will NOT publish the MIOSHA safety poster. We continue to make the departments and the Amish "nervous" about our lobby efforts regarding the Amish.
The Legislature is not in session today because of "Yom Kippur. The Legislature will return to Lansing on Tuesday, September 28.