Bill would add state police funeral escort to list of lawmaker benefits
As one of his first actions after taking office at the beginning of 2009, state Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit, introduced House Bill 4229, which would create the "Michigan Legislative Funeral Act." Upon the death of a lawmaker or former lawmaker, this proposal would require the state police to provide an escort for the funeral procession if the family of the deceased requests it. The taxpayers would pay for the costs of this escort and also — if the family asks — provide them a state flag.
This bill is co-sponsored by the following state representatives:
Bettie Cook-Scott, D-Detroit
Bert Johnson, D-Detroit
Shanelle Jackson, D-Detroit
Jimmy Womack, D-Detroit
Coleman Young II, D-Detroit
Robert Jones, D-Kalamazoo
Roy Schmidt, D-Grand Rapids
Goeff Hansen, R-Hart
Richard LeBlanc, D-Westland
Bob Constan, D-Dearborn Heights
George Cushingberry, D-Detroit
Dudley Spade, D-Tipton
Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit
Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck
Gail Haines, R-Waterford
Kevin Green, R-Wyoming
Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills
Marie Donigan, D-Royal Oak.
Along with Durhal, Reps. Womack, Schmidt, Tliab, Genetski, Haines and McMillin are each new lawmakers beginning their first full term in the Michigan Legislature. This bill was introduced on Feb. 10, six weeks after each was sworn into office.
Shortly after the bill was introduced, Leon Drolet, head of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance, issued a public statement noting that the tributes authorized by the bill more closely approximate those performed for fallen American military veterans: "No word as to whether these politicians will also require military aircraft to perform the missing man formation as an aerial flyover salute at their funerals."
The proposed police escorts and flags for politicians' funerals resemble another honorific that is already provided by the state to both lawmakers and military veterans while they are still among us. Michigan law allows U.S. veterans of war to select a special state license plate that identifies them as unique citizens who have risked their lives in service to the nation. Michigan legislators are permitted to use license plates that identify them as well: They are designated with the prefixes "SEN" or "REP," followed by the number of the legislator's district. Two sections in state law require the Secretary of State to issue special expiration dates for these plates that coincide with the end of a lawmaker's term in office. Many lawmakers use these plates. (Note: Drolet, who served as a state representative from 2001 through 2006, did not request a specialty plate that designated him as a lawmaker.)
With an annual base salary of $79,650 each, Michigan's state legislators are ranked by the National Conference of State Legislatures as the second highest paid in the land. This is far ahead of many states with populations equal to or larger than Michigan, many of which consider the job of state lawmaker to be in some form or other a part-time position. Florida's population is more than 80 percent larger than Michigan's and that state pays lawmakers an annual base salary of $30,336. Texas, the nation's second most populous state — 2.4 times the size of Michigan — pays its part-time lawmakers just $7,200 per year. Georgia, ranked 11th in population right behind Michigan, pays its state lawmakers $17,342 per year.
On top of their base salary, Michigan lawmakers also receive an annual expense allowance of $12,000. Additionally, the 12 members elected to leadership positions in each chamber annually receive thousands of dollars more. Those who chair the appropriations committees in the House and Senate receive an extra $7,000; the leaders of the minority parties in each chamber receive an extra $22,000; the majority leader in the Senate receives $26,000 more; and the speaker of the House receives a $27,000 annual bonus.
House Bill 4229 has been referred to the House Government Operations Committee. The committee is chaired by Rep. Constan, a co-sponsor of the legislation. Rep. McMillin, another co-sponsor, is also a member of this committee.
The contact information for all lawmakers may be found here.
Ken Braun is the senior managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information and an opportunity to comment on this issue, please see www.mackinac.org/10424.