Legislative Alert

Another privatization bill

Public school districts would have to analyze the “economic and noneconomic” effects of hiring a private firm to provide noninstructional services before signing any contracts, under the terms of House Bill 6342, introduced this month by Rep. Jeff Mayes, D-Bangor Township. The bill would apply only to services currently provided by district employees.

The one-paragraph proposal follows on the heels of House Bill 6270, introduced by Rep. Doug Bennett, D-Muskegon, in June, which would require schools to show that they would save at least 10 percent through contracting versus providing services in-house, but would not require any “noneconomic” analysis.

Mayes’ bill was sent to the House Labor Committee, while Bennett’s is in the House Education Committee.

More than 40 percent of Michigan public school districts hire private companies to handle part or all of their food service, transportation or custodial programs, according to an annual survey conducted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which publishes Michigan Education Report. The Center’s fifth annual survey, completed in 2007, showed that 222 of 552 districts contract for at least one of the three services and that 80 percent reported saving money.

Track these items online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-HB-6342, www.michiganvotes.org/2008-HB-6270

Post university salaries online

University spending would become more transparent under House Bill 6347, introduced this month by Rep. Richard J. Ball, R-Owosso. The bill would require the compilation and posting on a state Web site information on spending by public universities, including salaries.

State law already requires the Office of the State Budget to maintain a database of information from universities, but Ball’s proposal would add specific language about gathering information on expenses and posting it online.

The bill was referred to the House Government Operations Committee.

Track this item online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-HB-6347

Tax credit for school foundation donations

Michigan taxpayers could claim a tax credit against donations to educational foundations under House Bill 6359, introduced recently by Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale. Single filers could claim up to $100 and joint filers $200. A trust could claim up to $5,000.

The credit could be claimed only for donations to nonprofit educational foundations that have an independent governing body, but whose gifts, funds and bequests are dedicated to a public school district or public school academy.

State law already allows tax credits for donations to community foundations and to food and shelter programs for the homeless.

The bill was referred to the House Tax Policy Committee.

Track this item online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-HB-6359

Pay interest on student loans

Students who earn degrees in technology programs at Michigan public universities would be eligible for grants to pay off the interest on their student loans under House Bill 6333, introduced by Rep. Kate Ebli, D-Monroe, in July.

The “Jobs of the Future” program would be administered by the Michigan Higher Education Assistance Authority while the fund itself would be established and administered by the Department of Treasury, which could accept money for the fund “from any source.”

Students who earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, biology or related technology fields would be eligible for full or partial reimbursement of the interest they paid on state or federal loans.

The bill was referred to the House Education Committee.

Track this bill online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-HB-6333