Although the Legislature has been on summer break since June, that does not mean that nothing is happening in Lansing. Plenty of officials and legislators are planning rule changes or legislation that will begin moving in the fall.
The budget impasse between the Legislature and the Governor regarding the future of the school pension system continues into June. State prisons would see a $10 million cut to their operations under the 2017-18 fiscal year budget approved today by a House-Senate conference committee.
The last month has been a whirlwind of conflicting budget numbers and proposals between the House, Senate and Governor Snyder. Complicating the annual appropriations process has been the agreement between Speaker of the House Tom Leonard and Senate Majority Leader Arlen Meekhof that the greatest threat to Michigan at this moment are public school pensions.
The 99th Michigan Legislature was seated in Lansing this month. The term begins with a new Speaker, Representative Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) in the Chair, but the same Republican/Democrat split of 63-47. It is widely believed that the Republican caucus has become more politically conservative as a result of the election, but that has yet to be seen.
The election is upon us and it is one of the strangest our nation has ever had. Rarely have there been two presidential contenders that were so unpopular. Donald Trump’s highly unorthodox campaign could still bear fruit on November 8, but the latest polls show him a longshot to defeat Hillary Clinton. In Michigan, Clinton is up by anywhere from 5-8 points in the polls, but it is still hard to say how that will affect down-ballot races, if at all.
The Primary Election is over, and due to the nature of Michigan’s legislative districts, that means that about 80% of Michigan House Seats have essentially been decided due to the fact that most seats are skewed toward one party or the other.
The Michigan Legislature is in the middle of its summer recess, but most legislators and staff have shifted into campaign mode. Every seat in the Michigan House is up for election this year, though the Michigan Senate members will not appear on the ballot until 2018.
Today the House Workforce and Talent Committee reported out legislation that would seriously undermine Michigan's decades old Civil Service system. Civil Service was established in the Michigan Constitution as a bar to politically motivated employment practices in state government.
A major disagreement has developed on the Department of Corrections budget with the chief senator on the topic backing a 2016-17 fiscal year budget proposal that would close two prisons and call for the department to lease and operate a privately owned prison in Baldwin.
The Legislature just embarked on their two week Spring Recess, also called the In-District Work Period. They will return on April 12 to continue work on the budget, Detroit Public School reforms, and other pressing issues. Fallout regarding the Flint Water Crisis continues to dominate the agenda, and there will likely be more discussions regarding assistance to Flint residents through the spring.
The Legislature has completed work on the 2016 budget and is preparing for a few months of “district work” during which time the House and Senate will be on their summer recess. Although the Senate will return next week for a short session, and the House is due to return for one day in July, most observers do not expect much legislative action before fall.
Most of the budgets winning approval Tuesday from House-Senate conference committees sailed through with no opposition, but the move to close one of the three state-run juvenile facilities in the Department of Human Services' budget prompted strong Democratic opposition.
Budget cuts and a major departmental overhaul topped the headlines in Lansing this month. In January, the House Fiscal Agency discovered a major shortfall in the current year budget, forcing over $300 million in cuts and transfers to bring the budget back into balance.
Lansing in Full Campaign Mode as Election Nears – Lame Duck Session Looming. Although the Legislature has had a few session days this fall, they have taken relatively little action on controversial issues such as transportation funding and education reforms.
The Michigan Legislature is nearly halfway through the budget process as they prepare to take time off for much of April for their spring recess. Of course, when I say “taking time off,” for most State Representatives and State Senators that means “attending town halls, hosting constituent coffee hours, reading to students at elementary schools, and knocking doors in their district.”
The Legislature has returned from the holiday recess and is back in full swing. Last week, Governor Snyder presented his State of the State address, and in it he discussed his administration's accomplishments over the past three years and made a few new proposals (see below).
The Michigan Legislature is halfway through the 2013-2014 session. On some fronts, issues remain in flux. The recent changes to the Michigan Court of Claims will have an as yet undetermined impact on litigation over payroll deductions for state employees' pensions.
The Michigan Court of Claims was established in the State Constitution to hear cases against the State of Michigan. Lawsuits seeking monetary compensation are referred to the Court of Claims, which processes them.
State Administrative Board Approves Aramark Contract
Despite strong and reasoned opposition from MAGE, on September 30, the State Administrative Board unanimously approved contracting out prison food services to Aramark.
The state Legislature is currently on summer break. The Legislature is scheduled to meet a few times during the summer; however, they may not reconvene until late August for official voting, unless Senate leadership decides they have arrived at a version of Medicaid expansion that is ripe for a vote, which now seems likely.
On June 13, Governor Snyder signed the Omnibus Budget Act into law. This bill contains the 2013-2014 appropriation for all state departments. Once again, the issue of privatization featured prominently in this year's budget discussions.
Budget Process Advances; Major holes remain.
On paper, the state's budget process has made a lot of progress, but some significant gaps in revenue resulting from disagreements over Medicaid expansion, assistance with utility shut offs for indigent citizens, and increased funding for roads have yet to be resolved.
Right to Work Bills Pass in House, Senate: Following Governor Snyder's public announcement of his support for Right to Work legislation in Michigan, both the House and the Senate passed Right to Work legislation.
Although September was a busy legislative month, October was mostly a month of campaigning for the legislature. However, the Senate (none of whose members are up for election for two years) was in session one day, during which it passed a number of bills, including legislation restructuring Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan. Neither the House nor the Senate will return to session until after the November General Election. MAGE members are reminded to vote-and to vote the "full" ballot, including the ballot proposals and Supreme Court races.
State Budget Finalized by the Legislature.
Both the House and Senate have approved an Omnibus budget bill for state agencies. Some agencies' budgets of interest include:
The Department of Human Services: The budget cuts $133,014,700 from the agency's FY 2011-12 gross appropriation, making the FY 2012-13 DHS budget $6,553,832,200.
Corrections: The Department of Corrections FY 2012-13 appropriation is $2,000,915,900; $13,583,500 less than FY 2011-12.
The Department of Community Health: DCH will see a $358,240,700 increase to $15,034,057,700 in the upcoming fiscal year.
Department of Transportation: A provision in MDOT's budget will now require all new contract and subcontract employees for the agency to go through the e-Verify system to check the immigration status of their employees. MDOT employees were not included in this provision under the budget language.