Every week, MichiganVotes.org sends a report on interesting votes and bills in the Michigan Legislature, and includes how each legislator voted. To find out who your state senator is and how to contact him or her go here; for state representatives go here.

Notable Committee Actions

The Senate Appropriations Committee completed its first round of work on the state budget for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1, 2011. The budget bills it reported to the full Senate would spend $500 million more than Gov. Rick Snyder recommended on public schools, the single largest area of state spending, revising a proposed $300 per student cut to just $170.

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The Senate’s extra school spending would be filled mainly by spending less on welfare and prisons. The Senate budget also requires school employees to pay at least 80 percent of the cost of their health insurance fringe benefits, and caps the school district’s share at $13,000. In addition, it would end the practice of giving school districts a full-day’s funding for half-day kindergarten students.

A House appropriations subcommittee approved per-pupil school aid cuts that essentially mirror the $300 per student reduction Gov. Snyder recommended.

On higher education, the Senate budget went along with Gov. Snyder’s proposal to spend 15 percent less than last year on state universities, but stripped-out a provision authorizing deeper cuts if a university raises tuition more than 7.1 percent. Community colleges would get the same amount of money from the state as last year.

Finally, the Senate Appropriations Committee also sliced in half the $50 million amount Gov. Snyder requested for “economic development” tax breaks and subsidies to corporations, and cut the amount he wants to set aside for film subsidies from $25 million to $10 million.

Recently Introduced Bills of Interest

Senate Bill 270 (Authorize school recreation millages)
Introduced by Sen. John Gleason (D) to allow school districts to also be municipal “recreational authorities,” with the power to levy up to one-mill of property tax for swimming pools, recreation centers, public auditoriums, conference centers and parks, with the approval of voters in each municipality in which the school district is located. The law itself is silent on whether the recreational facilities of an “authority” may be school facilities themselves, but they would have to be open to the public. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4560 (Authorize 5-mill property tax increase for school buses and computers)
Introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows (D) to allow school districts to increase property taxes by up to 5 mills for 10 years to buy or fix school buses, and to buy computers and software, with the money passing through a "sinking fund." Note: Since new operating expense millages were prohibited by the 1994 Proposal A initiative, and these items may be considered operating expenses, the bill could potentially require a 3/4 majority vote, which is required by the Constitution for revisions of an initiative adopted by popular vote. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4438 (Ban legal concealed pistol carry in libraries)
Introduced by Rep. Joan Bauer (D), to expand the “gun free zone” provision of the concealed pistol permit law to include public libraries. A group of “open carry” enthusiasts recently made news by planning to wear holstered pistols in the downtown Lansing library. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4440 (Repeal FDA approved drug lawsuit ban)
Introduced by Rep. Lisa Brown (D) to allow product liability lawsuits against drug companies for drugs that have been approved by the U.S. Food And Drug Administration (FDA). The bill would repeal a tort reform law passed in 1995, under which such lawsuits are prohibited in Michigan courts unless the company intentionally withheld information or misled the FDA about the drug, or used bribery to gain approval. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4447 (Create smoking ban exception)
Introduced by Rep. Tim Melton (D) to revise the law that prohibits a bar or restaurant owner from choosing to allow smoking in his or her establishment, to instead give the owner the choice to allow smoking in an outdoor patio area. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4453 (Ban government competition with private enterprises)
Introduced by Rep. Tom McMillin (R), to prohibit government agencies from competing against private enterprises, or subsidizing nonprofits that do so. Activities normally provided by government would be exempted, including "essential services" and "necessary services," both defined in the bill. "Vital services," including food stores, drugstores, child care, and telecommunications services could only be provided if there were no private sector alternatives. A private enterprise could sue to obtain an injunction forcing the government competitor to stop. Such measures are called a “yellow pages test,” meaning if a service is in the yellow pages, government should not provide it. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4459 (Grant welfare to government-approved “entrepreneurship class” students)
Introduced by Rep. Jon Switalski (D) to authorize government welfare-type benefits and tuition subsidies for low income students who are taking government-approved college courses in “entrepreneurship.” Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

SOURCE: MichiganVotes.org, a free, nonpartisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, providing concise, nonpartisan, plain-English descriptions of every bill and vote in the Michigan House and Senate. Please visit MichiganVotes.org.

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