The state's minimum wage will rise to $9.25 an hour by 2018 under legislation Governor Rick Snyder signed into law the day before Raise Michigan, a citizens' group, turned in petitions on a voter initiative to raise the rate to $10.10 an hour.
• The new law will set the wage for tipped employees to 38 percent of the minimum wage.
• The minimum wage will be adjusted to the rate of inflation or 3.5 percent, whichever is lower.
• The current $7.40-an-hour wage will go to $8.15 this Sept. 1. On Jan. 1, 2016, the wage will go to $8.50 an hour. On Jan. 1, 2017, it will go to $8.90. On Jan. 1, 2018, it will move to $9.25.
The new minimum wage bill repeals the state's existing minimum wage law, which the ballot proposal seeks to amend. With the ballot proposal set to amend a law that no longer exists, the proposal will be in legal limbo. Nevertheless, the ballot initiative led by Raise Michigan was successful in setting the issue to the forefront.
NASW - Michigan supports an increase in the minimum wage. Many people work full time jobs or several jobs to try and make ends meet, yet still live in poverty. Raising the minimum wage will be a big step toward lifting families out of poverty and reducing their reliance on safety net programs that are designed to be temporary. To read a full report on the effects of raising the minimum wage by the Michigan League for Public Policy, click here.
Community Mental Health (CMH) Shortfall:
There is still the ongoing issue of the General Fund (GF) cut to behavioral health line in the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) budget. CMHs need a full-year funding level of $140 million. However, the Governor’s recommendation – and the House amount in their budget proposal – is $97 million and the Senate’s is $102 million. Thus, CMHs would still need between $38 and $43 million to be fully funded.
CMHs cannot cover certain individuals with Healthy Michigan Plan (HMP) funds, such as jail services, spend-down recipients, children’s services, Medicare only persons, and injectable drugs. CMHs cannot use HMP funds for individuals or services that do not qualify for HMP. There is disagreement on how many people will actually be covered by HMP. In addition, the CMH system projects the HMP enrollment rate to be slower than that projected by the MDCH and the State Budget Office.
NASW - Michigan continues working closely with the Michigan Association of Community Mental Health Boards (MACMHB) and key legislators on the appropriations committee to help ensure CMHs continue to have the capacity to serve clients. NASW - Michigan's goal is to prevent any erosion of the CMH system. Hundreds of letters have gone to legislators from NASW members. Final decisions about budgets are to be made the second week of June. We will keep members informed of updates as they become available.
ACA and Healthy Michigan Enrollment Numbers High
The US Department of Health and Human Services shows that 272,000 Michigan residents enrolled in the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Michigan is the 6th highest of all of the states which use the federal exchange (instead of its own state-based exchange). This is on top of the state’s figure of 200,000 enrollees in the Healthy Michigan Plan. Now, nearly half a million Michiganders have access to affordable health care and that number is steadily climbing. NASW-Michigan is proud of our members' tremendous efforts to encourage legislators to support the Healthy Michigan Plan (Medicaid Expansion).
Health Insurance Claims Assessment (HICA) Shortfall:
Another piece of the overall budget shortfall in the MDCH budget was dealt with: the HICA shortfall. A two-bill package was passed from the Senate Appropriations bill on May 8 that would help plug the HICA collection shortfall by about $450 million (the shortfall itself was projected to be $110 million, every year, repeating).
SB 913 lowers the HICA rate from 1% to .75%, but increases it back to 1% is the federal government disallows Michigan from collecting a 6% use tax allowed under SB 893. SB 893, then, would reinstate the 6% use tax for Medicaid managed care organizations, including managed care entities “providing services to the Medicaid expansion population.” This use tax idea has been denied by the federal government previously; apparently, a similar plan has worked in California, marking the first time in your lobbyist’s memory that something from California was used as a positive example by this legislature. One third of this tax would revert to the School Aid Fund, and two-thirds to the General Fund.
SB 893 alone will not reduce the HICA shortfall, and SB 913 looks like it reduces the total amount available for HICA (which seems to exacerbate the problem). But when both bills’ revenues are taken into account together, the current-year HICA shortfall falls to a mere $32 million, and the FY 14-15 projected shortfall becomes a credit of $18.8 million, as opposed to a shortfall.
Other Budget Items
Funding for the Mental Health and Wellness Commission, the PACE program, the Home and Community Based Waiver and In-home services for seniors that was proposed by Governor Snyder found its way into both the House and Senate versions of the Department of Community Health Budget. However, while the House and Senate concurred with the Governor on most of these items, there remained a difference relating to the funding for the Mental Health and Wellness Commission that will need to be addressed in conference committee.
Expansion of the Home and Community Based Waiver seems to be in the clear, as both the House and Senate agreed with the Governor’s proposal to increase the funding by $26 million to eliminate the waiting list that currently stands at approximately 1,250. Similarly, expansion of the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and increases to senior services such as in-home care and nutrition was also passed by both the House and Senate. However, only the House agreed with the Governor’s proposal to set aside funding for the implementation of the recommendations of the Mental Health and Wellness Commission. The Senate instead inserted a placeholder of only $200 which indicates a willingness to provide funds, but a disagreement on the total amount.
The ‘R-Word’ Is No More
Lt. Governor Calley – who can sign legislation into law in the Governor’s absence – signed into law the fifteen-bill, bipartisan, bicameral legislation which removes the words “mentally retarded” and “mental retardation” from all existing Michigan laws, and instead replaces them with person-first language that is more respectful and inclusive (i.e. “intellectual disability,” “intellectually disabled” or “developmentally disabled”).
House Bills 5345 – 5352 and Senate Bills 805 – 811 put Michigan in line with all but six other states that have removed the word from their books. This is the first of a number of legislative endeavors, which NASW – Michigan supported, that centered around the Michigan Mental Health and Wellness Commission report
DHS Warrantless Arrest Bill Moving in Senate Committee
The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on April 30 to take up Senate Bill 843. This bill, sponsored by Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), would allow the Department of Human Services director to grant limited police powers to the department’s Office of Inspector General agents. Currently, these agents are charged with investigating cases of fraud, waste and abuse in programs administered by DHS. If they find wrongdoing, they make referrals for prosecution.
SB 843 would allow agents of the Office of Inspector General to make arrests – even without warrants – of individuals whom they suspect of committing felonies relating to Medicaid, welfare or food assistance fraud. In addition, the bill would permit the DHS director to authorize agents to carry firearms.
NASW, as well as the Michigan League for Public Policy, opposed SB 843. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, Senator Jones (who also chairs the committee) chose not to allow testimony and moved for a vote on the bill. Senator Jones cited the fact that the bills had already been the subject of a previous committee hearing in making his decision to deny testimony.
Although Senator Jones had hoped to move the bill out of committee, he fell short of obtaining the necessary three votes due to the absence of Senator Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights) and the unwillingness of Senator Steven Bieda (D-Warren) to approve the bill without further investigation. Senator Jones promised to take the bill up again on May 6. He did, and this time the vote was successful, on the false understanding that the bills “are simply following federal guidelines.”
Overdose Prevention Bills
A package of bills allowing for and regulating the use of opioid antagonists in the case of opioid overdoses was reported out of Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Senate Bills 858, 859, and 860, sponsored by Senator Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton), would all amend the Michigan Public Health Act. SB 858 would specify that any person who administers an opioid antagonist, in a suspected opioid overdose situation, could not be criminally prosecuted or professionally sanctioned as a result of his/her actions. SB 859 would require ambulances and other life support vehicles to carry opioid antagonists, and require emergency personnel to be trained to administer them. The third bill in the package, SB 860 (S-2), authorizes doctors to write prescriptions for opioid antagonists, and for pharmacists to carry and dispense them. Both SB 858 and 859 address liability protection for individuals in situations resulting in injury and/or death to the overdose victim, regardless of whether the opioid antagonist was administered or not. The House companion bill package consists of House Bills 5405, 5406, and 5407, all sponsored by Rep. Forlini (R-Harrison Twp.). Those bills have passed the House and been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Executive Order and Stabenow Bill Promise to Help Reduce Student Loan Debt
The investment in postsecondary education is supposed to pay off in higher earnings and lower risk of unemployment. Unfortunately, with the cost of tuition having tripled in the past 30 years yet the typical family’s income remains stagnant, the opportunity for advancement is slipping away. Students are relying more on loans than ever, with the typical borrower owing about $29,000 after earning a bachelor’s degree.
President Obama and his Administration have taken positive steps in the past to make college more affordable and accessible. Recently, the President signed a new Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of Education to propose regulations that would allow nearly 5 million additional borrowers to cap loan payments at 10 percent of their income. The Memorandum also outlines other executive actions aimed at supporting vulnerable borrowers who are at risk of default.
The President also reiterated his call for the Senate to pass the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Elizabeth Warren have coauthored the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act, which would allow people to refinance their existing loans, taken out at higher interest rates in the past, at the lower rates available to new borrowers during the 2013-2014 school year. This move could save a typical student thousands of dollars over the life of his or her loans. The Department of Education estimates that the legislation would benefit more than 25 million borrowers nationwide, including 963,000 in Michigan. The Senate is scheduled to vote on this legislation soon.