Michigan Legislative Update
Week of June 17, 2016
By Judy Augenstein
Last week when the Legislature recessed early to campaign at least seven key items were left on the agenda. The Legislature is scheduled to return to Lansing on Wednesday, July 13 to continue "some" work. The House is up for re-election as House members are allowed three, two year terms. We will lose at least 40 House members to term limits. The Senate is not up for re-election as they are allowed two four year terms. Although quite a few senators are posturing to run for Congress. Expect a heated contest for the Congressional 1st District as Senator Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba will be pitted against former Senator Jason Allen, R-Traverse City. Lansing "pundits" contend Allen has strength in the lower northern and Casperson has a majority of support in the Upper Upper Northern and the UP.
Key items left to be resolved include a no fault insurance reform package, repealing the prevailing wage, "Uber Bills'--ride sharing companies are still operating illegally and some are being ticketed for operating what is being viewed as an unlicensed taxi. At the top of the agenda is legislation to determine the circumstances a 3rd grader would be held back for not being able to read at grade level. Speaker Cotter's constitutional amendment that asks voters to make it easier to fire poorly performing civil service employees, legislation to revamp the Unemployment Insurance Agency and legislation to require transgender individuals use the public restroom of their assigned birth.
On the very last day of the session a bill was passed to transfer 3 million dollars from the Forestry Development fund to the First Responders Fund, a new cancer worker's compensation fund, allegedly to be funded by the upcoming marijuana debate which is held over until the fall "lame duck" session. Rep. Jon Bumstead, R-Newaygo, DNR budget chair and Senator Mike Green, R-Mayville, Senate DNR budget chair both fought hard against the transfer which was spearheaded by the House and Senate Appropriation Committee Chairmen.
Legislation to tweak the qualified Forest Act and the Commercial Forest Act "may" see action during the "lame duck" session. SB 706, 707 & 708, legislation to prohibit a local government from requiring a special permit for a logger to haul wood out of a state/federal forest are more likely to receive "lame duck" action.
We continue to work towards moving legislation to require the Amish to provide worker's compensation. New bill language prohibits a wood products industry employer from being eligible for exclusions from the Act. We intend to discuss the Amish issue with Lt. Governor Brian Calley at the upcoming campaign event being held at my house for Rep. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville. Rep. Barrett supports our efforts to make the Amish accountable and is a member of the committee considering the bill.