Legislative Update – 07/19/2017

Teacher Pension Reform is Now Law

The contentious teacher pension reform bill (SB 401) that gives school instructors a more enticing 401(k) option, but makes the pension option less attractive, has been signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.

The reform plan will close the current “hybrid” plan in the Michigan Public Schools Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) to new enrollees as the February 18, 2018. It creates a new 401(k)-style defined contribution plan with an automatic employer contribution of three percent from the state School Aid Fund. Republicans who control the Legislature hailed the law as a “historic” attempt to address debt that accounts for a third of payroll costs for K-12 districts.

“A travesty” is how the Michigan Education Association (MEA) described the new law.

The measure is now Public Act 92 of 2017.

Snyder Signs Budget Bills But Not Before Using the Veto Pen

Governor Rick Snyder vetoed $6.37 million in line items before signing the $56.5 billion spending plan for Fiscal Year 2018 that begins October 1 of this year.

Fifteen line items totaling just under $5 million were cut from the general omnibus appropriations bill (HB 4323), and another four line items worth $1.37 million were trimmed from the education omnibus bill (HB 4313).

Given the attention lawmakers have been giving an epidemic of opioid addiction in the state, it came as a surprise that Governor Snyder vetoed an $850,000.00 “Genomic Opioid Abuse Demonstration Program” that would predict opioid response and abuse.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the allocation could have jeopardized other federal money.

Judge Blocks State Money to Private Schools… For Now

Judge Cynthia Stephens has issued an oral injunction preventing the state from disbursing $2.5 million in appropriations to private schools – at least until the end of the month.

She also wants the parties in the suits against the state to file additional briefs and wants the argument to incorporate the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Corner, which found that churches have the same right as any other charitable organization to pursue state money for non-religious purposes.

Stephens is expected to rule whether to have the preliminary injunction stand on August 1.

“Constitutional Carry” Bills Not Firing Yet In The Senate

The Senate is not taking aim, at least not yet, on the four bills (HBs 4416 thru 4419) that would eliminate the need to get a special license to carry a concealed firearm.

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) has put the bills in his Senate Government Operations Committee, but says he doesn’t have any special plans for them.

The Senate Government Operations Committee is the place where bills receive special or no attention. Senator Meekhof has yet to schedule a hearing or set a timetable on when or if he plans on considering the bills.

June Tax Collections Are Up Over Estimates

Due in large part to lower-than-expected Michigan Business Tax (MBT) refunds, the Michigan Department of Treasury collected $169.6 million more than the Senate Fiscal Agency (SFA) has estimated for June.

Collections under both the sales tax and use tax were above expectations.