The Ticker goes to Lansing today, checking in on Traverse City’s State Senator (Republican Wayne Schmidt) and State Representative (Republican Larry Inman) and all the bills they have sponsored.
Schmidt has introduced 13 bills, noting he is perhaps most pleased with passage of Senate Bill 80, which expands vehicle accident chemical analysis testing. “Billy’s Law” was named in honor of Billy Kochis, a passenger in a car driven by John Pomeroy, both of Traverse City. They were killed outside Grand Rapids when their vehicle was hit from behind. The driver of the other vehicle was found to have opioids and cocaine in his system by urinalysis at the hospital, but the results were not admissible in court as there had been no warrant administered. “This says urine and blood are just like photos and weather – they are part of the crash scene and can be gathered as evidence,” says Schmidt.
Schmidt also expounds on Senate Bill 228, reintroduced May 30 as Senate Bill 415, which would mandate that retail gasoline pumps with scanning devices also have security measures to combat credit card skimmers. Schmidt says he’s worked with petroleum and food dealers on the bill. “It will prevent criminal activity.”
Schmidt says Senate Bill 117 to allow no-reason absentee voting is a measure that will allow anyone to vote absentee as soon as ballots become available. He believes it will make it easier for people to vote.
Schmidt says Senate Bill 110 could help provide lower-cost housing, based on local governmental units approving incentives for builders to create such units. The legislation would authorize local subsidies and other incentives for developers to build housing project providing low- or moderate-cost rental units. “It clarifies that local governments can do innovative tax credits or abatement. It’s (housing) for people making $25,000 to $65,000 a year. It’s another tool for local control.”
Other legislation includes Senate Bill 374, which would require the Secretary of State to use a digital printing method on license plates, a one-step process that would replace the current embossed numbers process. Senate Bill 251 is legislation to formalize in statute a “state historic preservation office” created by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm in an executive order.
Senate Bill 366 is legislation to authorize a “provisional” concealed pistol permit for adults who are aged 18, 19 or 20, which would expire at age 21. It was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 4 and reported in the Senate on May 25 with the recommendation that the bill pass. Senate Bill 243 transfers state revenue to certain business owners, authorizing up to $250 million of state revenue to certain developers and business owners selected by political appointees on the board of a state Strategic Fund agency. Owners of selected firms would get cash subsidies for up to 10 years equal to half or all of the income tax paid by their employees.
Senate Bill 96 would revise Medicaid funding detail related to Indian tribe employees. It would exempt health insurance policies for employees of Indian tribes from a health insurance claims tax intended to “game” the federal Medicaid system in ways that result in higher federal payments to Michigan’s medical welfare system. Senate Bill 102 to recodify philanthropic community foundation law passed in the Senate. It revises a law that governs the authority of a municipality, school district, or library authority to accept gifts from philanthropic community foundations that have various tax exemptions in return for promoting a governmental purpose or alleviating government burdens.
Representative Larry Inman notes that his appointment to the appropriations committee doesn’t leave him as much time for introducing or sponsoring legislation as he might like. Inman has introduced two bills this session. The first, House Bill 4230, is to provide a “template” or “place holder” for the Fiscal Year 2017-2018 Capital Outlay budget. This bill contains no appropriations, but may be amended at a later date to include them. No vote has taken place.
The second, House Resolution 102, was introduced May 18. It declares May 21-27 as Public Works Week in the state, and was passed by a voice vote in the House.
“I was assigned to appropriations and spend the year with hearings and work with the Senate on the budget. I don’t get a lot of time on the policy side creating bills,” he says.
The biggest challenge, according to Inman, is the gap between what was budgeted for expenditures and the state’s anticipated income. “We’re $385 million short from last year. That puts a pinch on our ability to do a number of things.”
Inman is also particularly concerned about the disparities in school funding, with schools downstate receiving more than districts in this area. “I’m working with (Traverse City Area Public Schools Superintendent) Paul Soma fighting for that. I met with the Governor and said we need to slow the gap. It’s an ongoing battle, the northern (schools) and upper peninsula versus the south and southeast.”