State lawmakers return to the capital Tuesday for the start of a marathon three-week session where the outgoing GOP House and Senate leaders hope to cement their legacies by settling some contentious issues.
Gay rights, higher taxes for road fixes, sentencing reform and changing Michigan's century-old system for awarding presidential candidates' electoral votes are among the biggest — and most controversial — issues looming as the Legislature reconvenes.
But none have the magnitude that rocked Lansing two years ago when the Republican-controlled Legislature fast-tracked legislation to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk. Lawmakers made Michigan a right-to-work state where union dues are voluntary and refined an emergency manager law that Snyder used to take Detroit through bankruptcy.
This year could be different.
For the full article, see Gary Heinlein, "Lawmakers face gay rights, road tax, election issues", Detroit Free Press, November 27, 2014.
The Obama administration's proposed reduction in ground-level ozone — the key pollutant leading to smoggy summer days — has some manufacturers taking a deep breath.
The proposed revision, announced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday, would reduce allowable ozone emissions from 75 parts per billion to a range between 65 and 70 parts per billion — but the EPA is also taking comments on possibly reducing the level to as low as 60 parts per billion.
"Bringing ozone pollution standards in line with the latest science will clean up our air, improve access to crucial air quality information and protect those most at-risk," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement.
But an official with the Michigan Manufacturers Association said such a reduction will come at a price.
For the full article, see Keith Matheny, "Michigan manufacturers: EPA smog proposal could hurt us", Detroit Free Press, November 27, 2014.
State Senators will move their offices next year from the aging, state-owned Farnum Building to a more luxurious, relatively new office tower owned by the Boji family — a generous contributor to Republican candidates and political action committees.
The Senate approved the sale of the Farnum building last year, but the Michigan Strategic Fund acted this week to issue $70 million in tax-exempt bonds to purchase and renovate seven of the nine floors of the Capitol View building, which was built in 2005, and lease the space back to the state Senate for offices.
The move will displace 315 state Department of Community Health employees from the Capitol View, and put the Farnum building up for sale with a price tag yet to be determined. Kurt Weiss, spokesman for the state budget office said there have been no decisions made on whether or where the DCH employees would move.
For the full article, see Kathleen Gray, "Michigan Senate looking to move offices one block", Detroit Free Press, November 27, 2014.
Gov. Rick Snyder today issued a Thanksgiving greeting for the people of Michigan.
“Hello and happy Thanksgiving!
“What a wonderful time to be thankful for family, friends, and all the great things we have in our lives.
“Thanksgiving is a story about people of different backgrounds learning from one another – and giving thanks for all they share.
“Over the past few years we’ve worked together to get through some difficult times. And people came together from all across our state to help one another.
“Michigan is a big home for 10 million people. Many came here from different states and countries. We have different religions, some speak different languages. But we’re all Michiganders.
“We have talented people, good jobs, strong industries, and outstanding universities. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by some of the greatest natural beauty in the world. Whether it’s the Great Lakes, the Sleeping Bear dunes, or our trails and rivers, it’s great to call Michigan “home.”
“I’m thankful for these things, and for the opportunity to serve you as governor.
“I hope you and your family enjoy your time together. Have a great Thanksgiving.”
For the full article, see "Gov. Rick Snyder sends wishes for happy Thanksgiving", Michigan Newswire, November 26, 2014.
Detroit's two pension fund boards must submit their legal and consulting fees to review by the watchdog appointed to keep the fees reasonable in Detroit's Chapter 9 bankruptcy.
Judge Steven Rhodes on Wednesday ordered the General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System to submit a list of their fees and expenses to fee examiner Robert Fishman.
The pension boards had argued that they should not be subjected to the review process because they are legally independent of the city of Detroit.
But Rhodes ruled that the boards' bankruptcy fees would effectively reduce the amount available to pay pensions, thus increasing the amount the city must devote to pensions.
"The record is clear that any funds that the retirement systems use to pay professional fees and expenses in this case are funds that are not available to meet the City's obligations to its retirees," Rhodes said in a written opinion.
For the full article, see Nathan Bomey, "Judge: Pension boards' bankruptcy fees must be reviewed", Detroit Free Press, November 27, 2014.
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