As many of you have heard, Michigan's Legislature has been busy addressing a variety of issues in recent weeks. Most notably, we've taken a number of steps toward finalizing our state budget that I wanted to take a moment to draw your attention to.
I reported in my last e-newsletter that the House had passed both of its omnibus budget bills: House Bill 4228 and House Bill 4328. Since then, the House has adopted and passed the versions of those bills that were reported out of the Conference Committee process. I expect they will be finalized and signed into law in the next week or so.
House Bill 4228 (Conference Report Passed House on 5.28) - School Aid Omnibus Budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014
As I noted in my last update, HB 4228 includes the budgets for school aid, higher education, and community colleges for fiscal year 2013-2014. The Conference Committee's report of this bill passed the House on May 28th on a vote of 65-43. It was then adopted by the Senate (on a vote of 25-12) and has been sent to Governor Snyder for his final approval and signature.
I was disappointed to have to vote against the final version of HB 4228 when it came before me, but the bill simply didn't include the increases for our students that were promised by Governor Snyder. Lansing Public Schools will only see a $6 per pupil increase under the latest version of this bill when factoring in retirement legacy costs. A $6 increase is not nearly enough after recent cuts from the Legislature and Governor ($200 per pupil were cut from 2011-2013). While I was glad to see the lowest-funded schools receive boosted state support through the Conference Committee's version of HB 4228, I'm frustrated that our urban schools-- many who have been subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism, including state takeover by the Educational Achievement Authority-- aren't seeing the increased support they need. What's worse, many charter schools will see larger increases than Lansing Public Schools will (generally around $58 per pupil in Ingham County). With a nearly $700 million state budget surplus this year, I believe that our public education students should be our priority and our budget does not reflect that. As such, I voted against this budget.
For what it's worth, HB 4228 does at least preserves the governor's recommended funding for the Great Start Readiness program (the House had reduced that increase in its initial version of the bill). That said, this budget is still a long way from the direction I think we ought to be heading as a state when it comes to supporting our schools. We clearly have a long way to go.
House Bill 4328 (Conference Report Passed House on 5.28) - General Omnibus Budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014
House Bill 4328 provides appropriations for the following state departments: LARA, Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Department of Community Health, Corrections, Department of Education, Department of Environmental Quality, General Government, Department of Health Services, Judiciary, Michigan State Police, and the Department of Transportation. The Conference Committee report on HB 4328 passed the House on a vote of 63-46.
I voted against this bill on the House floor because of the number of measures HB 4328 did not include-- most notably, support for Medicaid expansion. I remain frustrated at Republicans' resistance of Medicaid expansion, which, as many of you know, would allow us to extend health coverage to 400,000 currently uninsured Michigan residents. Those funds have the potential to reduce uncompensated care and will save our state an estimated $300 million; save taxpayers millions in future Medicaid expenses; and bring an estimated $1.9 to $2 billion in new revenue to our state over a ten-year period, for a total of over $20.5 billion worth of new revenue for Michigan. I could not in good conscience support a budget bill that didn't include funds for a program that our state's citizens overwhelmingly want us to expand. (It's worth noting, though, that the Michigan Competitiveness Committee is still in the midst of working on an alternative Medicaid expansion bill-- HB 4714-- which sets a number of conditions for expanding Medicaid to 133 percent of the federal poverty level. I have some concerns about the bill as it stands but will continue to be closely involved as a member of that committee in efforts to make the bill more palatable).
My other primary concern with the Conference Committee's version of HB 4328 was the inclusion of language that presents a significant problem for our school districts. As passed by the House, the bill includes language prohibiting the Michigan Department of Education and local schools across Michigan from implementing the Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessments, which were adopted statewide in 2010 and have been successfully implemented by our local school districts since then. Michigan's local school districts have spent hundreds of hours planning and implementing the high-quality Common Core Standards to empower their students to be career and college-ready. Language included in HB 4328 would leave school boards, administrators, teachers, and parents with no clear direction on how to continue planning their locally-developed curricula to meet state standards that have were thoroughly vetted by citizens (including teachers, parents, students, school administrators, and post-secondary educators) when they were adopted three years ago. Members of the Michigan Legislature also provided input and commentary on the construction of the standards at that time. I believe that Michigan's Common Core State Standards are good for our schools, for our children, for our businesses, and for our state's economic future.
All that being said, there were a few positive changes that came out of the Conference Committee process for this bill.
To begin, I was thrilled to see support re-instated for an expansion of the Healthy Kids Dental program. That expansion will enable children in 78 of Michigan's 83 counties (including Ingham, Ottawa, and Washtenaw) to be eligible for assistance through Healthy Kids Dental, a tremendous program piloted through Delta Dental and the Department of Community Health that continues to improve the dental health of many of our most at-need citizens. The Conference Committee's version of HB 4328 also included $500,000 worth of support for Meals on Wheels; funds for autism programs at Central University, Eastern University, Oakland University, and Western Michigan University; funds for mental health and substance abuse support for veterans; enough support to keep all of our corrections and juvenile justice facilities open; a (very) small increase in statutory revenue sharing for our communities; $4.9 million to support the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) at Michigan State University; replacement funding for energy assistance for low-income citizens; support for expansion of specialty (sobriety, drug, mental health, and veterans) courts; a small increase in transportation funding (compared to our current year); and support for Amtrack services.
I was disappointed to have to oppose this bill with so many good things in it, but I believe that the omission of Medicaid expansion and damaging language on Common Core will have a very drastic negative impact on our state, our residents, and our children.
It's important to point out that HB 4328 hasn't yet been adopted by the Senate. I remain hopeful that my colleagues in that chamber will address some of the most concerning aspects of the bill before sending it to Governor Snyder for his final approval and signature.
To see the comments I gave on the House floor related to this bill, click here.
I'm excited to share that three more of my bills were granted hearings this month. House Bills 4477, 4478, and 4479 were all taken up in the House's Ethics and Elections Committee.
House Bill 4477 would allow a voter to take a photograph of himself or herself (but not a photo of his/her ballot) in a polling place. Last cycle, several voters took pictures of themselves voting and inserting their ballots into the voting machine and then put those photos on Facebook. According to the Secretary of State's rules and interpretation of election law, this is actually illegal. In this day of social media, people should be excited about voting and should be allowed to take pictures of themselves doing just that. I exempted pictures of the actual ballot but believe that pictures of the act of voting should be allowed.
House Bill 4479 corrects an inequity in campaign finance law that currently prevents a candidate from paying a late filing fee for their annual statement using candidate committee funds. Currently, candidate committee funds can be used for all other late filing fees, but not for the annual statement. At the request of my county clerk, my bill eliminates that prohibition and allows a candidate to pay that fee using candidate committee funds.
Finally, House Bill 4478 allows a voter who is unable to sign his or her name on an election document to execute the election document where a signature is required either by making his or her mark or by using a signature stamp. This legislation is in response to an issue that arose in a local mid-Michigan community. Under current law, a person can make his/her mark but cannot use a voter stamp. At its hearing, the bill was supported by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Michigan Disability Right Coalition, the Michigan Municipal League, AARP (Michigan), GCSI, the Association of County Clerks, and the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.
This bill was actually passed by the Ethics and Elections Committee unanimously and without amendment on May 21st. It now heads to the House floor for a vote by the full chamber.
HR 145, EMS Week Resolution
I introduced House Resolution 145 to declare May 19-25th, 2013 as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week in the State of Michigan. It was a pleasure to help recognize the vital public services our hard-working EMS personnel provide to Michigan's citizens-- especially our residents who experience sudden illness or injury. Our state wouldn't be what it is without the first responders, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics (many who volunteer their time) who stand ready to provide compassionate, lifesaving care to those in need 24 hours a day, seven days a week. HR 145 was adopted by the House on May 16th.
I continue to work with a variety of stakeholders on drafting legislation to address issues facing our community and state. I expect to introduce legislation dealing with foreclosure and a few other issues in the coming weeks and look forward to working on and introducing legislation over the summer, too. I invite you to stay up to speed on all of my legislative action on my website (www.schor.housedems.com). For an up-to-date list of all legislative I've sponsored and co-sponsored to date, click on the below links:
Other House Bills
A number of other bills have been passed by the House that directly impact Michigan's residents. I've included information about a notable few below.
HB 4363 (passed the House on 5.16) - Prohibition of Public Officials from Voting or Communicating through Electronic Devices when Absent
HB 4363 would prohibit public officials from voting or participating in deliberations of a public body through electronic or telephonic means when they are physically absent from a meeting.
HB 4283 (passed the House on 5.16) - Use of Certain Rifles During Firearm Deer Season
HB 4283 would allow the use of certain specific rifles during the regular firearm deer season in the area that is currently restricted to only shotguns, muzzleloaders, and certain types of pistols.
HB 4168 (passed the House on 5.16) - Elimination that County Sheriffs Euthanize Unlicensed Dogs
HB 4168 eliminates the requirement that a county sheriff euthanize unlicensed dogs.
HB 4156 (passed the House on 5.22) - Special Volunteer License for Retired Nurses
HB 4156 amends the Public Health Code to create a Special Volunteer License for retired nurses. A nurse who provides care under this Special Volunteer License would not be liable in a civil action for personal injury or death proximately caused by professional negligence or malpractice of the individual if certain conditions are met.
SB 57 (passed the House on 5.23) - Extension of the Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP)
SB 57 expands the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) to include lands not utilized for traditional or production agriculture such as land used for forest management. Content of SB 57 is identical to that of HB 4324. This bill has since been sent to Governor Snyder for his final approval and signature.
HB 4743 (passed the House on 5.28) - Amendment to the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act
HB 4743 allows local units of government to enact an ordinance prohibiting the discharge, initiation or use of consumer grade fireworks anytime between the hours of 12 AM to 8 AM on the day of, day before and day after a national holiday. The bill also addresses the fireworks safety fee for retailers, where the fee is distributed, and who is responsible for submitting the fee.
Lansing School District Summer Newsletter
The Lansing School District recently released its Summer Newsletter (it's available online here). Be sure to check it out for news about the latest happenings and progress being made in our school district.
Capital Area Health Alliance's 'Choosing Health' Initiative
As some of you have already seen, I recently filmed a short public service announcement with Capital Area Health Alliance (CAHA) Executive Director Valerie Glesnes-Anderson and Ingham County Health Department Director and Health Officer Dr. Renee Canady about Michigan's Health and Wellness '4 X 4 Tool.' That tool promotes healthy lifestyles by encouraging physical activity, developing healthy eating habits, preventing substance abuse and tobacco use, and promoting mental health. CAHA is one of six organizations that received Michigan Department of Community Health grant funding to implement and support the Michigan Health and Wellness 4x4 Plan with an engagement, awareness and outreach campaign in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. Watch for the segment on local cable stations and read about CAHA's 'Choosing Health!' Rally in my Community Update.
Coffee and Tea with Andy
My next 'Coffee and Tea with Andy' gathering is scheduled for Saturday, June 22nd, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at Flap Jack Waverly, located at 1601 S. Waverly Road here in Lansing. These gatherings are a great opportunity for me to share news about what's going on at the Capitol and gather your thoughts and concerns about our community. Hearing from you helps me better represent the interests of Lansing and Lansing Township in the Michigan House, so I hope you’ll consider joining in what promises to be another productive discussion.
My 'Coffee and Tea with Andy' schedule for the rest of 2013 is below. We also expect to have some special community meetings on issues like the budget which will be announced separately. The set schedule is as follows:
Monday, August 5
Alfreda Schmidt Southside Community Center (Community Room)
5825 Wise Road, Lansing
Saturday, October 26
The Avenue Café (formerly Gone Wired)
2021 East Michigan Avenue, Lansing
Monday, December 2
Letts Community Center
1220 W. Kalamazoo Street, Lansing
For a full list of events happening in and around our community in the coming weeks, click here.
Thank you very much for your interest in my legislative activity. I look forward to keeping you updated on what's happening in the House and invite you to stay in touch with my office via phone (517-373-0826), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org), or by stopping in to visit (we're located in office 1087 of the Anderson House Office Building, located at 124 North Capitol Avenue in Lansing) to share your thoughts or if we can be of any assistance to you.
State Representative, 68th District