Legislative Alert

Site plan signoff

A House committee heard testimony, but did not vote, on a proposal that would require local government approval of site plans for new public school buildings. Currently, the state superintendent of public instruction has final authority over site plans for new school buildings or major expansion projects, including those of public charter schools. When the project is located in a township, site plans also must be given to the local zoning authority for administrative review, but the school board is not required to make changes based on that review

House Bill 5625, introduced by Rep. Steve Bieda, D-Warren, in January, would require all such projects in cities, villages and townships to be approved by the local unit of government. The House Intergovernmental Affairs Committee heard testimony on the bill in November, but no vote was taken.

The City of Warren led a lengthy, unsuccessful effort to stop the opening of the new Michigan Collegiate charter public high school in Warren this year, citing issues with traffic flow and impact on the surrounding area.

Track this item online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-HB-5625


School closings

Public schools that fail to make adequate yearly progress for five or more consecutive years could be closed by the state superintendent of instruction under legislation reported out of the Senate Education Committee in November. Currently, schools may be forced to close after three consecutive years without state accreditation. Senate Bill 1013, introduced by Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, in January, also continues other possible sanctions: state-appointed administrators, allowing parents to shift their children to other schools, or requiring the failing school to work with an outside turnaround program.

Adequate yearly progress would be determined under the terms of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Track this item online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-SB-1013


Public school tax credit

Taxpayers would receive a credit for donations to certain educational foundations or public school programs under Senate Bill 1634, introduced Nov. 11 by Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt. The bill would provide tax credits for donations to adult, community and continuing education programs operated by conventional or charter public schools, as well as for donations to educational foundations that serve a specific public school or charter school in Michigan. Eligible foundations must have an independent governing board and submit regular audits. Michigan already allows tax credits for donations to varied entities, among them the state museum, public libraries, municipal institutes of art and higher education foundations.

The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

Track this item online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-SB-1634


Go to prison, go to college

The Michigan Department of Corrections would have to provide for college-level courses to be offered to inmates in all correctional facilities under the terms of Senate Bill 1603, introduced by Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville. When possible, the measure says, the department should arrange for courses at no cost to the inmate or the department, but any required expenses would have to be paid by the prisoner.

The bill also would require the department to allow prisoners to enroll in correspondence courses at the high school or college level, at the prisoner's expense.

The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Track this item online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-SB-1603


Exempt housing from school tax

School districts could not collect property taxes on "supported housing property" under the terms of House Bill 6492, introduced by Rep. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township. Supported property is defined as housing developed by a nonprofit organization for low- to moderate-income individuals who are eligible for governmental mental health benefits.

The measure only applies to the 18 mills of property tax that school districts are allowed to levy for operational expenses. The House of Representatives approved the bill in a 108-0 vote on Nov. 12; the bill is now in the Senate Finance Committee.

Track this item online at: www.michiganvotes.org/2008-HB-6492