December 17, 2014, MichiganVotes Weekly Vote Report

Obamacare “navigators,” unionized college athletes and more

Note: House and Senate votes on a road funding/tax increase package taken after midnight on Dec. 19 came too late for inclusion in this report. A supplemental report on these and other late votes will be sent on Monday, Dec. 22.

Tax Hike/Road Funding Package

In the early hours of Friday, Dec. 19, the House and Senate passed several large tax increases and tax shifts intended to generate an additional $1.2 billion for roads, $300 million for schools, $130 million for municipal bus system subsidies and $95 million for local governments. The roll call vote details will be included in a supplemental report to follow. Key elements of the package include:

-- House Joint Resolution UU, a constitutional amendment increasing the state sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent. This will appear on a May 12, 2015 ballot, and if it is not approved by voters then other road tax increases and shifts in the package will not go into effect.

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-- House Bill 5477, which converts the state gas and diesel tax from a cents-per-gallon tax to one imposing a 14.9 percent levy on the wholesale price of fuel. Reportedly this is equivalent to a 42 cents per gallon tax at current fuel prices, compared to the current 19 cents per gallon gas tax and 15 cents per gallon diesel tax. Most of the increase would be offset by exempting fuel purchases from the state sales tax.

-- House Bills 4539 and 5492, which exempt fuel sales from state sales tax and use tax, respectively. Most sales tax revenue is automatically earmarked to schools and local government revenue sharing. The reduction of revenue would be offset by the measure increasing the sales tax to 7 percent.

-- Several other bills in the package or related to it. House Bill 4630 increases various vehicle registration taxes, which will extract an additional $95 million from car and truck owners each year. Senate Bills 658 and 659 impose sales and uses taxes on many catalog or internet purchases made from sellers outside the state, which is projected to collect an additional $50 million in from taxpayers.

Other action during this final week of the 2013-2014 Legislature included these House and Senate votes:

House Bill 6074, Exempt college athletes from unionization: Passed 25 to 11 in the Senate

To establish that college students who participate in intercollegiate athletics on behalf of a state university are not considered “public employees” subject to unionization under the law that mandates schools and local governments must engage in collective bargaining with government employee unions.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”

House Bill 4576, Regulate federal health care law “navigators”: Passed 32 to 6 in the Senate

To impose regulation and a “certification” requirement on the “navigators” authorized by the federal health care law (“Obamacare”) to assist persons applying for government-subsidized health insurance benefits through agency this law creates (the “exchange”). The bill authorizes background checks, testing and training requirements, and more.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”

House Bill 4480, Require more corporate & developer subsidy transparency: Passed 37 to 0 in the Senate

To require the Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to annually submit and post online more detailed reports on the costs and outcomes generated by their various “economic development” loan, tax break and subsidy programs targeted at specific corporations, developers or industries.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”

House Bill 4783, Expand a corporate/developer subsidy regime: Passed 31 to 6 in the Senate

To authorize creation of a seventh “Next Michigan Development Corporation,” which is a government agency that gives tax breaks and subsidies to particular corporations or developers selected by political appointees on the entity’s board for projects meeting extremely broad “multi-modal commerce” criteria (basically, any form of goods-related commerce). This would probably be in the Detroit area.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”

Senate Bill 910, Ban enforcement of new woodstove emissions limits: Passed 68 to 41 in the House

To prohibit Department of Environmental Quality from imposing new state regulations limiting emissions from woodstoves and heaters, or enforcing federal regulations that do this. The bill was introduced as news reports indicated that proposed federal Environmental Protection Agency rules would impose restrictive new limits on wood burning heaters.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”

Senate Bill 791, Revise, make permanent non-transportation 7/8th cent gas tax: Passed 108 to 0 in the House

To eliminate the 2016 sunset on a 7/8ths cent-per-gallon gas tax that was originally supposed to expire in 1998 and 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.” However, the bill would earmark $20 million of the annual revenue of around $50 million from this tax to underground tank cleanups (as originally intended), and add some limits on using money from this tax to support unrelated activities.

Who Voted “Yes” and Who Voted “No”

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.