Lame duck sessions in Michigan since 2010 are more accurately described as “inflamed duck” sessions. Michigan Republicans ram more bills through in a couple of weeks than they do nearly the entire rest of the year. Two years ago, for example, they passed – I’m not making this up – 282 bills during lame duck. So much happens so fast that it’s almost impossible to effectively push back.
Here’s a little taste of what happened Wednesday and yesterday. And while many people are blaming this on Democratic voters who stayed home on election day this year, the reality is that this is a result of the 2012 election, NOT this year’s election. That crew of even more conservative Republicans hasn’t even been sworn into office yet.
KILLED OFF EXPANDING CIVIL RIGHTS TO THE LGBT COMMUNITY, ALLOWING THE BILL TO DIE IN COMMITTEE
As I mentioned yesterday, Republicans killed off an expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to cover the LGBT community. This is being ludicrously framed as being the fault of the LGBT community who aren’t willing to settle for half a loaf of bread and instead to go hungry. The reality is that LGBT advocates are LGBT advocates, not LGB advocates. They understand that half a loaf – leaving the transgender community behind – is not acceptable. It would be like that African American community being okay with expanding civil rights without including African Americans who are left-handed. For The Detroit News to cast this as a failure based on greed is not just absurd, it’s offensive.
PASSED A “LICENSE TO DISCRIMINATE” BILL OUT OF COMMITTEE AND THE HOUSE IN THE SAME AFTERNOON
As Amy wrote about yesterday, Republicans passed the odious Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) out of the House yesterday and it’s being fast-tracked to pass in the Senate. This bill was supposed to be a concession to passify anti-gay bigots outraged that Michigan would dare to treat the LGBT community as equal members of our society with actual civil rights. However, with the death of ELCRA expansion, it’s simply a gift to religious bigots who want to use their religion as a weapon against those they do not like and, in fact, hate.
Click through to Amy’s piece for details on contacting your Senator to urge them to vote NO on this bill.
HOUSE PASSED PACKAGE OF BILLS TO ALLOW DENY ADOPTION PLACEMENT OF CHILDREN INTO SPECIFIC HOMES BASED ON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Along the same bigoted line as RFRA, House bills 4927, 4928, and 4991 passed the House and allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children into the homes of LGBT or other families based on religious beliefs. In the minds of Michigan Republicans, a foster home is better than a forever home if the forever parents are gay.
More on this issue in Emma’s piece HERE.
HOUSE PASSED BILL TO LABEL BURNING GARBAGE “RENEWABLE ENERGY”
Last year, I wrote about a bill sponsored by ALEC member Aric Nesbitt that would allow corporations to burn garbage, call it renewable energy, and receive tax credits for it!. The bill, H.B. 5205 passed the House yesterday.
Even the House Fiscal Agency says this will have a “nominal” impact on state tax revenues. In other words, this is a big fat wet kiss to Big Energy corporations who can fatten up their bottom line by burning garbage.
One silver lining: the bill has been revised to remove pet coke as a renewable energy source. See? It ain’t ALL bad [eyeroll].
Here’s Democratic Representative Sam Singh’s commentary via Facebook:
HOUSE PASSED BILLS TO PAY FOR ROAD FUNDING BY TAKING MONEY FROM SCHOOLS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
I’ve written before about Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger’s outrageous plan to pay for road funding by taking money from schools. If signed into law, this would take $750 million per year out of our classrooms. When he floated this ridiculous plan, not many people took it seriously enough to believe Republicans would act on it.
They were wrong. Yesterday it was passed by the House and is on its way to the Senate.
Here’s Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer’s blistering response:
This stunt by the House Republicans to claim we can solve our road funding problem by stealing money from schools and local communities shows a complete lack of leadership on an issue that needs to get resolved. They themselves acknowledge in this bill that the economics don’t add up and inserted a trigger to repeal the entire act when that becomes painfully obvious to our budget, a move that would create even more uncertainty for the Department of Transportation and road builders than already exists now.
The people of Michigan want long term, bipartisan solutions like we were able to achieve in the plan passed by the Senate, not more political shell games that not only wouldn’t solve the problem, but would create a host of new ones.
I urge Governor Snyder to tell his Republican colleagues to get back to work, do their jobs and be the leaders they were elected to be.
HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSED BILL TO PROHIBIT COLLEGE ATHLETES FROM UNIONIZING
This one actually happened on Wednesday. Although there are no plans in the works for Michigan’s college athletes to unionize, Republicans wanted to be sure they didn’t get any bright ideas. I guess they don’t want sports revenues compromised in any way. That way they don’t have to increase aid from the state government.
HOUSE PASSED BILL TO DRUG TEST WELFARE RECIPIENTS
A bill passed by the Senate earlier this year was passed in a modified form this week by the House. It sets up a pilot program for “suspicion-based” drug testing of welfare recipients and includes $500,000 to pay for the drug testing. What constitutes “suspicion” is up for debate. The bill simply requires the use of an “empirically validated substance abuse screening tool”, often a pencil and paper test like the The Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Inventory (SASSI).
Why corporate leaders receiving state funding aren’t required to be tested is
Sadly, the inflamed duck is still burning and we have much more to contend with. On the horizon are bills to make it easier to put schools under emergency management based on a “deficit early warning” (DEW) system as well as a plan to take away local control in the form of “Community Benefits Agreements”. This bill was introduced just this week and will likely be passed into law quickly. According to the House Fiscal Agency’s analysis, the bill does two things:
- Prohibits local units of government from creating a “community benefits ordinance” under which contractors or developers, when developing certain parcels of property, would have to hire certain employees, pay certain wages or benefits, engage certain subcontractors or local businesses, or engage in similar activities, in exchange for grants
tax abatements or exemptions, the transfer of property, or other economic development incentives.
- Prohibits local units from establishing any requirement related to employee wages or benefits, such as a minimum wage, particular benefits, a specified amount of paid or unpaid leave time, or the payment of a prevailing wage except as provided by law.
In other words, these Republicans who claim to worship at the altar of local control want to make sure that things are done according to their patriarchal plan and that local municipalites aren’t able to to what they wish.
Democratic State Representative Rashida Tlaib of Detroit had this to say:
House Bill 5977 sets up the state as a dictatorship telling local units of government that they cannot do what is best for their community, workers and residents when it comes to wages and benefits tied to economic development in that community. If local governments can’t have community benefit agreements or ordinances, then they are at the mercy of developers. I’ve seen what happens in Detroit communities when developers come in and do whatever they want, and that’s why HB 5977 is such a bad idea.
HB 5977 would hurt Detroit because it would prohibit Mayor Mike Duggan and our city council from using all available tools to create jobs in our community and get the best deal from developers who get tax abatements and often free land transfers for their projects. We give all kinds of benefits to the big developers, and now House Republicans are saying that the people who live and work near these huge construction projects don’t deserve similar consideration and benefits. That’s wrong and leaves residents without a say in what happens in their communities.
There is a House Michigan Competitiveness Standing Committee Meeting hearing on this topic next week:
Standing Committee Meeting
Michigan Competitiveness, Rep. Mike Shirkey, Chair
DATE: Tuesday, December 9, 2014
TIME: 8:30 AM
PLACE: Room 326, House Office Building, Lansing, MI
HB 5977 (Rep. Poleski) Labor; benefits; mandatory wage, benefit, or leave time requirements; prohibit local units of government from establishing for employers.
Committee Clerk: David Mead
Individuals who wish to bring written testimony need to supply a minimum of thirty copies for distribution.
Individuals needing special accommodations to participate in the meeting may contact the Chair’s office.
Schedule changes or cancellations available at http://www.house.mi.gov/publiccommitteeschedule/
Hang on to your hats, folks. This ain’t over, not by a long shot. We still have six more days to go, starting next Tuesday.