The Aug. 7 Primary Election set a modern day voter turnout record with the number of ballots cast expected to exceed 2 million. Michigan voters will hear “Fix the Damn Roads” and “I have been endorsed by President Trump” for the next three months as Democrat Gretchen Whitmer and Republican Bill Schuette won their respective primaries. Campaigning will continue to see who will succeed Governor Rick Snyder as state's next Governor in the November general election. In his first foray into politics, John James, an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran and businessman, defeated venture capitalist Sandy Pensler to win the Republican primary. James will run against three-term incumbent U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Delta Twp.) in November’s election. Other state senator and representative primary race winners are also highlighted in the Special Election Karoub Report.

Lawmakers have only 30 days of session scheduled for the remainder of the year with the House actually at 29 days. The House will return to session after Labor Day for the month of September, although three of those weeks are just two-day session weeks. The Senate meets one extra day that month. But the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV) says lawmakers should return to Lansing immediately to undertake investigations as to why the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in 2012 did not take a staffers report connecting PFAS chemical contamination to various diseases and health issues. Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law legislation (SB 652, 653 and 654) that gives him the power to appoint three new commissions within the DEQ. Closing arguments have been held in a 24-day preliminary exam on whether Department of Human Services Director Nick Lyons had individual legal duty by statute or otherwise to notify the public about Flint’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks in 2014 and 2015. The Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) recently heard oral arguments from both sides of the Voter Not Politicians (VNP) ballot proposal to have an independent commission redraw Michigan’s political districts. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has mounted a legal challenge to a ballot proposal that is designed to put an end to gerrymandering in the state. The paid sick leave and minimum wage increase ballot proposals are opposed by Michigan Opportunity, a ballot question committee affiliated with the Michigan Restaurant Association. Michigan Opportunity has filed a complaint in the Court of Appeals alleging the minimum wage increase proposal “unlawfully seeks to amend the current law by reference and without re-enactment and publication of that law as required.” Michigan drivers need to keep their distance from bikers, allowing at least three feet of space while passing bicyclists on the road under legislation (HB 4198, 4185 and 4265) signed into law by Gov. Snyder. Click here for more details in the July 2018 Karoub Report.

Before Michigan lawmakers left for summer break, they sent the 56.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2019 to Gov. Rick Snyder, which has record levels for education and transportation money. However, Democrats have concerns about “raiding” $900 million in K-12 money to bail out the stagnant General Fund; Gov. Snyder says he will sign a bill requiring many Medicaid recipients to work at least 80 hours a month. The bill is a compromise from the initial proposal which included a 29-hour work week requirement and a provision allowing counties with unemployment rates of 8.5 percent or higher to be exempt. That provision was removed; The House took no action on the last day of the 40-day constitutional deadline to legislatively adopt and amend a citizen initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana. Now voters will decide in November whether to make pot legal in Michigan; The Senate passed legislation (SB 787 and 1014) that would allow seniors 65 and older to choose a $50,000 personal protection auto insurance policy as opposed to the otherwise mandated unlimited lifetime benefit as part of a scaled-back auto insurance package. The House took no action on the auto insurance reform bills before the break; Gov. Snyder vetoed the Health Insurance Claims Assessment (HICA); and Petition signatures calling for passage of a mandatory paid sick time leave policy in Michigan were filed with the state’s election division by the Michigan Time to Care Coalition. If approved, employees could bank up to 72 hours, or nine days, of paid sick leave a year for those who work for employers of 10 employees or more. Those working for smaller businesses could bank up to 40 hours of paid leave with 32 more hours of unpaid leave. Click on June 2018 Karoub Report for more information on these and other legislative issues.

The Committee to Keep Pot out of Neighborhoods and Schools was fighting a ballot proposal to legalize marijuana. Now, it is urging the Legislature to take up the initiative, amend it and pass legislation for adult recreational use; Updated revenue estimates set by state economists indicate Gov. Snyder and legislators will have a combined $500 million more than expected for this fiscal year and next fiscal year; The strictest drinking water rules for lead in the country are about complete, according to Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration. The plan would eventually result in the replacement of all 500,000 lead service pipes in Michigan unless a legislative committee objects by June; Environmentalist billionaire Tom Steyer is dropping his effort to put before the voters in November a ballot proposal that would raise the state’s renewable portfolio standard to 30 percent by 2030; After the U.S. Supreme Court gave the state the ability to regulate the running of a sports book for gaming operations, the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee may schedule a hearing to permit casinos to offer sports team wagers; and Pancreatic cancer has taken the life of State Superintendent Brian Whiston. He was diagnosed with the disease in late 2017 and had officially gone on long-term disability just days before his passing. Click on the May 2018 Karoub Report for more information.

 

A package of gun control/safety legislation bills introduced by Senate Democrats would invest $100 million in schools, with half going for grants for more counselors, social workers and school resource officers, and half in grants for safety measures in schools; SB 897, which passed the Senate without any Democrat support, would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients between the ages of 19 and 64 to work, receive job training or education, or a combination of the three, for an average of 29 hours per week; the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has granted Nestle permission to increase its water withdrawals to 400 gallons per minute for its bottled water plant near Evart despite most public comments opposing increased usage; the Michigan Supreme Court ordered oral arguments in a lawsuit filed by unemployment insurance claimants who were falsely accused of fraud through the state’s controversial Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MIDAS); As the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol pushes to get the legalization of marijuana on the Nov. 6 ballot, some Republican lawmakers are considering legalizing it through the Legislature rather than let the initiative make the ballot; and 5 p.m. April 26 is the deadline to challenge a sample of signatures submitted by the redistricting reform ballot committee, Voters Not Politicians (VNP). VNP said they submitted 425,000 signatures and have no doubt the proposal will be on the ballot Nov. 6. For more information on these and other legislative initiates, click here for the April 2018 Karoub Report.

State legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder are working on measures to make schools safer following the most recent mass shooting at a school in Florida. Gov. Snyder advised Budget Director John Walsh to set aside some state funds for school safety as his office does an “extensive review” of what other states are proposing on the issue; Sen. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) said he would like the state to spend as much as a “majority” of the projected $889 million in the state’s rainy day fund for a school safety initiative; Senate Democrats Spokesperson Rosie Jones said legislation will be coming soon on the topic of school safety; The Legislature sent the Governor $175 million in leftover General Fund money from last year in additional dollars for state and local transportation departments to fix roads; House Democrats are proposing community college be “tuition free” for all state residents; and House and Senate Election committees appear to be moving forward on legislation to create a system which would allow Michigan residents to register to vote online through the Secretary of State’s ExpressSOS.com. These and other legislative initiatives are featured in the March 2018 Karoub Report.

U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and a bipartisan group of senators recently introduced legislation to help protect children’s identities from “synthetic ID fraud,” a form of identity theft in which stolen Social Security Numbers (SSN) are paired with fake names and birth dates. A recent study found that one in every 10 children had their SSN used by identity thieves to fraudulently open bank or credit card accounts, negatively impacting a child’s credit before they even become adults. Click here for more information on this bill to prevent chiild identity theft.

As the reforming of no-fault auto insurance continues to linger in the Legislature, some have now moved to repeal it in completely; The State House and Senate reached a compromise with Gov. Rick Snyder that will give Michiganders a tax break and speed-up elimination of costly driver responsibility fees. The current $4,000 personal tax exemption will increase to $4,900 per person by 2021. Gov. Snyder had proposed an increase in the exemption to $4,500 over three years; House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) wants to accelerate Gov. Snyder’s FY 2019 road funding proposal into this year’s budget; With the recent conviction of MSU Dr. Larry Nassar, members of the Progressive Women’s Caucus (PWC) will be introducing legislation in the coming weeks or month that will reflect its principles – prevention, protection and accountability – to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses; Democrats in the Senate have introduced a 22-bill package of legislation they say is designed to prepare the best, attract the brightest and retain the finest Michigan educators. Click here for the February 2018 Karoub Report which highlights these and other legislative issues.

The Republican-led Senate passed an expanded personal income tax credit that is likely being eliminated due to a quirk in the new federal tax reform law. Senate Bill 748 S-1 preserves Michigan’s $4,000 personal exemption on its income tax, but increases it to $5,000 by 2021- a $200 increase over the $4,800 exemption level of the SB 748 version; Able-bodied Medicaid recipients would have to work, go through job training or perform community service in order to keep their benefits under House Bill 5317; In the state’s first gubernatorial override in 16 years, the House and Senate pushed into law an accelerated sales tax phase out on used car trade-ins that Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed in July 2017; A Special House Task Force report found 42 areas where mental health services could be improved in the state; Charter schools would receive a share of “regional improvement” property taxes on a per-pupil basis that now go only to traditional schools if legislation (SB 574) approved by the House becomes law; and analysts for the House and Senate fiscal agencies are projecting continued slow and steady growth for Michigan economy through 2020, which means the state’s $10 billon General Fund isn’t likely to keep up with inflation over the next three years and the School Aid Fund, when adjusted for inflation, should remain smaller than it was 10 years ago. These and other legislative initiatives are featured in the January 2018 Karoub Report.

President Trump signed into law the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) and Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Reauthorization Act that included a provision authored by U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Susan Collins (R-ME). The provision enables fire departments nationwide to use SAFER grants to transition part-time or paid-on-call personnel, who are already trained and equipped to respond to emergencies, to full-time status. Previously, SAFER grants could only be used to hire and train new personnel.

Click here for more information on the new law.

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

Photos by Jennifer Gomori, MAP Editor                                                    MAFF Executive Director Fred Timpner (left) welcomed Senator Debbie Stabenow as a guest speaker to the Annual Open House Dec. 8. Pictured right of Stabenow are MAPO President Michael Sauger and Karoub Associates Partner Jim Curran.

Senator Debbie Stabenow joined MAFF, MAP and MAPE labor representatives and members Friday, Dec. 8 at the Annual Open House to show her support for public safety unions and their efforts to stop legislation which could significantly impact their ability to bargain over pensions and retiree health care and threaten benefits already promised to existing retirees.

Senator Stabenow, whose grandfather was a Detroit Police Officer until he became disabled following a high speed chase, expressed her opposition to the measures. Stabenow wanted to let MAFF, MAP and MAPE members know she opposes the attack on public safety retirement benefits.

“I cannot believe you have to worry about your pensions being paid,” Stabenow said. “It just enrages me as well as energizes me. Your senators fought really hard to stop it from happening.”

MAFF, MAP and MAPE representatives and public employees across the state called their legislators and descended on the Capitol in recent weeks, rallying forces to express their opposition to House Bills 5298-5313 and Senate Bills 686-701.

Under a scaled back 11-bill package of legislation passed by the House and Senate last week, local governments would need to submit a state approved plan on how to cover their employees’ and retirees’ pension and health care costs; Democrats in the state Senate have introduced legislation (SB 724-725) to reverse Michigan’s five-year old controversial right-to-work laws. The measures would allow a union to charge an agency fee for nonunion members who work in a public or private union; Gov. Rick Snyder has signed into law legislation that would allow the Department of Corrections to hire a former felon to work in a state prison – if the hiring goes through an investigative process. The bill (HB 4065) is designed to create opportunities for previous offenders looking to become productive members of society; In an effort to address a growing opioid epidemic in Michigan, the House and Senate passed the last of two packages of bills; As contract negotiations with state employee unions are set to begin next year, Gov. Rick Snyder has named Cheryl Schmittdiel the new director of the Office of State Employer to replace Marie Waalkes who is leaving state government with plans to retire. Schmittdiel has worked both sides of the bargaining table. For more details on these and other end of 2017 legislative issues, see the December 2017 Karoub Report.