Monday September 18, 2017 through Monday October 3rd
News from Washington
The 2018 Defense Authorization Bill is being considered this week but last week Rand Paul of Kentucky had offered an amendment to “sunset” the 2001 authorization for use of military force in Afghanistan and the 2002 authorization for the same in Iraq. The “sunset” of the authorization would be six months after the adoption of the 2018 Defense Authorization. Senator Stabenow voted to table this amendment and Senator Peters voted against it.
Representative Bergman has voted for a bill to define what is a criminal gang and for Fiscal 2018 Omnibus Appropriations
Fiscal 2018 Defense Authorization Bill - HR 2810 would authorize more than $680 billion for the Pentagon and related agencies as well as the Overseas Contingency Operations account will be considered soon.
Fiscal 2018 Budget Resolution - HR 71
The House will vote on the measure that would call for a balanced budget by fiscal 2027, mostly by reducing spending by $4.9 trillion over the next 10 years, including by repealing the 2010 healthcare overhaul; reducing spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs; and changing other mandatory programs, such as food stamps. It also would assume significant future savings by restructuring Medicare into a "premium support" system beginning in 2024. It would call for the fiscal 2018 cap on defense discretionary spending to be raised by $72.5 billion, while reducing the non defense cap by $5 billion. Finally, it would include reconciliation instructions for a deficit-neutral overhaul of the tax code, as well as instructions to 11 House committees to produce legislation that reduces mandatory spending by at least $203 billion over 10 years. If you read this carefully they are trying to convert Medicare to insurance rather than single payer and those of us receiving it are opposed to that idea. Think how much we could save if we did not have to support the huge insurance industry.
The Michigan Legislature is back in session and there are many bills of interest to discuss.
Senate Bill 513: Restrict multiple state employee insurance benefits
This bill was introduced by Rick Jones (R) and referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee. It is confusing and I am not sure what the purpose is. It seems to deny insurance coverage to domestic partners or to two state employees in the same household. I will keep an eye on it and read up on any analysis.
Senate Bill 514: Authorize court-order property rehab at owner’s expense
This was introduced by Coleman Young II (D) and seems to help Detroit to rehabilitate properties. The owner is billed and the property may be sold if necessary to collect expenses. It seems to codify how to clean up some cases of below code housing. This was referred to the Senate’s Local Government Committee.
Senate Bill 515: Don’t give state contract to lowest bidder if Michigan company within 8 percent
Sen. Curtis Hertel (D) wishes to give preference to Michigan companies if they are within 8% of the lowest bid. It sounds reasonable but I will watch. It has been referred to Senate Elections and Government Reform Committee.
Our own Senator Wayne Schmidt (R) has introduced Senate Bills 516, 517 & 518 to restrict foreclosure on farm loans. The bills require mediation and have been referred to the Senate’s Banking and Financial Institutions Committee.
Senate Bill 523: Spend hotel and motel taxes on Northern Michigan tourism promotion
Sen Tom Casperson (R) has proposed that 1.9 million dollars from the convention facility tax be transferred into a Northern Michigan Regional Tourism and Sports account to be used for projects and facilities in Northern Michigan. It is referred to Senate Commerce Committee.
Senate Bill 527: Require foster parents keep guns locked up
Senator Tom Casperson has introduced this self-explanatory bill. It was referred to the Senate families, Seniors and Human Services Committee.
Senate Bill 531: Increase unemployment benefits
Sen. Morris Hood III (D) introduced this bill and it was referred to Senate Government Operations. It also ties the benefits to inflation. There is also another Bill 535 introduced by Vincent Gregory (D) to exempt state and federal unemployment benefits from state income tax. It is referred to Government Operations Committee.
Several bills that deal with sentencing cocaine dealers to life without parole and with other draconian drug penalties were passed by the Senate 35 to 0. They were Senate Bill 72, 73 and 220. They have been sent to the House and referred to the House Law and Justice Committee. The vote was on September 20th.
Senate Bill 551: Revised NRTC money allocation process
Passed 27 to 8 in the Senate on September 20, 2017 to require that recommendations for spending Natural Resources Trust Fund money come from a group that includes the Governor, the state treasurer, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Speaker of the House (or their designees), and one member of an existing NRTF board. The bill would also revise rules on how much money the fund must hold for various purposes. State land oil and gas royalty money is earmarked for this fund. This is now sent to the House and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee. It just seems that this might be a “money grab” by the current governing party. I will keep an eye on this one.
Senate Bill 584: Expand concealed pistol “gun free zone” exemptions
Introduced by Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R) on September 20, 2017 To authorize an exemption from the “gun free zone” restrictions in the law authorizing shall-issue concealed pistol licenses to a licensee who applies for an exemption and meets certain specified training requirements that appear similar to the standard CPL training requirements. There are 2 more bills (S.B. 585 and 586) associated with this introduced by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R) and Sen. Mike Shirley (R) which also seek to expand exceptions for “Gun Free Zones”. These were referred to the Committee on Government Operations.
House Bill 4894: Authorize refundable tax credit for college textbooks
This bill introduced by Rep. Steve Marino would give a tax credit of up to $500 for classes in Michigan courses. It is referred to the House Tax Policy Committee.
House Bills 4896, 4897, 4898 and 4899 were introduced by Robert Kosowski (D) to allow checkoffs on driver license renewals, vehicle registrations and income to fund clearing up the backlog of 11,000 rape evidence kits from Detroit. They were referred to the House Tax Policy Committee.
House Bill 4547: Eliminate .08 BAC drunk driving sunset
This passed the House and was sent to the Senate. It prevents the blood alcohol rule returning to .10 instead of the current .08 until 2023. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 4716: Remove parental rights for female genital mutilation
This bill has passed the House and has now been sent to the Senate where it was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It will be in the same section of the bill that terminates rights for severe child abuse and molestation.
House Bill 4911: Increase unemployment benefits
Introduced by Rep. Terry Sabo (D) on September 12, 2017 to increase state unemployment benefits, and index them to inflation. It has been referred to the House Commerce and Trade Committee.
House Bill 4906: Exempt unemployment benefits from state income tax
Introduced by Rep. Wendell Byrd (D) on September 12, 2017 To exempt state and federal unemployment benefits from state income tax. It has been referred to the House Tax Policy Committee
House Bill 4931: Authorize extra damages for financial exploitation
Introduced by Rep. Robert Kosowski (D) on September 13, 2017 To authorize lawsuits against a person that financially exploits a vulnerable individual, including triple damages, reasonable attorney fees and court costs. This has been referred to the House Law and Justice Committee.
House Bill 4941: Give in-state vendors “second chance” on state contracts
Introduced by Rep. Pam Faris (D) on September 13, 2017 To establish that if a Michigan company is outbid by an out-of-state company on a state contract, the state must give it 30 days to match or beat the lower bid. There is a companion bill HB 4942 introduced by Rep. Tom Cochran (D) to give a second chance on local government contracts. Both have been referred to House Committee on Commerce and Trade.
House Bill 4955: Ban considering legal gun ownership in adoption and foster care placements
Introduced by Rep. Holly Hughes (R) on September 14, 2017 To prohibit the Department of Human Services from considering a family’s legal firearms possession as a factor when placing a child in a foster care home or in adoptions. See also Senate Bill 527. It has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee. After the Dearborn day care shooting yesterday, it seems like a good idea to be very careful about guns being accessible to children. I know I often think about whether someone is carrying a gun when I am out in public. Carelessness with guns worries me.
House Bill 4978: Require more school water and air testing
Introduced by Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D) on September 19, 2017 To require public schools to test their water for lead and other contaminants, and test indoor air for carbon dioxide, particulate matter, formaldehyde and more. HB 4979 appropriates the money to pay for the testing. Both have been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
House Bill 4988: Halt corporate subsidies to firm that locates call center outside U.S.
Introduced by Rep. Jon Hoadley (D) on September 19, 2017 To require a state agency to create a list of companies in Michigan that have relocated a call center outside the U.S. House Bill 4989 would ban these companies from getting selective state subsidies or tax breaks. HB 4989 is a companion bill to this bill. They have both been referred to the House Commerce and & Trade Committee.
House Bill 4616: Sanction local governments for gun ban preemption violations
Passed 69 to 39 in the House on September 27, 2017 To authorize private lawsuits against a local government that violates a state preemption on local firearms ownership or use restrictions, which would allow plaintiffs to collect actual damages and costs if they prevail. Mr. Inman voted for this and it has been sent to the Senate where it will be referred to a committee.
LOOK AT THIS NEW INSURANCE PROPOSAL:
House Bill 5013: Allow less than unlimited auto injury insurance and more
Introduced by Rep. Lana Theis (R) on September 26, 2017 To allow auto insurance companies to offer policies with personal injury protection (PIP) coverage below the currently mandated unlimited coverage. A customer could keep the unlimited PIP or choose policies with $250,000 or $500,000 limits. Insurers would have to adjust their premiums to reflect savings realized from this, and if rates were not less 40 percent lower would have to justify the higher price.
Medical service providers and hospitals could not charge more than 125 percent of the rates allowed under the federal Medicare program for emergency medical care, and non-emergency care and services would be capped at 100 percent of Medicare rates. Services not covered by Medicare would be capped at a provider’s average rate for non-PIP cases. Limits would also be applied to long term care costs including weekly “attendant care” hours, nursing care, necessary ground transportation and more. Permanent impairment and disability lawsuits would be subject to revised procedures, definitions and burden of proof standards.
The bill would also expand the duties of a state automobile theft prevention authority to include insurance fraud, overhaul its structure, and authorize higher assessments (taxes) on insurers to pay for this. This bill has been referred to the House Insurance Committee.
It is estimated that an over 900 people with auto insurance in Michigan will be catastrophically injured next year. For those who survive auto accidents with chronic injuries, lifetime expenses are costly and potentially devastating to families’ financial well being. Currently, Michigan offers unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) benefits through no-fault auto insurance policies, including financial coverage to pay for home health care assistance. But insurance companies have been attempting to gut these policies. They argue that fraudulent claims and runaway bills are unnecessarily driving up the costs of auto insurance for Michiganders and are lobbying to cap benefits and pass off more costs to policyholders. But capping benefits advantages companies’ bottom lines— not consumers. Insurance companies are attempting to make it legally permissible to shortchange policyholders and injured persons who deserve financial assistance.
Today we are contacting representatives on the Michigan House of Representatives Insurance Committee and tell them to oppose Duggan and Leonard’s plan for auto insurance. This bill will lead to sub-par insurance that set caps on personal injury protections. Furthermore, it continues to allow insurance companies to use non-driving related criteria (such as zip code, gender, and credit-score) to set prices and does not provide additional regulation to force companies to reduce rates.
RATHER IMPORTANT AND UPSETTING BILL:
On September 14th, the Senate passed Senate Bill 335 which revises the campaign finance law to reflect the “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling. Our senator Wayne Schmidt voted for the bill. It allows “independent expenditure committees” (dubbed super PAC’s) to advocate for a candidate but not contribute to or coordinate with the candidate. The Super Pac does have to do finance campaign filings but does not have to disclose the identity of donors. There is no cap on spending or contributions from corporations or unions or other large contributors
On the morning of Tuesday Sept. 19th, there was a hearing on this bill at 8:15 a.m. which I understand is unusually early. That afternoon the bill came to the House floor. Six different Democratic legislators (Jon Hoadley, Vanessa Guerra, Jeremy Moss, Adam Zemke, Youssef Robhi and Darrin Camilleri) offered a variety of amendments that were rejected by voice vote. The amendments sought to tie the bill to ones that would require more disclosure and would limit the amounts of allowable contributions. The bill passed overwhelmingly. Mr. Inman did vote for it. It was almost immediately signed by the governor and became law the next day.
This law was opposed by the League of Women Voters and this was mentioned on the floor during discussion. This bill will make it even easier for legislators to be influenced by money that the public is unaware of. This cannot be good for the fairness in our governmental system.