MichiganVotes.org sends a weekly report to newspapers and TV stations around the state showing how state legislators in their service area voted on the most important or interesting bills of the past week. The House and Senate are in the midst of a summer break, so rather than votes this week’s report instead contains several newly introduced bills of interest.

Senate Bill 407: Transition state retirees to defined contribution health benefit
Introduced by Sen. Roger Kahn (R), the Gov. Snyder proposal to transition state employee post-retirement health care benefits to a defined-contribution Health Savings Account type system. This would primarily affect those hired by the state starting in 1997. The bill would also require these pre-1997 employees to contribute 4 percent of salary to their retirement benefit package. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

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Senate Bill 419: Authorize 5-mill property tax increase for school buses and computers
Introduced by Sen. Gretchen Whitmer (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." Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 483: Authorize state employer tax and borrowing to pay off federal unemployment debt
Introduced by Sen. Mark Jansen (R), to authorize state borrowing through the sale of bonds to pay off some $4 billion owed to the federal government for unemployment benefits paid to residents over the past several years. Senate Bill 484 authorizes a state unemployment “obligation assessment” imposed on all employers to pay off the debt. Note: This $4 billion debt was the rationale for House Bill 4408 passed in March, now Public Act 14 of 2011, which cut state unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 502: Give liquor licenses to public university and colleges’ commercial meeting facilities
Introduced by Sen. Mike Nofs (R), to authorize liquor licenses for commercial conference and meeting facilities operated by any Michigan community college or state university. Current law authorizes liquor licenses for universities or colleges named in the statute. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 451 and House Bill 4737: Authorize DRIC zone tax breaks
Introduced by Sen. Tupac Hunter (D) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D), respectively, to grant the extensive tax breaks and exemptions of a “renaissance zone” to an area adjacent to a proposed new bridge between Detroit and Windsor (the “Detroit River International Crossing” or “New International Trade Crossing,” a.k.a. “DRIC” or “NITC”). Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4736: Impose “fracking” pollution presumption
Introduced by Rep. Lisa Brown (D), to establish a rebuttable presumption of legal liability, that any groundwater contamination “in the vicinity” of an oil or gas well using the hydraulic fracturing extraction process was caused by the chemicals used in that process. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4738: Ban school spending on luxuries and gifts
Introduced by Rep. Marty Knollenberg (R), to extend to regular public school districts a provision in a 2004 law banning corrupt Intermediate School District (ISD) practices that requires them to have a policy against using public money to buy alcoholic beverages, jewelry, gifts, entertainment tickets, sporting event tickets, golf fees, other recreational activity fees, or illegal items. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4742: Establish statewide public defender system
Introduced by Rep. Bob Constan (D), to create a statewide public defense system to provide appointed counsel to indigent defendants in criminal cases. Currently the responsibility and costs associated with public defense are with counties, and under the bill these would shift to the state. In 2009 the House Fiscal Agency reported that counties collectively spend $74.4 million on indigent defense services, and if the state spent the national average the amount would increase to $120.1 million. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4770: Ban government benefits for “domestic partners”
Introduced by Rep. David Agema (R), to prohibit the state, public schools, colleges and universities, and local governments from providing medical benefits or other fringe benefits to an employee’s “domestic partner,” defined as someone who is not married to the employee and not a dependent or survivor. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4772: Ban airport security “groping”
Introduced by Rep. Tom McMillin (R), to prohibit transportation system security personnel from “intentionally touching the clothed or unclothed breast, genitalia, buttocks, or anus of that other individual except upon reasonable cause to believe that the individual may be concealing” banned items, with violations subject to fines and jail. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4791: Ban food stamps to big lottery winners
Introduced by Rep. Paul Opsommer (R), to include lottery or other gambling winnings in the income and asset caps that limit eligibility for food stamps, regardless of whether the winnings are a lump sum or monthly payout. The bill was introduced after it was reported that a multi-million dollar lottery winner was still collecting food stamps. 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 http://www.MichiganVotes.org.

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