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Michigan Legislative Update

Week of April 28, 2016

By Judy Augenstein

This week..........

The U.S. Department of Education has made a $25 - $30 million claim against Detroit Public Schools for using federal grant funds designed to go toward teacher pensions for other purposes, DPS emergency Manager Steven Rhodes reported to Treasurer Nick Khouri earlier this week.

The top brass in the state's two departments held most responsible for the Flint water crisis fielded questions from lawmakers on Monday, some of whom were not convinced their responses showed a significant enough culture change was afoot.

The latest substitutes adopted in the Senate Energy and Technology Committee for the Senate's energy proposals pay lots of attention to the rules and regulations guiding utilities and their operation matters, but fewer changes were made for non-incumbent utilities.  The Senate stated this week what is expected to be another fairly lengthy round of debate and discussion on its energy policy proposals after six months of much behind the scenes work.

The House Tax Policy this week began hearing testimony on legislation to address so-called "dark stores" that would clarify the criteria to be used by the Michigan Tax Tribunal during an assessment dispute, specifically focusing on comparable properties and ensuring they have the same "highest and best use".

Two UP schools have adopted trans-gender student policy Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba is considering for state legislation.  Some LGBT advocates say it runs afoul of Department of Education regulations.  Senator Casperson commented this week that two schools have worked out an arrangement where trans-gender students use faculty or administrative bathrooms as opposed to the facilities set aside for the gender to which they identify. 

Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama is working on a bill to create a multiple use license plate to haul equipment on a low boy and Rep. Pete Pettalia, R-Presque Isle continues to work on a bill to create a multiple use permit to haul equipment.  the plan gives us two bills with twice the opportunity to get one through the legislative process during the "Lame Duck" session.

Rep. Ken Goike, R-Ray Township met with LARA in an effort to develop language which would meet with LARA approval.  LARA refuses to to assist with drafting language acceptable to them, but we keep trying.  Rep. Ken Goike, Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet and Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville continue to urge Rep. Joe Graves, Chair, House Commerce Committee to set HB 5606 for a hearing in an effort to move the legislation forward.  Rep. Graves strongly wants LARA approval.  Some legislators allow the departments to run their committee some do not. The bill requires an employer with three or more employees to provide workers compensation.

Rep. Bruce Rendon, R-Lake City and Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba continue to work towards passage of SB 706, 707 & 708.  The bills prohibit county road commissions from requiring special drive way permits for loggers.  The bills await full Senate action and are expected to reach the House sometime next week.  We will actively be lobbying the bills as they continue their travel through the legislative process.

I attended the fundraiser for Rep. Ken Goike this week and was proud that we provided funding at the $500 level.  Ken plans to run for the Senate in two years and it is important to do all we can to assist in getting him elected.

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