Our office is awash in letters and emails, and the phone is ringing non-stop. Thank you! It warms my heart and steels my resolve to know that I am not fighting these battles alone.
Since things are moving so quickly during the lame duck session, I wanted to provide this update so you may be clear where I stand on the issues that are generating the most interest among our residents. Below is a “hot list” of bills moving through the Legislature with their current status and my position clearly stated. Keep in mind that bills are often amended and advanced quickly – so don’t take this summary as the last word; instead, use it as a guide and then check out www.legislature.mi.gov for the latest updates. If you don’t see the bills you are interested in listed below, feel free to contact my office and my staff will be happy to assist you.
SB 1197 Enacts Line 5 Tunnel Agreement: This bill allows for the construction of a utility tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac that will eventually contain a new version of the petroleum pipeline known as Line 5. The bill was signed into law on Dec. 13 as Public Act 359 of 2018 with immediate effect.
I opposed this bill and voted “NO,” but I must admit that my decision was not without reservation. The tunnel construction will create many good-paying jobs in an area of our state that sorely needs them. I have long been a supporter of my brothers and sisters in the building trades, so it is my hope that many of Michigan’s working families will benefit from this project. That being said, it is ultimately my opinion that the risks outweigh the rewards, and I could not support this legislation.
HB 6595 Amends Michigan Election Law: This bill requires that not more than 15 percent of the total signatures for an initiative, referendum, and constitutional petition come from any one single congressional district as well as make other changes with respect to the appeal procedure, formatting, and the circulating of petitions.
Many of you are concerned that this bill would infringe on Michigan citizens’ First Amendment rights and make it much more difficult for citizens to amend the Michigan Constitution. I agree, but despite my opposition and “NO” vote, the bill passed the House and is on its way to the Senate.
SB 1248-52 Amends Michigan Campaign Finance Laws: While caucus staff is working around the clock to analyze the flood of bills that have been introduced since November, I do not have an official summary of this bill package. Having made this disclaimer, it is pretty clear that SB 1248-52 are bills that would strip the authority to regulate campaign finance from the Secretary of State and create a new commission to handle it. The bills were introduced in the Senate on Nov. 29 and passed from the chamber on a party-line vote. They are currently in the House Committee on Elections and Ethics. I oppose these bills in principle.
SB 1254 Enacts a New Law Related to Ballot-Initiated Nonpartisan Redistricting Commission: This bill was introduced on Nov. 29 and there is little analysis available. Because it would create a new act (rather than amending the ballot-initiated law) only a simple majority in each house is required to pass the bill. Supporters of the legislation claim that it is merely a “clean up” bill that adds detail to areas of the new law that are vague. Opponents believe that SB 1254 is a partisan attempt to weaken the effectiveness of the new redistricting commission. My primary concern is with the haste with which this bill is being moved through the legislative process. I will oppose any attempt to weaken or overturn the will of the voters.
SB 1238-1242 Sets Guidelines Around the Statewide Constitutional Amendment to Expand Voting Access in Michigan: As with the legislation above, these bills were only recently introduced and are on a fast-track through this lame-duck session. They were passed out of the Senate last week and are currently in the House Committee on Elections and Ethics.
In my view, this package has not been given enough time to be properly vetted. Opponents argue that the bills go too far and do not reflect the intent of the recently expanded voter access laws. Particularly troubling to me is a provision to require an applicant for a state driver’s license or personal ID card to also declare whether he or she is a U.S. citizen for purposes of automatic voter registration. Encouraging civic engagement and voter participation is very important to me. I will oppose any legislation that restricts or discourages voting in Michigan.
SB 795 and HB 5368 Amend the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement Act (MPSERS) to Prohibit Employees from Accruing Service Credit on their Retirement Benefit When They Are on Release Time to Perform Union Business: HB 5368 was reported out of the House Committee on Education Reform and SB 795 was passed by the Senate and also has cleared the House committee. Both bills are on the House floor awaiting a vote.
Supporters of these bills argue that, from a principle standpoint, a person should not accrue a retirement benefit when they are not working for the entity that is paying it.
I would argue that removal of the release time accrual would create additional pressures on both the pension retirement system due to stranded costs, and potentially on local school districts if the union representatives do not take leave time to handle local issues during the work day. Additionally, if the issue cannot be handled quickly, it can tend to fester, becoming more difficult to resolve. Bottom line: The current system works and I believe the proposed changes are ill-advised. I strongly oppose these bills.
SB 796 and HB 6474 Amend the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA) to Prohibit Public Employers from Entering into Collective Bargaining Agreements that Allow for Any Paid Release Time for Union Officers or Bargaining Representatives to Conduct Union Business if the Public Employer Pays for the Release Time: Same issue as above, but this time for the pay for active workers rather than retirees, and the conclusion is the same. I strongly oppose these bills.
SB 1260 Requires Public Employee Unions to Recertify Every Two Years: This bill was introduced on Dec. 4 and was quickly reported out of the Senate Committee on Michigan Competitiveness. Supporters claim it will force unions to be more responsive to the wishes of their membership. Opponents consider it to be another in a long line of bills designed to weaken labor unions in Michigan. I oppose this legislation.
SB 1211 Amends Part 301 (Inland Lakes and Streams) and Part 303 (Wetlands Protection) of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA): This bill puts business and farming interests above that of our environment. As most of you know, I am a proponent of responsible growth and development as a way to promote economic prosperity. I am proud to have earned a score of 100 percent from those who monitor environmental issues. We must all understand that protecting our natural resources is in everyone’s best interest. This bill has passed the Senate and is in the House Committee on Michigan Competitiveness. As it is written, if it comes before the full House I will oppose it.
Friends, these are only a fraction of the bills drawing attention in Lansing this December. I am sure we would all much rather be focused on the joy and celebration that comes with the holiday season but, until this lame duck breathes its last putrid breath, we must continue fighting the good fight to protect our beloved Michigan.
Please let me know what you think. Together, we can make a difference.