Senate Bills 1293 and 1294, both sponsored by Senator Joe Hun (R-Hamburg) were vetoed by the Governor. SB 1294 would have amended the Nonprofit Health Care Corporation Reform Act to allow Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to ‘establish, own, operate, and merge with a nonprofit mutual disability insurer, under certain conditions.’ SB 1293 would have amended the Michigan Insurance Code to allow the formation of a nonprofit, domestic mutual insurer, allow BCBS to merge with that mutual insurer, and required them to continue to be a nonprofit, offering health insurance to the individual and small group health markets.
Prior to the veto, several changes had been made to the bill package, the biggest being a complete ban on most favored nation clauses starting in 2014 and a raised total of $120 million to subsidize Medigap coverage. Abortion coverage would have been an opt-in option instead of an opt-out option, and BCBSM would have still been required to donate $1.5 billion over 18 months starting in April 2014 to the new Michigan Health and Wellness Foundation to replace BCBSM as a non-profit. The bill also would have required a financial review of BCBSM but not a full audit.
Abortion Clinic Limitations Passes, Conscientious Objector Bill Dies
The Governor signed House Bill 5711, now Public Act 499, which places stricter regulations on health clinics that perform abortions (by limiting the procedure to only those clinics designated as surgical centers), and makes the procedure less accessible to women. The version that passed was ‘negotiated’, with Governor Snyder seeking and getting changes to the bill before it was taken up by the Senate.
Conscientious Objector Bill Dies
Another bill regulating abortions and whom a professional choose to treat did not come out of Lame Duck: Senate Bill 975, “The Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act”, would have made it ok for medical providers to refuse care to individuals if they opposed certain things based on moral grounds. The bill died in the House.
House Bill 4555 and Senate Bill 24, now Public Acts 540 and 541, respectively. The bills will extend the juvenile competency age to put new provisions in both the Mental Health Code and the
Probate Code regarding the manner in which a juvenile's competency to stand trial for the commission of a crime is determined.
House Bills 4862 and 4863, now Public Act 500, will alter the relationship between the Substance Abuse Coordinating Agencies (CAs) and the Community Mental Health Services Programs (CMHSPs) in Michigan. PA 500 will effectively put the CAs under the control of the CMHSPs. It is not expected to have an effect on social workers employed in either kind of entity.
Senate Bill 1232 (Sen. Emmons, R-Sheridan), now Public Act 565, will create the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act in the Michigan Probate Code
Michigan Now a Right to Work State
In one of the more dramatic and controversial lame duck sessions, the Michigan legislature, much to the displeasure to Democrats, rushed through and passed three RTW bills. Despite Governor Snyder’s statements during the first two years of his administration that RTW was too divisive for him to tackle, a press conference took place on Thursday morning with the Governor, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, and Speaker Jase Bolger giving their intentions to make Michigan a RTW state.
The Senate and House used three bills which had previously been introduced as ‘Right to Work Zone’ bills and inserted RTW legislation. By the end of the day, both chambers had done what they had to according to the rules, in order to make final passage of the three bills on the following Tuesday inevitable. And that inevitable final passage of the RTW bills brought the largest protest Lansing had seen in recent memory with more than 12,500 protestors present and 400 State Troopers on duty at the Capitol Building and around Lansing.
The Senate and House passed, amid audible chants of protest from the gallery and outside the chambers, Senate Bill 116, House Bill 4003, and House Bill 4054. The bills make it so that individuals within bargaining units who chose not to be union members, in both the public and private sector, do not have to pay the union previously required service fees for representation services rendered by that union. Unions are still legally required to represent collective bargaining units in matters such as wage negotiations and grievances for members and nonmembers alike.
Additionally, each of the three Right to Work bills had a $1 million appropriation added to be used for ‘implementation of the amendments’. Due to those appropriations, the bills are immune to a referendum at the ballot to repeal the public acts. Governor Snyder signed the bills quickly after they were presented to him. They will go into effect 90 days after the 2013 legislative session begins in January.
P.P.T. Reforms Set in Motion
On the last day of lame duck, the legislature passed massive personal property tax reforms. A package of twelve bills would phase out the personal property tax on businesses, and outlines a complex reimbursement plan for the local units of government who would lose revenue from the phasing out. The legislature ultimately passed the initially proposed plan, set forth by Lt. Governor Brian Calley, after an alternative plan was proposed which would not have reimbursed the local government units at all. Essentially, Calley’s plan allows for local governments to reimburse enough revenue for police and fire up to 100%, but all other services at 80%. The cities, counties, libraries, and townships were lobbying for a 100% replacement on everything.
The passage of one of the bills in particular, HB 6026, was very close, with several Republicans crossing over to join the Democrats in casting a no vote. Representatives Mike Callton (R-Nashville), Cindy Denby (R-Handy Twp.), Bob Genetski (R-Saugatuck), Joel Johnson (R-Clare), Matt Lori (R-Constantine), Greg MacMaster (R-Kewadin), Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), and Sharon Tyler (R-Niles) all voted no on the bill that outlines how the use tax will be implemented in order to help reimburse the local governments.
This use tax portion of the bill package requires a vote of the people, which could take place as soon as 2014. Additionally, due to the amendments that were passed with this package of bills, if the public does not approve of the use tax portion, none of the PPT reform plan will be implemented.
School Reform Bills Also Die in Lame Duck
Senate Bill 620, the “parent trigger” bill did not make it out of the Lame Duck session. The bill would have given teachers and parents the authority to turn their school into a charter school. To qualify, a school would have had to be in the bottom 5 percent of Michigan’s schools. Additionally, a petition, with signatures of either 60 percent of parents and legal guardians or signatures of 51 percent of parents and legal guardians and 60 percent of teachers, would have been required in order to reform the school.
House Bill 5776 did not make it out of House Education Committee. The bill, sponsored by Representative Maureen Stapleton (D-Detroit), would have required that school officials obtain written permission from parents in order for their children to be placed in the classroom of a teacher rated ‘ineffective’.
Yet one more bill to pass in the last-minute rush of Lame Duck is SB 353, a bill that appears to criminalize driving under the influence of “intoxicating substances.” However, the laundry list of “intoxicating substances” includes anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, seizure medication, and the like.
The intent, according to the Michigan State Police, is not to start pulling-over every driver to screen for these “intoxicating substances,” but instead to go after people using those drugs illicitly; not one pill, but all the pills. Not one dose of Nyquil; the entire bottle, and thus their driving is clearly affected. However, the unintended consequences appear to be to potentially criminalize people safely taking appropriate doses of legal prescriptions.
Language has been suggested that may fix the problem that SB 353 exacerbates:
It is an affirmative defense to a violation of this section that the intoxicating substance was a drug legally prescribed to the individual and all of the following apply:
1) The individual was not exceeding the dosage as prescribed by the physician
2) The prescribing physician or pharmacist had not directed the person, in verbal or written material, to refrain from operating a motor vehicle
3) If there is evidence of consumption of alcohol, the prescribing physician or pharmacist had not directed the person, in verbal or written material, to refrain from consuming alcohol while taking the drug
State of the State and Other Notes
The legislature has commenced with session, starting January 9. That is the constitutionally-mandated beginning of session (the second Tuesday of January), but all the legislature did was elect leadership (Jase Bolger, R – Marshall, was again elected Speaker).
On Wednesday, January 16, Governor Snyder gave his 3rd State of the State address. A copy of the notes from his speech are attached. Of note:
- Blue Cross Blue Shield reform is at the top of the Governor’s Agenda; SB 61 and 62 have just been introduced (Senator Joe Hune, R – Hamburg Twp) and are on a fast-track
- Education reform – namely the expansion of Detroit’s existing education authority into a statewide Education Achievement Authority, is also a huge priority; the legislation last year, though, was problematic enough that the legislature let the bills expire without a vote in December;
- In April, the Governor will hold an education summit; it will explore school safety and early detection of mental health issues. The Governor called for more mental health workers in schools.
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