Education, e-cigarettes and guns
The Legislature has adjourned for an extended summer break, but not before there was a high volume of activity.
House Bill 5477, Replace fuel tax with higher wholesale tax: Failed 17 to 21 in the Senate
To replace the current 19 cents per gallon gas tax and 15-cent diesel tax with a 7 percent wholesale fuel tax, gradually increasing to 15 percent in 2019, which would be equivalent to around 41 cents per gallon at current fuel prices. When combined with the sales tax levied on fuel this would give Michigan the highest gas and diesel taxes in the nation.
House Bill 4630, Increase vehicle registration taxes: Passed 21 to 15 in the Senate
To eliminate the current 10 percent annual reduction of vehicle registration (license plate) tax rates for a new vehicle's second, third, and fourth years of registration. This would represent a $145 million annual tax increase on vehicle owners. The bill would also increase the drivers license renewal fee from $18 to $25, and increase a number of other fees on different kinds of vehicles and trailers. However, with the Senate's unwillingness to pass a related $1.2 billion gas tax increase the bill's future is in question.
House Bill 5313, Senate vote on state budget: Passed 24 to 12
The state government budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2014, not including education spending (see House Bill 5314 below). This bill authorizes $37.4 billion in spending, compared to $34.4 billion originally authorized for the current fiscal year (which was prior to adoption of the federal health care law's Medicaid expansion). Of this, $17.6 billion comes from state tax, fee and other revenue, compared to $16.9 billion the previous year. The rest is federal money ($19.8 billion, compared to $18.1 billion the previous year).
When education spending is added, the total state budget for the next fiscal year will be $53.15 billion, up $3.63 billion (7.3 percent) from the $49.52 billion budget originally enacted for the current fiscal year. The state portion of this will be $31.45 billion, up $1.25 billion (4.1 percent) from the $30.18 billion originally approved for this year.
House Bill 5314, Senate vote on education budget: Passed 21 to 17
The final education budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct 1, 2014. The bill authorizes $13.870 billion for K-12 public schools, a $509 million increase. It also appropriates $1.516 billion for state universities, compared to $1.430 billion this year; and $364 million for community colleges, up from $335 million.
The bill increases per-student "foundation allowances" for higher-spending K-12 school districts by $50, and by $125 for lower spending ones. However, distributions to school districts are understated by around $400 per student compared to pre-2012 budgets, because the state is now depositing a portion of their pension costs directly into the pension system (rather than the previous practice of sending it all to the districts to deposit). Reportedly, the gap between funding levels at the highest and lowest spending districts has decreased to $848, compared to around $2,300 when the Proposal A school finance overhaul was approved in 1994.
Senate Bill 789, Revise concealed pistol license procedures: Passed 24 to 13
To eliminate county concealed weapon licensing boards, and transfer the responsibility for administering and issuing concealed pistol licenses to county clerks, with the State Police still performing the background checks required by the law. The bill also lowers the application fee and revises a number of other details in the CPL law, including details of mental health disqualifications.
Senate Bill 850, Exempt public safety from no-contract "step pay hike" ban: Passed 27 to 10 in the Senate
To exempt law enforcement and fire department employees from a 2011 law that banned automatic seniority based automatic pay hikes for individual government employees (“step increases”) during the time when a government employee union contract has expired and no replacement has been negotiated. Specifically, the bill would exempt public safety workers covered by a 1969 compulsory arbitration law.
House Bill 5615, Make buying ephedrine for meth a RICO crime: Passed 107 to 2 in the House
To include purchasing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine knowing it will be used to illegally manufacture methamphetamine, and closely related offenses, in the list of "predicate" crimes that come under the state racketeering law (RICO), which among other things would allow the seizure and sale of a violator’s assets, with the proceeds going to law enforcement agencies.
House Bill 5414, Reduce, then end “driver responsibility fees”: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate
To gradually reduce the so-called driver responsibility fees (aka “bad driver tax”) imposed for certain traffic violations, ending them for most offenses as of Oct. 1, 2019. These fees were adopted in 2003 to avoid state budget spending cuts. Reportedly, thousands of low-income individuals have lost their licenses due to inability to pay these penalties. Senate Bill 633 would authorize doing community service as an alternative in many cases.
Senate Bill 667, Ban minors from using e-cigarettes: Passed 94 to 16 in the House
To prohibit minors from using electronic cigarettes, making it a misdemeanor crime punishable by a $50 fine, community service, and being ordered into a health promotion and risk reduction program. Senate Bill 668 adds e-cigarettes to the law prohibiting merchants from selling tobacco to minors.
Senate Bill 536, Expand real estate development tax breaks: Passed 70 to 39 in the House
To authorize property tax exemptions of five to seven years for property owned by a nonprofit organization whose purpose is real estate development, if the local government agrees, and if the organization is approved by the political appointees on the board of the state agency responsible for granting and overseeing selective tax breaks and subsidies to particular corporations or developers (the Michigan Economic Development Corp. an arm of the Michigan Strategic Fund).
House Bill 5314, House vote on education budget: Passed 60 to 50
The state education budget for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, 2014. See Senate vote above for description.
House Bill 5313, House vote on state budget: Passed 100 to 10
The House vote on the state government budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2014. See Senate vote above for description.
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.