Michigan Legislature

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Roads, pot, civil rights on agenda as state lawmakers return from summer break

The state Legislature returns Tuesday after a two month summer break.

Republican leaders still have some big priorities to accomplish before the end of the year. None are bigger than finding a way to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads.

But it looks like that and other major bills will have to wait until the Legislature’s “lame duck” session in December. Top lawmakers say they do not expect many major votes between now and the November election.

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State House Dems call for higher minimum school funding

As many Michigan students return to school, the debate over education funding is starting up again at the state Capitol in Lansing.

Democrats in the state House plan to introduce a bill that would increase minimum payments to districts. Gov. Rick Snyder and lawmakers this year set that amount at an additional $50 per student.

whitmer.senatedems.com

State Senate Dem leader launches women's health nonprofit

The top Democrat in the state Senate is launching a new nonprofit group to help women gain access to health care.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, says the new organization, called Right to Health, will hold forums, conferences, and fundraisers to promote the cause.

Jake Neher

Lawmakers vote to allow wolf hunts in Upper Peninsula

Wolf hunts in the Upper Peninsula will be able to continue under a law approved on Wednesday by the state House. The petition-initiated proposal cleared the state Senate earlier this month.

The new law does not need Gov. Rick Snyder’s approval to take effect. It’s designed to circumvent two anti-wolf hunting proposals on the November ballot.

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Education groups join calls for LGBT rights in Michigan

The list of groups calling on state lawmakers to pass protections for LGBT people is growing. Organizations representing Michigan college, university, and school officials now say they support the measure.

They join more than 50 business and non-profit groups urging lawmakers to pass the legislation, which the coalition expects to be introduced next month.

Andrew Cluley

Talks over ways to fix Michigan's roads "back at square one"
 

State lawmakers are hitting the reset button on talks over how to fix Michigan's crumbling roads.

A state Senate workgroup met for the first time Thursday to hammer out a solution. Senators and staff involved in the meeting say it consisted of members offering wide ranging ideas for how to address the issue.

Most estimates say the state needs to boost road funding by between $1 billion and $2 billion a year just to keep the roads from getting worse.

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Democrats blast Scott Woosley for unnecessary expenditures in the tens of thousands of dollars. 


Bob Eccles

More voters cast ballots in primary than expected, but turnout still low

More than 82 percent of all registered voters sat out Michigan's primary election this week.

That's not the all-time low some observers predicted before the election, but they say the number is still dismal. And many of them expect low voter turnout again for Michigan's general election in November.

Wikipedia

Candidates for the Michigan Legislature are being chosen by voters in Tuesday's primary election.  Winners will face off in the November general election when control of the state House of Representatives will be at stake.  Republicans have controlled the House since 2010. A five-seat swing would be needed for Democrats to gain a majority there. The GOP holds a 59-50 edge. 

Michigan Pubic Radio Network

100+ show up to give input on new standardized test

Michigan education officials are in the process of finding a new standardized test… again.

More than a hundred people were in Lansing Wednesday to tell the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) what they want out of a new assessment.

MDE had already chosen the Smarter Balanced assessment three years ago. But many lawmakers were not happy with that test because it's aligned with the controversial Common Core school standards.

055.housedems.com

Michigan could soon ban gay "conversion therapy" for minors.

State Representative Adam Zemke from Ann Arbor introduced a bill last week that would prohibit health professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation of anyone under the age of 18.

Sandi Smith is the president of the Jim Toy Center, a resource for Washtenaw County's LGBT community.

She says they are glad lawmakers are moving this issue forward.

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Future of medical marijuana bills uncertain after clearing state Senate panel

Two bills that would ease restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan are one step closer to becoming law. A state Senate panel approved the legislation Wednesday.

But it is not clear what will happen to the bills now that they are going to the full Senate.

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Washtenaw County's legislative representatives continue to score highly in the Michigan League of Conservation Voters annual Environmental Scorecard.

State Senator Rebekah Warren and Representatives David Rutledge, Jeff Irwin and Adam Zemke all scored 100 percent, while Representative Gretchen Driskell received an 85 percent rating. 

Senator Warren was singled out for her support of legislation to update and increase fees for hunting and fishing licenses.

Find the complete scorecard online:

http://053.housedems.com/

A local state representative is among Democrats crying "foul" in Lansing over the latest round of road funding.

The state chose projects that'll receive $115 million in funding based on request from lawmakers, and Democrats complain that most of the work is being done in districts represented by majority Republicans. 

Representative Jeff Irwin says this is what happens when road projects are funded by earmarks rather than by a set formula.

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Superintendents blast education budget

As Michigan schools begin their new budget year this week, some local superintendents are urging lawmakers to return from their summer break to boost education funding.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed a new education budget last week that boosts funding for all public schools by at least $50 per student. But Forest Hills Schools Superintendent Dan Behm says districts face new costs that wipe out that minimum increase.

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Michigan economists warn against ending pensions for public employees

Some economists say Michigan failed to consider the consequences of ending pension plans for public workers.

The state stopped offering pensions to new employees in 1997. Budget officials say that decision has cut Michigan's long-term debt by about $5 billion.

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Snyder: More needs to be done to help refugees in Michigan

The number of refugees who have settled in Michigan has grown in recent years - and Governor Rick Snyder says more should be done to help them.

At a town hall meeting at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Snyder called on community leaders to help the state find ways to help refugees.

"It's important that we find ways to help these people - they've gone through terrible circumstances - about making them feel welcome in our country," Snyder told reporters after the town hall.

michigan.gov

Snyder: Restoring MEAP test not his preference

Governor Rick Snyder says he's not giving up on plans to change Michigan's standardized student test. That's despite a provision in the School Aid budget that lawmakers could send to the governor soon. It says schools have to stick with the current test - the MEAP -- for at least another year.

The governor wants the state to use "Smarter Balanced," a new student test that's aligned with the controversial "Common Core" education standards.

Andrew Cluley

The Ann Arbor School Board was set to vote on a balanced budget tonight, but the latest proposal for state funding would leave a big hole to fill.

A House Senate committee's proposal would give the district $2.5 million less than Governor Rick Snyder's plan. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift indicated the board will likely still vote on the original budget tonight.

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A proposed increase in per-pupil funding for K-12 schools would actually leave many area districts at the same or even lower funding levels next fiscal year.

That's according to Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel, who says that would be the net result of moving from a funding formula in which poor districts get twice as large of a funding increase as wealthier districts, to a formula where the minimum foundation grant is boosted by $175. 

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Michigan film incentives to stay at $50 million, Senate leader wants more

The top Republican in the state Senate says he's not satisfied with the amount of money lawmakers have set aside for film and TV productions.

The Legislature is expected to wrap up a state budget this week. It will include $50 million in film incentives. That's the same as last year, but half of that money is now slated to continue into future budgets.

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'Right to work' part of discussions on roads package

Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats at the state Capitol over road funding may have resurrected the controversy over Michigan's right-to-work law.

There's a lot of deal-making happening in Lansing as the Legislature enters the final days before its summer recess. The two biggest issues are finishing the state budget, and coming up with more than $1.2) billion new dollars a year for roads - Governor Rick Snyder's top priority before lawmakers leave Lansing.

Wikipedia

Michigan lawmakers have given initial approval to a school budget that boosts spending by 4 percent and prohibits the state from replacing its standardized test next year with one developed by a group of states. The bill approved 4-1 Tuesday by a House-Senate conference committee is expected to win final legislative approval this week.

Andrew Cluley

Gov. Snyder eyes road funding deal this week

Gov. Rick Snyder wants a road funding solution on his desk by the end of this week.

Lawmakers will meet three days this week before they're expected to go on their summer break.

One of the governor's biggest priorities in his first term has been to boost infrastructure spending by more than $1 billion a year. But with political campaigns about to heat up over the summer, a legislative deal still hasn't materialized.

The governor does not want the issue to stay unresolved until the fall - or later.

Andrew Cluley

Road funding talks in flux at state Capitol

It looked like there might be a wave of bipartisan cooperation in Lansing. Lawmakers recently voted to raise the state's minimum wage and contribute almost $200 million to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.

But that doesn't seem to be the case anymore with road funding negotiations in flux.

State lawmakers want to find a way to increase funding for roads in the next couple weeks. That's when they leave Lansing for the summer.

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