May 23, 2014, MichiganVotes Weekly Vote Report
Detroit bailout, gas tax, FOIA
Senate Bill 791, Revise, make permanent non-transportation 7/8th cent gas tax: Passed 38 to 0 in the Senate
To eliminate the 2016 sunset on a 7/8ths cent-per-gallon gas tax that was originally supposed to expire in 1998 and only be used to clean up leaking underground fuel tanks, but which has been extended several times, and was diverted to other government spending by a 2004 “fund raid” enacted to avoid spending cuts in that and subsequent years' budget.
Senate Bill 211, Establish firefighters’ cancer presumption: Passed 32 to 6 in the Senate
To establish a presumption that, for purposes of granting workers compensation benefits, certain cancers contracted by non-volunteer firefighters arose out of their employment. The burden of proof would be on the employer to show the disease was due to smoking, nonwork-causes or specific incidents. Any benefits would be contingent on the legislature appropriating money for them.
Senate Bill 788, Codify property owner trespasser liability waiver: Passed 36 to 0 in the Senate
To establish in statute (in addition to existing case law or common law) that a property owner or tenant is not liable for physical harm to a trespasser caused by the owner's lack of reasonable care to make the property reasonably safe and not endanger the trespasser. The bill authorizes exceptions for willful and wanton misconduct by the property owner, “active negligence,” or in the case of harm to a child, knowing that an “attractive nuisance” exists.
House Bill 5414, Reduce, then end “driver responsibility fees”: Passed 108 to 0 in the House
To phase out the so-called “driver responsibility fees” (a.k.a. “bad driver tax”) imposed for certain traffic violations, which were originally adopted in 2003 to avoid spending cuts in that year’s and subsequent state budgets. The bill would cut these additional fees in half for offenses committed after Sept. 30, 2014, and abolish them as of Oct. 1, 2017. Reportedly, thousands of mostly low-income individuals have lost their licenses due to inability to pay these penalties.
House Bill 5439, Permit growing industrial hemp for research: Passed 109 to 0 in the House
To allow the Department of Agriculture and/or a Michigan college or university to grow or cultivate industrial hemp for research purposes. The bill would also create a segregated state fund to provide grants for this research.
House Bill 5193, Restrict closed-door local government lawsuit meetings: Passed 96 to 12 in the House
To prohibit government legislative bodies from holding closed-door sessions to discuss trial or settlement strategies, unless the matter being discussed is already being litigated.
House Bill 5194, Increase Open Meeting Act rigor: Passed 90 to 17 in the House
To establish that if a public body takes an action while in violation of the state Open Meetings Act, and then later re-enacts the decision while in compliance with the OMA, this does not exempt public officials from the misdemeanor and civil fine penalties the OMA authorizes for knowingly holding a meeting that violates its public notice and open-door requirements.
House Bill 5566, Create Detroit fiscal oversight panel: Passed 103 to 7 in the House
To establish a Detroit fiscal management oversight commission consisting of two state department heads, five other individuals appointed by the Governor, the Mayor, and the president of the city council. Among the commission’s powers would be final approval of city budgets and larger purchases, borrowing, union contracts (except police and firefighter contracts imposed through binding arbitration), and more. The commission could waive its powers if city financial management meets specified conditions, and resume them in the event of backsliding. This is attached to proposed $195 million state grant to the city.
House Bill 5569, Cap Detroit employee health insurance benefits: Passed 100 to 10 in the House
To prohibit Detroit from providing employee health insurance benefits whose premiums cost more than $5,500 for a single person, $12,250 for a couple and $15,000 for a family plan (indexed to the "medical price index"), or alternatively, require city employees to contribute at least 20 percent toward the cost of their health insurance. The bill is one of several conditions for a state grant of $195 million toward Detroit's bankruptcy settlement.
House Bill 5574, Give Detroit $195 million: Passed 74 to 36 in the House
To appropriate $194.8 million for a gift to Detroit, which is related to a potential bankruptcy settlement.
House Bill 5568, Limit but allow new Detroit employee traditional pensions: Passed 85 to 25 in the House
To limit the normal contributions to Detroit employee retirement benefits, but let the city continue to enroll new hires in a "defined benefit" system that creates underfunding risks for taxpayers. The normal contribution caps would be 7 percent for pensions and 2 percent for retirement health savings accounts. The bill also restricts "pension spiking" and "13th check" extra-benefit schemes. It was introduced as a condition for the state giving Detroit $195 million, and originally would have prohibited creating new unfunded pension liability risks with each new hire.
SOURCE: MichiganVotes.org, a free, non-partisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, providing concise, non-partisan, plain-English descriptions of every bill and vote in the Michigan House and Senate. Please visit http://www.MichiganVotes.org.
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