Whitmer’s 2022 State of the State address moves online Jan. 26
Gretchen Whitmer’s annual address to the Michigan Legislature will be held virtually for the second year in a row due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No other details were released about the schedule or content of Whitmer’s fourth State of the State address. “The State of the State address is a tradition rooted in history. “This year, we’ve agreed that the State of the State address should once again be held remotely to ensure everyone can safely partake in this time-honored event.”The governor typically addresses members of the Legislature gathered inside the state Capitol. Garlin Gilchrist announced Sunday that he contracted the virus and Whitmer’s husband Marc Mallory tested positive a week earlier.mlive.com
A Look Back at 2021 In Michigan Government and Politics
From federal COVID-19 relief funds to the newly formed Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, the Michigan Legislature has faced a lot of changes in 2021. Reporter Zach Gorchow looks back at the year’s political landscape in Michigan, and what to expect from 2022. “There has been some warming of this cold war that’s been going on for the last two years … That said, I don’t think everyone’s singing Kumbaya.” —Zach Gorchow, Gongwer News ServiceListen: A look back at 2021 in Lansing. He says one of the major developments of 2021 was the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission, “It is night and day compared to how redistricting has been handled in the past. He also says we should expect more lawsuits against the commission going forward.wdet.org
Kalamazoo’s first woman state representative, who championed equal rights, ‘made Michigan better’
KALAMAZOO, MI — Ask around Kalamazoo political circles about Mary Brown, and you will find more than a few people with stories about sage advice she once offered, or simply the example she set for her successors in the Michigan Legislature. The world lost a bright light, and a trailblazer, when Mary Brown, a former member of the Michigan House of Representatives, died, say friends and supporters who she left behind.mlive.com
Petition initiative aims to bypass Whitmer veto of tax credits for nonpublic schooling
LANSING, MI — A petition initiative based on Republican legislation that would allow public funding to be steered to private schooling is currently in the works. However, if the petition initiative can collect just over 340,000 signatures, the Legislature could enact the changes without the governor’s approval. Related: GOP scholarship tax credit bills that Dems call ‘voucher schemes’ pass House and Senate“We should have approval as to form and our summary language within 30 days. “This isn’t giving them a tax credit, it’s giving a donor who gave money to a nonprofit organization a tax credit,” he said. “The Michigan Constitution sets up a system of school funding designed to ensure the quality of free public education in Michigan,” said Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy.mlive.com
Whitmer to strike $16 million in funding for anti-abortion initiatives from state budget
Gretchen Whitmer is expected to veto slightly more than $16 million in funding for programs that explicitly favor abortion alternatives in the state’s $70 billion budget, her office confirmed Tuesday. When considering budget bills, Michigan governors can strike out any specific allocations they disagree with prior to signing off on the spending. Related: $70B Michigan budget deal includes spending boosts for child care, higher ed, infrastructure and moreWhitmer has long rebuffed anti-abortion measures, both as governor and during her tenure in the state Legislature. Funding includes $50.7 billion in spending on state agencies and programs and $2.2 billion for higher education. Coupled with a $17.1 billion school aid budget signed into law this summer, the state’s upcoming budget will clock in at $70 billion.mlive.com
Ann Arbor labor unions push back on COVID vaccine mandate for city employees
ANN ARBOR, MI — Ann Arbor officials say they’re getting pushback from city labor unions on implementing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city employees. The city wishes to have its employees vaccinated to ensure other employees and members of the public who interact with them are protected, Mayor Christopher Taylor said. Acting City Administrator John Fournier announced the city’s mandate in an Aug. 26 email to city employees, requiring them to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 8. Deputy City Attorney Margaret Radabaugh told council she and the human resources director are negotiating with the city’s nine labor unions about the vaccine mandate. The vaccine mandate is incredibly important for public safety and maintaining a safe workplace, Taylor said.mlive.com
State budget plan includes $3M for Flint programs, including $1M for Berston Field House
FLINT, MI -- Flint programs and projects would get a $3-million boost in the state budget that’s working its way through the Michigan Legislature, including $1 million for Berston Field House and $1 million for blight removal. State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, announced the package in a news release and state Rep. Cynthia Neeley also highlighted the blight investment in a budget passed by the state House of Representatives. In addition to funding for Berston and blight removal in Flint, Ananich said funding has been secured for the Flint Public Library ($250,00), Flint Social Club ($375,000), Flint United Basketball ($100,000), and North Flint Food Market ($460,000). Bryant W. Nolden, executive director of the Friends of Berston Field House, said the state funding is a huge boost to an overall plan to invest up to $20 million in the field house complex. “It’s a great start to seeing a major project in north Flint,” Nolden told MLive-The Flint Journal.mlive.com
Michigan Legislature OKs $70B budget with boosts to higher ed, state departments
LANSING, MI — The Michigan Legislature on Wednesday voted to pass a $70 billion budget agreement that includes major investment boosts in infrastructure, child care and higher education. The budget, which includes $2.7 billion in federal COVID-19 funding, was approved by both chambers and will head to the governor’s office for signature. Related: Michigan 2022 budget deal includes millions for water infrastructureThe funding includes $50.7 billion in spending on state agencies and programs and $2.2 billion for higher education. Coupled with a $17.1 billion school aid budget signed into law this summer, the upcoming budget will clock in at $70 billion. Related: Michigan lawmakers, administration announce budget deal“This budget is a victory for Michigan,” said state Rep. Joe Tate (D-Detroit), vice chair of the Appropriations Committee.mlive.com
Michigan lawmakers, administration announce budget deal
Gretchen Whitmer’s administration have reached a deal on the state budget and anticipate a vote in the coming week, officials announced Wednesday. Full details of the deal were not immediately disclosed, although officials said the budget will be considered in conference committee prior to floor votes in the House and Senate. Addressing their needs --from jobs to education to government accountability -- is at the center of today’s budget deal,” Stamas said. An agreement on funding for the rest of the state budget took more time as officials grappled with how best to leverage additional revenues and federal COVID-19 aid. For months prior to the schools budget passing, the administration and Republican lawmakers stalled on allocating billions of dollars in federal funds amid disagreements over the administration’s pandemic policies.mlive.com
Michigan budget director leaving for role at Wayne State University
Michigan State Budget Director Dave Massaron will soon be leaving his state government position for a new role at Wayne State University. Massaron, who started the job in January after previous Director Chris Kolb departed for a position at the University of Michigan, will become Wayne State University’s chief financial officer, according to a statement from Gov. Before serving as State Budget Director, Massaron served as the city of Detroit’s chief financial officer. Whitmer also named Susan Corbin permanent director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Friday. Related coverage:Republican lawmakers agree to negotiate budget, pandemic-related orders with WhitmerHow Michigan governments can, can’t spend their $11B in COVID-19 stimulus money$17B spending plan to fund K-12 passes Michigan Legislaturemlive.com
Whitmer wants $75M to fund police, hire more officers to fight surge in violent crime
Gretchen Whitmer is pushing the Michigan Legislature to appropriate $75 million in federal funds to hire more police officers, increase their pay and fund programs to fight a surge in violent crime across the state. “I’m proposing dollars to hire more police officers and ensure they’ve got great pay, good training and better resources to do their jobs effectively,” Whitmer said. Whitmer said she’s met with police, community leaders, victims of violent crime and other stakeholders to discuss ways to create safer communities. Whitmer said Michigan experienced a 12% increase in violent crime and a 36% increase in murders last year. The city is one of 15 nationwide that is using federal funds to increase investment in community violence intervention strategies.mlive.com
Emergency powers law used for Michigan’s pandemic stay-home order is coming off the books
Under Michigan law, citizen-led ballot initiatives approved by both chambers of the Michigan Legislature do not need the governor’s approval to become law. “Our Unlock Michigan citizen army collected over 540,000 signatures in just 80 days,” Unlock Michigan spokesperson Fred Wszolek said. She continued to do so until the Michigan Supreme Court determined she didn’t have that authority last fall. Opponents of the Unlock Michigan initiative in the Legislature defended the actions Whitmer took during the pandemic. Under state law, the Legislature gets the first pass at citizen-led ballot initiatives proposing statutory changes before they head to the ballot.mlive.com
Michigan Senate votes to repeal emergency powers law after successful petition initiative
The Michigan Senate approved Unlock Michigan’s initiative to repeal the law used by Gov. Related: Michigan Legislature primed to repeal emergency powers law after certification of Unlock Michigan petitionRepublicans who supported the Unlock Michigan measure said the initiative was needed to prevent abuse of executive powers. Read more: Canvassers have ‘legal duty’ to certify Unlock Michigan petition, Supreme Court rulesUnlock Michigan collected more than the 340,047 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. Under state law, the Legislature gets the first pass at citizen-led ballot initiatives proposing statutory changes before they head to the ballot. Read more on MLive:Unlock Michigan launching new petition drive, this time to curb health department powersUnlock Michigan petition certification fails in split vote of state canvassersUnlock Michigan petition signatures deemed valid by Secretary of StateUnlock Michigan petition effort was ‘sleazy,’ but not illegal, AG saysmlive.com
Work remains to end disparities caused by K-12 funding gap, advocates say
Gretchen Whitmer, aims to bring equitable funding between districts, advocates say there is still work left to remedy the disparities caused by the decades-long funding gap. Following the passage of the bill Wednesday, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart called on education advocates to remain committed to fixing the state’s school funding system. The School Finance Research Collaborative, a group of business and education leaders studying K-12 finance, estimates adequate per pupil funding at over $10,400. Inequities in school funding also play out in the form of salaries for school employees across the state. The Legislature’s plan includes investing hundreds of millions of dollars toward attracting and retain teachers, school psychologists, counselors and social workers.mlive.com
Whitmer signs emergency insulin bill, Legislature OKs K-12 spending: The week in Michigan politics
LANSING, MI — The passage of a bipartisan, $17.1 billion K-12 funding plan highlighted the action in Lansing this week, while Gov. The Legislature entered its summer break Wednesday after passing the K-12 spending plan, but before meeting its self-imposed July 1 deadline for approving the full state budget. Read more: $17B spending plan to fund K-12 passes Michigan LegislatureThe plan is similar to a proposal backed last week by the House and Gov. Whitmer signed Senate Bills 155 and 156, which allows pharmacists to dispense emergency supplies of insulin to those with an expired prescription, and requires insurers to provide coverage for emergency supply. The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited another 13 workplaces for COVID-19 violations, according to its online dashboard.mlive.com
$17B spending plan to fund K-12 passes Michigan Legislature
LANSING, MI — The Michigan Legislature approved a $17.1 billion plan Wednesday for funding K-12 schools next fiscal year. Senators approved the K-12 funding in a 33-1 vote Wednesday before adjourning until July 15, while the House passed the bill 106-3. In all, the proposal would boost funding for K-12 education by 10%, compared to the current budget. The Senate-passed plan differed slightly from the House plan of approximately $16.7 billion, up about 8% from current-year spending levels. ALSO ON MLIVE:Michigan Senate clears $17B spending plan to fund K-12 schoolsFour big issues lawmakers, Whitmer need to resolve to get the budget passedWhitmer signs off on $2.2 billion in federal COVID-19 aid for food, rental assistanceMichigan lawmakers OK spending plan for billions in COVID-19 aidmlive.com
‘Zero credibility’ -- New report from Michigan GOP Senate members debunks claims of vote fraud
The investigation included 30 hours of public hearing, witness testimony from nearly 90 people, more than 400 pages of testimony and subpoenaed key documents from Secretary of State and municipal governments.
Michigan Public Schools Facing Budget Uncertainty Over One-Time Federal Education Funding
If the Legislature misses this deadline, Michigan students may lose out on one-time opportunities to fix the gaps in their pandemic education. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make critical investments … to fix generational holes in Michigan school funding formulas.” —Robert McCann, K-12 Alliance of MichiganThe Michigan Legislature has already missed the May 24 deadline to appropriate $3.7 billion in federal post-pandemic recovery education funding. Listen: What happens if the Michigan Legislature fails to allocate school funding by July 1? This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make critical investments… to fix generational holes in Michigan school funding formulas.”McCann says many other states have already spent their federal education funding, leaving Michigan students behind. “It’s deeply disappointing that we are tying political issues to school funding, but that’s the unfortunate reality of Lansing right now.”wdet.org
Four big issues lawmakers, Whitmer need to resolve to get the budget passed
Whitmer and legislative Republicans have also been at odds for months over when and how to spend federal COVID-19 aid directed the state’s way by Congress. Can Whitmer and legislative Republicans set aside their differences to craft a bipartisan spending plan for what Budget Director David Massaron has described as a “once-in-a-generation” budget opportunity? Related: Republican lawmakers agree to negotiate budget, pandemic-related orders with WhitmerThe budget process itselfBoth Whitmer and the Senate’s initial budget proposals were crafted around a traditional annual budget cycle. Here’s whyInfrastructure costsIn initial budget proposals, Whitmer, the House and the Senate all included funding increases for the state’s Department of Transportation. Related: Michigan lawmakers to unveil $500M for dam safety upgradesRelated: How Michigan governments can, can’t spend their $11B in COVID-19 stimulus moneymlive.com
Plan to allow expungement of first-time drunken driving convictions advances in Michigan legislature
Part of a package of bills aimed at making first-time drunken-driving convictions eligible for expungement advanced in the Michigan Legislature this week. Senate Bill 400, sponsored by Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, would require a person with a first-time OWI offense on their record to wait five years before applying to set aside the conviction. The House legislation in the package, House Bills 4219, 4220, 4308 and 4309, are still pending in the Senate after clearing the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. A similar effort to loop first-time OWI offenses into the state’s expungement policy also sponsored by McBroom cleared both chambers of the Legislature last session, although Gov. Read more:Whitmer pocket vetoes first-time DUI expungement bill with little explanationMichigan House renews bipartisan push for first-time drunken driving expungementMichigan House approves drunken driving expungement for first-time offendersmlive.com
Petition for COVID-19 vaccine mandates gaining steam at Michigan’s public universities
Hundreds of instructors at the University of Michigan recently signed a petition in support of a campus-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate. At Wayne State University, a similar petition has been circulating for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate as well. Now, more than 2,100 community members at more than a dozen Michigan schools and universities have signed a petition calling for a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on their respective campuses. Implementing a vaccine mandate would signal that Michigan’s public universities are science-driven institutions recognizing that vaccination is a civic duty, according to the petition. The American College Health Association also recommends COVID-19 vaccination requirements, which says the practice of vaccination requirements for colleges are now new.mlive.com
Republicans argue payout to ousted Michigan health director was ‘unconstitutional’
LANSING, MI - Republican lawmakers argued during a Thursday oversight committee hearing that the separation agreement paid to former Michigan health director Robert Gordon may have been unconstitutional. According to state law, the term usually refers to local governments such as municipal, city, county, school or other districts. “It may be that our body wants to forestall the possibility of severance agreements going forward,” he said. Read more from MLive:House Oversight chair seeks subpoena power to compel former Michigan health director to testifyHouse OKs subpoenas for separation agreements from Gov. Whitmer’s officeWhitmer, Gordon waive confidentiality agreement after backlashFormer Michigan health director given $155K severance pay after abrupt resignationWhitmer curbs use of controversial separation agreements in executive directivemlive.com
Fact check: Michigan’s COVID health orders carry the weight of law, have not been proven ‘unconstitutional’
The legality of the health orders, which restrict capacity and gatherings and require masks in public, has become a talking point among those who oppose the orders. Michigan law provides the state health director with the power to create rules to safeguard public health and prevent the spread of diseases and sources of contamination. MDHHS health orders have already survived one legal challenge. Critics say the MDHHS orders are a way for Whitmer to continue issuing orders while bypassing the Legislature. In a press conference last week, State Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, tried to draw a distinction between state law and public health orders.mlive.com
Jackson City Council to continue virtual meetings
JACKSON, MI -- Jackson city officials will continue to host public meetings virtually as a statewide extension permitting remote government meetings is set to expire. Jackson City Council voted unanimously to continue to allow public meetings to be held remotely during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Michigan Legislature previously amended the Open Meetings Act, which sets the requirements for public meetings, to allow for remote public meetings during the pandemic. Tuesday’s resolution to continue virtual meetings cites the country’s plateau instead of decline in COVID-19 cases as a reason to continue virtual meetings and mitigation efforts. Related: How government meetings changed during the COVID-19 pandemicThe city streams city council meetings on its website, Facebook page and Comcast Cable Channel 21.mlive.com
Lawmakers urge Michigan State University to release Nassar documents in ‘incomplete’ investigation
Michigan legislators from both sides of the aisle sent a join letter to Michigan State University Thursday requesting thousands of documents related to the Larry Nassar investigation be released. UPDATE: Michigan AG: Michigan State University refuses to release Nassar documents, investigation forced to closeLed by Michigan Reps. Ryan Berman and Julie Brixie and state Sen. Curtis Hertel, a coalition of nearly 50 Michigan state lawmakers are calling on the MSU Board of Trustees to waive privilege for about 6,000 documents that are related to the investigation of former MSU and USA Gymnastics sports physician Nassar. However, the Attorney General’s Office cannot complete its investigation without your cooperation and the release of these documents. Ad“Full transparency is essential to restoring public trust,” the legislators wrote to the MSU Board of Trustees. You have the opportunity to ensure this happens.”You can see the legislators’ entire letter to Michigan State University below.
See how much your Michigan school district is getting from latest stimulus
Michigan school districts are getting $3.3 billion in funding from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus package, approved earlier this month. Take St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, for example – two neighboring, relatively small school districts in southwest Michigan. St. Joseph Public Schools will get an estimated $1.3 million from the latest federal stimulus. The discrepancy is there because the funding is distributed in proportion to how much Title I, at-risk funding schools get. Michigan is getting $3.7 billion for schools, although only 90% of it must be directly allocated to school districts.mlive.com
Michigan Senate panel clears bills subjecting Legislature, governor to open records requirements
A package of bills aimed at subjecting the Michigan Legislature and governor to more public scrutiny is one step closer to seeing the light of day in the Senate. The Michigan Senate Oversight Committee moved Tuesday to advance the bills to the Senate floor for further review. Gretchen Whitmer has previously expressed support for expanding public records laws but stopped short of voluntarily subjecting her own office to FOIA when rolling out an executive directive to update the process for state agencies. She said in 2019 she’d prefer the legislative package get passed “so this isn’t just a policy for the Whitmer administration” and has a wider reach. House bills:- House Bill 4383- House Bill 4384- House Bill 4385- House Bill 4386- House Bill 4387- House Bill 4388- House Bill 4389- House Bill 4390- House Bill 4391- House Bill 4392Senate bills:- Senate Bill 232- Senate Bill 233- Senate Bill 234- Senate Bill 235- Senate Bill 236- Senate Bill 237- Senate Bill 238- Senate Bill 239- Senate Bill 240- Senate Bill 241Related coverage:Whitmer campaigned on transparency, but Michigan still lags the nationMichigan House unanimously votes to include governor, legislature in open records lawsOpen records expansion poised to advance in Senate committee as group tees up ballot initiativeSecretary of State announces ‘worst to first’ agenda to improve Michigan’s transparency lawsmlive.com
Michigan House unanimously votes to include governor, legislature in open records laws
The Michigan House once again made its stance clear on an ongoing effort to include lawmakers and the governor in open records laws Thursday, voting unanimously on a 10-bill package aimed at improving the state’s bottom-of-the-barrel transparency laws. The Michigan House has voted through similar iterations of the bills for several sessions in a row with broad bipartisan support. Gretchen Whitmer has previously expressed support for expanding public records laws but stopped short of voluntarily subjecting her own office to FOIA when rolling out an executive directive to update the process for state agencies. She said in 2019 she’d prefer the legislative package get passed “so this isn’t just a policy for the Whitmer administration” and has a wider reach. Progressive group to launch ballot initiative for FOIA reform in MichiganHouse bills:- House Bill 4383- House Bill 4384- House Bill 4385- House Bill 4386- House Bill 4387- House Bill 4388- House Bill 4389- House Bill 4390- House Bill 4391- House Bill 4392Senate bills:- Senate Bill 232- Senate Bill 233- Senate Bill 234- Senate Bill 235- Senate Bill 236- Senate Bill 237- Senate Bill 238- Senate Bill 239- Senate Bill 240- Senate Bill 241mlive.com
Previously vetoed spending proposals for COVID-19 response headed back to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
The Republican-led Michigan Legislature took additional steps Wednesday to send $652 million in proposed COVID-19 response spending previously vetoed by Gov. The funding in question was included in an overall COVID-19 relief package signed by Whitmer last week. She line-item vetoed the proposed measures, citing “problems in the bills” and a lack of negotiation between the Legislature and her administration on the measures. Wednesday’s votes were the latest development in an ongoing dispute between Whitmer and legislative Republicans over how best to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those tensions have bled into the process of allocating billions of dollars in federal COVID-19 aid available to the state.mlive.com
Open records expansion poised to advance in Senate committee as group tees up ballot initiative
A similar package in the House cleared committee last week and is scheduled for its second reading on the floor Wednesday. The Michigan House voted through similar legislation unanimously last session, and Moss and McBroom have been working on the issue together since they served in the House. Gretchen Whitmer has previously expressed support for expanding public records laws, but stopped short of voluntarily subjecting her own office to FOIA when rolling out an executive directive to update the process for state agencies. She said in 2019 she’d prefer the legislative package get passed “so this isn’t just a policy for the Whitmer administration” and has a wider reach. House bills:- House Bill 4383- House Bill 4384- House Bill 4385- House Bill 4386- House Bill 4387- House Bill 4388- House Bill 4389- House Bill 4390- House Bill 4391- House Bill 4392Senate bills:- Senate Bill 232- Senate Bill 233- Senate Bill 234- Senate Bill 235- Senate Bill 236- Senate Bill 237- Senate Bill 238- Senate Bill 239- Senate Bill 240- Senate Bill 241Progress Michigan proposed ballot language:Read more on MLive:Whitmer curbs use of controversial separation agreements in executive directiveWhitmer said separation agreements like Robert Gordon’s are ‘used often.’ In state government, they’re not.mlive.com
Michigan GOP consider whether to block Whitmer’s health chief
LANSING, Mich. – Republican senators critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's handling of the coronavirus pandemic are weighing whether to reject her appointee to run the state health department, which has issued orders restricting business capacity and gatherings to limit COVID-19's spread. Elizabeth Hertel took over the Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 22, the day Robert Gordon abruptly resigned. But Republicans would need to be in near lockstep — which appears unlikely — because Democrats support her. “I understand that this is an enormous responsibility — to try to balance the safety and health of the residents of the state of Michigan with the livelihood of the residents of the state of Michigan,” Hertel said.
Ann Arbor parent pens open letter to Michigan officials to commit to full-time school in fall
ANN ARBOR – Local parent Nick Bagley has penned an open letter to the Michigan legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer calling for legislation that would ensure children return to school full time this fall. “I think a lot of parents are feeling kind of hopeless about this school year,” said Bagley. Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift has publicly said that school will be back full time in the fall. “They’ve shredded the trust they had in the community.”He criticized the state’s decision to leave school openings during the pandemic up to the districts.
Secretary of State announces ‘worst to first’ agenda to improve Michigan’s transparency laws
In recognition of Sunshine Week, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on Monday highlighted a number of transparency initiatives implemented or planned by her office. Benson also announced that an updated campaign finance tracking system on the Secretary of State’s website will be launched this year. In 2015, The Center for Public Integrity ranked Michigan 50th among all states in government transparency. Last session, the Michigan House voted through similar legislation unanimously. In an interview with MLive, Moss emphasized that appeal of public records denials by the Legislature would be decided by a third party -- the Legislative Council, which which Benson takes issue.mlive.com
What to know as Michigan lawmakers debate subjecting themselves, governor’s office to public records laws
Unlike the vast majority of the U.S., Michigan has no legal mechanism compelling state lawmakers and the governor to fork over their records when asked. But some fear even if it does, the bills as written don’t go far enough in compelling state-level elected officials to release relevant public records. Related: Is 2019 the year Michigan officials can agree to open their records to the public? The Michigan House voted through similar legislation unanimously last session, and lawmakers in the Senate, Sens. Gretchen Whitmer has previously expressed support for expanding public records laws, but stopped short of voluntarily subjecting her own office to FOIA when rolling out an executive directive to update the process for state agencies.mlive.com
Michigan eyes bill to clean up voter registration rolls
Adam Reames, Michigan Department of State's Legislative policy director, testified in opposition to the legislation during two committee hearings in February. He said about 540 names are in the voter rolls with placeholder birthdays. If those who haven't participated in the past 20 years of elections don't properly return the mailing, their voter registration would be marked as challenged. If they don't participate in elections by the second November general election after receiving notice, their registration would be canceled. About 300,000 people are on voter rolls who haven't voted since before 2000, Reames said.
COVID-19 spending, transgender athletes and daylight savings time: The week in Michigan politics
Michigan still has more than $2 billion in federal aid available from the last COVID-19 relief package that hasn’t been allocated yet. Both House Bills 4219 and 4220, sponsored by Reps. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods, and Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, passed 93-17. These bills closely resemble Senate Bill 1254, sponsored by Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, from the last legislative session. House Bills 4127-4131 aim to address these issues, while two additional bills from Rep. Ann Bollin, R-Brighton, would formalize the absentee ballot mailing and counting process for local precincts. Related: Bill would restrict transgender student athletes to teams of same sexShould Michigan stop changing time?mlive.com
Michigan lawmakers introduce bills to keep daylight saving time all year
Bills introduced in the Michigan Legislature this session aim to keep the state on the same schedule all year long. Daylight saving time starts 2 a.m. Sunday, March 14 and ends 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 7 this year. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 28 states have considered legislation addressing daylight saving time, most of which would establish daylight saving time as the official time year-round. Hoitenga’s legislation as introduced includes a provision that would only put year-round daylight saving time in effect in Michigan only if surrounding states — Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — also observed daylight saving time all year. Related:Daylight Saving Time: We lose an hour, 4 ways to make it easierMichigan would be exempt from daylight saving time under House billmlive.com
Michigan House approves drunken driving expungement for first-time offenders
LANSING, MI - Expungement for first-time drunk driving offenses is one step closer to becoming Michigan law. Both House Bills 4219 and 4220, sponsored by Reps. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods, and Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, passed 93-17. Read more: Whitmer pocket vetoes first-time DUI expungement bill with little explanationWhitmer “pocket vetoed” the bill by not signing it before the 14-day timeline for her to take action on it. Both Republicans and Democrats in the House hope this new expungement push is different due to the support of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. Read more: Michigan House renews bipartisan push for first-time drunken driving expungementThe expungement push has been part of a bipartisan effort in the Legislature over the last two years, culminating with the passage of “Clean Slate” legislation last fall.mlive.com
3-year-old shot by child while playing with gun
DETROIT – A 3-year-old boy was shot in the arm Tuesday when he and another child were playing with a gun, The Detroit News reports. The incident occurred around 2:40 p.m. on Detroit’s east side, the report said. The boy was shot by a minor relative while a 13-year-old girl was babysitting them. “These are preventable crimes that can be avoided,” Detroit police Capt. “Gun owners need to be more responsible.”The Detroit Police Department has free gun locks available at all precincts.mlive.com
13-year-old in critical condition after shot in the head while playing with gun
DETROIT – A 13-year-old boy is in critical condition after his cousin shot him in the head while they were playing with a gun on Tuesday, The Detroit News reports. Three boys, ages 10, 12 and 13, were playing with a gun, the report said. The 10-year-old shot the 13-year-old in the head. The victim is in critical condition at a local hospital. “Gun owners need to be more responsible.”The Detroit Police Department has free gun locks available at all precincts.mlive.com
Shootout following bet leaves 1 man dead, 1 injured
DETROIT – A man is dead and another is wounded after a shootout related to a bet on a game the two men were playing, The Associated Press reports. The incident occurred early Wednesday morning in Detroit, the report said. The men, aged 41 and 43, shot at each other after the younger man won the bet, police said. The 41-year-old died at the scene, AP reports. It’s unclear what game the men were playing, the report said.mlive.com
Michigan Legislature had its own series of confidential staff separation agreements
Gretchen Whitmer over her own six-figure payments to state agency officials, which, like those from the Legislature, all came with confidentiality agreements. Read more: Former Michigan health director given $155K severance pay after abrupt resignationThe majority of the $632,144 in payments came from the Senate, where 30 separation agreements were made since 2010. The Legislature must release financial records that could present conflicts of interest per internal rules and the state constitution. Republican lawmakers in both chambers previously blasted the Whitmer’s administration’s confidentiality agreements, despite their own chambers’ past deals. Sen. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, called Whitmer’s agreements “troubling,” while Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland, called on the governor to revoke what she called the “taxpayer-financed hush money” paid to Gordon.mlive.com
Legislature Had Over $600K In Confidential Severance Deals
Gretchen Whitmer over severance payments to top officials, on Tuesday disclosed nearly $700,000 worth of separation agreements or legal settlements over the past decade. The bulk of the payouts, $632,000, involved 30 separation deals in the Senate since 2010, including 20 in the past five years. Three House agreements in 2018 and 2015, totaling nearly $60,000, settled legal disputes with terminated employees since 2013. Neither chamber disclosed details of the deals to media outlets and a liberal advocacy group, citing their confidential nature. A message seeking additional comment on the 30 Senate agreements was left with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, who became leader in 2019.detroit.cbslocal.com
Michigan Legislature had over $600K in confidential severance deals in past decade
Gretchen Whitmer over severance payments to top officials, on Tuesday disclosed nearly $700,000 worth of separation agreements or legal settlements over the past decade. The bulk of the payouts, $632,000, involved 30 separation deals in the Senate since 2010, including 20 in the past five years. Three House agreements in 2018 and 2015, totaling nearly $60,000, settled legal disputes with terminated employees since 2013. Neither chamber disclosed details of the deals to media outlets and a liberal advocacy group, citing their confidential nature. A message seeking additional comment on the 30 Senate agreements was left with Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake, who became leader in 2019.
Michigan Gov. Whitmer signs at least $2 billion in COVID-19 relief spending
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed at least $2 billion in COVID-19 relief spending. READ: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief fundingThe veto was the latest in a dispute between the GOP-led Legislature and the Democratic governor over her response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whitmer vetoed legislation that would have ceded the state health department’s power to close schools and prohibit sports to local health departments.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signs $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding
Gretchen Whitmer has signed off on at least $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief funding. Whitmer’s administration wants to get the remaining $2 billion in federal funding appropriated. Whitmer also proposed fully allocating $2.7 billion to help residents feed their families. “Rather than these political games, we need to focus instead on how to best help businesses and individuals most impacted by the pandemic. The state has seen its COVID-19 numbers plateau over the past week after they declined steadily throughout the winter.
With billions at stake, Gov. Whitmer and Michigan Republicans refuse to budge
DETROIT – For a year now the governor and Michigan Legislature have sparred over how to handle the COVID crisis. UPDATE March 9, 2021: Whitmer signs $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief fundingMost recently the Republican controlled body passed a $4 billion supplemental budget with many strings attached that would require Michigan Gov. They know that is never going to happen and it is just really sad,” said Whitmer. Working with this governor simply means complying,” said Owosso. “The governor is going to have to realize going it alone and shooting from the hip ruling by press conference has to stop.
Michigan Legislatures set to pass $4.2B COVID relief bill
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan has billions of dollars in federal COVID relief to spend. The GOP Legislature has made a series of bills spending it, but a large piece of that $4.2 billion comes with strings attached. READ: Michigan Legislature nears passing $4.2B in virus aid without deal$2 billion goes to education, which means an additional $450 per student, as well as millions more for summer school and student health. About $840 million is tied to moving the power from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to local health departments when making decisions when it comes to in-person education and high school sports. Another $2.3 billion would give millions in aid to businesses, renters, hazard pay for care workers and more, but it ties $347 million for COVID testing to limiting the amount of time the health department restrictions can stay in place to 28 days.
56,000 laid-off Michigan workers get $800 grants, but thousands of others were denied
The Michigan Legislature passed $45 million in funding in December to give $1,650 grants to laid-off hospitality workers. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association administered the grants on behalf of the state, but didn’t tell denied applicants specifically why they were rejected. Denied applicants like Hinsberg took to social media with their frustration – many unsure why they were denied. There were some clearly fraudulent attempts at getting the money, Smith said. Applicants who didn’t get an email or want more clarification on why they were denied can call 517-377-3938 or email email@example.com
Fairness of COVID vaccine distribution up for debate in Michigan Legislature
LANSING, Mich. – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has prioritized frontline health care workers and those 65 years of age and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine first. Gretchen Whitmer’s added use of social vulnerability as part of her vaccine distribution calculations has led to concerns about fairness among some -- especially among lawmakers, since thousands of Michiganders struggling to schedule vaccination appointments are calling legislators daily. But state Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) says it is a life and death issue, and social vulnerability is included in the eligibility criteria for a good reason. “Blacks are 1.9 times more likely to die, Hispanic Americans are 2.3 times more likely to die and Native Americans are 2.4 times more likely to die,” Santana said on the Senate Floor Thursday. Duggan also sparred with Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel over vaccine dose distribution.
Michigan lawmakers hold hearing, seek answers about nursing home deaths amid pandemic
The hearing was initially meant to probe whether the state’s nursing home policy designated them as “hubs” for COVID patients. Andrew Cuomo’s administration was found to have been undercounting certain types of COVID deaths among nursing home patients, effectively lowering the number of deaths attributed to virus spread in nursing homes. State numbers show that a higher number of deaths: just over 5,500 residents in long-term care facilities have reportedly died from the virus. There has been no evidence, however, that Michigan is undercounting or underreporting long-term care COVID deaths. The plan was also backed by medical experts at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, the CDC and AARP, among others over the course of the pandemic.
Bills would update Michigan’s bottle, recycling laws: What would change
New legislation introduced in the Michigan Legislature aims to expand the state’s “Bottle Bill,” and to modernize the state’s recycling system. Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) and Rep. Christine Morse (D-Portage) introduced legislation to update the 40-year-old bill, proposing an expansion of items allowed. Senate Bill 167 and House Bill 4331 would expand the state’s current 10-cent deposit on certain soft drinks, beer, and other carbonated beverages to all other non-carbonated beverages, except for milk containers. The proposed bills would also:Permit universal redemption, allowing consumers to take any recyclable bottle to a large store while allowing smaller stores to maintain smaller takebacks. ”Michigan’s four decade-old ‘Bottle Bill’ was an innovative approach to promote recycling and prevent littering,” said Sen. McCann.
Michigan Democrats call for federal COVID relief funds to be released immediately
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Democrats are pressuring state Republicans to vote to release more than $5 billion in COVID relief, chastising them for holding the funds. “Republicans need to stop holding these federal stimulus dollars hostage. This is not a partisan issue, these dollars should be at work here in Michigan right now,” said Michigan House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski. READ: Michigan Republicans unveil $2B COVID relief plan for residents struggling due to shutdownsRepublicans have held funding, hoping to get Gov. In a statement, a spokesperson for Michigan House Speaker Jason Wentworth said, “Our plan addresses all needs...
Michigan aide to embattled Shirkey leaving for job in Nessel’s office
LANSING, Mich. – A top aide to embattled Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey is leaving to take a job in Democratic state Attorney General Dana Nessel's office. AdMcCann also served as spokeswoman for the two previous GOP Senate majority leaders. He also told Hillsdale County Republican leaders that GOP lawmakers had “spanked” Democratic Gov. Shirkey had already faced criticism for having met with militia leaders last year, weeks after armed protesters had entered the Capitol. At least one major company, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, said it was “deeply disappointed” over Shirkey’s remarks.
Education leaders say teacher shortages, learning loss among top issues at Michigan schools
DETROIT – On Tuesday, the K-12 Alliance of Michigan -- representing hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and schools -- held a roundtable to give a glimpse of issues facing students, teachers and learning. READ: Michigan leaders say schools need $1 billion to recover from COVID financial tollAdREAD: Michigan GOP: No aid for K-12 schools unless Whitmer cedes power to ban in-person learning, sports“I would say to Republicans to find a different bargaining chip, education is not it,” said Kevin Miller with St. Clair County Regional Educational Service Agency. READ: With districts fully integrated in remote learning will Michigan schools declare a snow day? Ad“One way is to get kids, particularly minority and low-poverty kids, do tutoring throughout the summer and school, and pay them. So, both they get a professional experience and they get a positive relationship, and they contribute to helping with this learning loss,” DeVault said.
COVID relief funds battle: Why Republicans won’t budge on Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s $5.5B request
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is asking state Legislature for $5.5 billion to battle COVID. In a statement, the office said “There is $40 million in the pipeline for release to local public health departments. Local health departments may need to take some actions to accept the funding, but money should be very close to being released.”AdHowever, Frederick said that that is not enough. Whitmer proposes $67 billion state budget that prioritizes pandemic recoveryREAD: Michigan Gov.
Michigan Gov. Whitmer, GOP lawmakers at odds over COVID relief funds
Gretchen Whitmer called for unity in her State of the State address. But this week, the GOP-led state Senate has rejected appointments to various boards. AdRELATED: Michigan house ties billions in COVID aid to giving power to counties“What they’re doing is saying we’re gonna spend time on rejecting appointments and not put in place the governor’s COVID plan,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint). Nesbitt said the Senate will take up the House plan in short order. MORE: 7 takeaways from Whitmer’s COVID update: Michigan sports, variant spread, metricsMORE: Michigan youth contact sports can resume Monday -- here are all the rules, specifics and details
Extending Michigan’s school year? It could happen, teacher representatives say
LANSING, Mich. – The battle to provide education for all during the COVID-19 pandemic continues to become more and more complicated. READ: Return To SchoolState superintendent Dr. Michael Rice called on the state Legislature to extend the school year Tuesday for students to make up for the lost time. “This school year, in and of itself, can’t even last five minutes longer,” said Paula Herbart, the president of the Michigan Education Association. Students need a break.”It’s undeniable that the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years have exhausted teachers. Detroit Public Schools Community District superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said he can’t realistically extend the school year, but he can expand learning opportunities in every neighborhood.
State superintendent wants to extend Michigan’s school year
LANSING, Mich. – Testifying in front of a joint committee of the state Legislature, state superintendent Dr. Michael Rice advocated for increasing the number of required school days, which currently stands at 180 days. We’re gonna have to make sure we extend the time for the purpose of competency and ensure our children are on the right level,” said Detroit school board member Sherry Gay-Dagnogo. Michigan health department launches program offering weekly COVID testing to educatorsThe Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) said it is moving forward with offering a voluntary COVID-19 testing program to educators. Officials said the MI Safe Schools Testing Program, which began Tuesday, will provide weekly tests for educators at private and public schools. Gretchen Whitmer pushed for schools to resume in-person learning by March 1.
Ypsilanti seeks power to ban long guns and open carry in city hall
YPSILANTI, MI -- The Ypsilanti City Council is requesting the Michigan Legislature allow municipalities to ban long guns and open carry in local governmental buildings. The vote comes after a state commission recently banned the open carry of firearms inside the Michigan Capitol building in Lansing. Ypsilanti City Council members said they believe the same safety precautions and concern for wellbeing should exist at the municipal level. Once the Michigan Legislature receives the city of Ypsilanti’s request to allow municipalities to ban long guns and open carry in city hall, it would have to accept it and proceed with certain steps to grant the power to municipalities, Ypsilanti City Attorney John Barr said. The state’s appointed Capitol Commission voted 6-0 to prohibit open carry inside the Michigan Capitol on Jan. 11, but this does not affect open carry on Capitol grounds outside the building.mlive.com
As Michigan Gov. Whitmer calls for unity, GOP lawmakers claim she shut them out
Amid calls for unity, a war of words erupted Thursday as Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican lawmakers traded verbal blows just one day after the State of the State address. Shirkey said legislators have not had a productive meeting with Whitmer’s office in the last nine months. When asked about what they’d be willing to compromise on, both Whitmer’s office and Republican leaders seemed to be locked in a game of political chicken. The buck stops with me,” Whitmer said after GOP leaders demanded she cede her powers over schools amid the pandemic.
Local 4 News at 5 -- Jan. 27, 2021
Here’s what you missed on Local 4 News at 5:Michigan Legislature threatens to withhold billions in school funding over COVID safety measuresGov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to pitch a multibillion-dollar pandemic relief plan during Wednesday’s State of State speech that would prioritize coronavirus vaccinations and additional aid to schools and businesses amid the crisis. The legislature has unveiled it’s plan to combat COVID and one of the key points ties $2.1 billion in school funding to a law that would allow local health departments, not the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, to make the call on whether school can resume in-person and whether high school sports can be played.
In the coming weeks the House and Senate will organize the policy and appropriations committees through which new bills (usually) must pass on their way to potential enactment. The majority caucuses in the House and Senate (both Republican) sometimes signal priorities with the first bills they introduce. With no voting, this report describes those bills plus some others of general interest. If the tax break exceeded the firm’s tax liability the difference could be applied to future tax bills for up to 10 years. Senate Bill 20: Authorize 3-mill "sinking fund" property tax for school busesIntroduced by Sen. Dale W. Zorn (R), to allow school districts to use a "sinking fund" property tax for "pupil transportation" (buying school buses).monroenews.com
Local 4 News at Noon -- Jan. 14, 2021
DETROIT – Here’s what you missed on Local 4 News at Noon. Flint water crisis prosecution team discusses findings from investigationOn Wednesday it was announced former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is facing charges of willful neglect in connection with the Flint water crisis. The Michigan Legislature defines willful neglect of duty as follows:
Michigan’s first day of legislature gets off on a tense note
New House Speaker Jason Wentworth said during a news conference that he denounces violence but supports the people’s First Amendment right to peaceful protest. Wentworth said that although he doesn’t agree with Lasinski, he would continue to have conversations across the aisle. That Donald Trump is the only one who is sent from God to stop that and that the election was stolen from him,” McMorrow said. Their Democratic counterparts introduced resolutions to condemn and recognize false claims of election fraud and those who signed the letter as contributors to violence. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
6-foot fences to be installed around Michigan Capitol Building due to threats of violence
“Michigan is ground zero for those who are wishing to take over state government,” said Michigan AG Dana Nessel. I’m exceedingly worried.’”On Monday, the Michigan State Capitol Commission unanimously voted to ban the open carry of guns from inside the Michigan Capitol, effective immediately. Nessel said security inside the Michigan Capitol isn’t as impactful as she’d like. New Michigan Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth held a briefing Wednesday morning along side Speaker Pro Tempore Pamela Hornberger. Additionally, Michigan’s State Capitol Commission voted to ban open carry of firearms at the Capitol on Monday.
Lawmakers react to open carry ban at Capitol
Monroe County's lawmakers mostly agree with the decision by commission to ban open carry weapons at the Michigan capitol. The Michigan State Capitol Commission on Monday vote 6-0 to prohibit open carry of firearms inside the state's Capitol building, effective immediately, according to the commission. Gretchen Whitmer, however, have been pushing for stricter firearms rules — reaching beyond banning open carry — from the Capitol building. The following are statements released by local and state lawmakers, along with the Michigan Attorney General, following the commission’s decision to ban open carry at the Michigan Capitol:STATE REP. JOSEPH BELLINO, R-MONROE“While this decision wasn’t debated or voted on, the Capitol Commission’s decision to ’Ban Open Carry’ was applauded by many people serving and working at the Capitol. The Capitol Commission’s action to ban open carry guns at the Capitol is a good start, but more action is needed.monroenews.com
Michigan Rep. Abdullah Hammoud tests positive for COVID
DEARBORN, Mich. – Michigan state Representative Abdullah Hammoud says he has tested positive for the coronavirus. On Jan. 8, Rep. Hammoud released a statement saying he has tested positive for COVID-19, but he is feeling well. Today, I tested positive for COVID-19. Although the Michigan Legislature is scheduled to reconvene next week, I will return to session once it is safe for me to do so. Rep. Abdullah Hammoud
Whitmer Vetoes Bill To Let 1-Time DUI Offenders Clear Record
Gretchen Whitmer refused to sign a bill that would have let one-time drunken drivers ask a judge to set aside their conviction, despite the measure’s broad bipartisan support in the Michigan Legislature. The Democrat took no action on the expungement legislation Monday, allowing it to die when a 14-day review period expired. Michigan currently does not allow someone to petition a court to set aside a conviction for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. In Michigan, an expungement — or set aside — clears the public record of a conviction so it does not appear in a background check. Law enforcement still keeps a non-public record, but people no longer have to disclose their criminal past on job applications or other forms.detroit.cbslocal.com
Whitmer veto means some Michiganders could lose extra 6 weeks of unemployment benefits
Michigan Democrats wanted to keep offering 26 weeks of state unemployment instead of 20. So the Michigan Legislature compromised, promising to put $220 million of taxpayer dollars into the employer-funded Unemployment Trust Fund to pay for it. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed the $220 million, saying it was needed elsewhere, but that also meant axing the extra six weeks of benefits. Anybody who started receiving unemployment before 2021 is locked into getting 26 weeks of state benefits, an Unemployment Insurance Agency spokesperson said. But for anybody starting on unemployment in 2021, they’ll be limited to 20 weeks of state unemployment.mlive.com
5 things the Michigan Legislature failed to address in 2020
With COVID-19 dominating every aspect of life in 2020, the Republican leaders in the Michigan Legislature shifted focus to address the pandemic. Here are five things the Michigan House and Senate failed to do before the end of 2020. For the top five the state Legislature accomplished in 2020, click here. Read more: Internal COVID-19 protocols in Michigan Capitol lag behind other Republican-led legislaturesAt least 11 members of the Michigan Legislature have tested positive for COVID-19 since March. It closely resembles previous protections provided under state law for survivors of former Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar to file suit.mlive.com