Legislative Report for MAT - Judy Augenstein, Legislative Consultant - December 2013
Democrats, Republicans, former legislators and current legislators all agree that term limits are making it more difficult for the Legislature to get something big done to help the state’s roadways. Michigan’s transportation funding system is so complicated that it takes time to get a solid grasp on it, but once legislators have the needed understanding, many of them are moved out of office by term limits. Some say the setup leaves legislators with a choice to either do something fast or watch the push for a reform start over each new session.
Many legislators agree that the impact of term limits is just one of the problems plaguing Governor Rick Snyder’s push for $1.2 billion in new revenue for transportation. Earlier this year Snyder proposed increasing the gas tax and registration fees to help get the job done. The state’s gas tax has not been increased in 16 years. While gas price and technology have changed substantially over that time, so have the names of the individuals sitting in the House and the Senate.
Based on a recent “quadrant meeting,” it appears a deal to raise more money for roads is dead for the year. The four top legislative leaders recently met to discuss Governor Rick Snyder’s goal to raise money for roads. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) and House Minority Leader Tim Grimel (D-Auburn Hills) told Governor Snyder and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) that the “trust is gone” to negotiate on road funding because they see purely politics with recent legislative action.
The bottom line is that it is hard to raise serious money without fee and/or tax increases, which makes the politics bad for Democrats and Republicans alike heading into the 2014 election. Therefore, Snyder had settled for a piecemeal approach and told the leaders “just get something done.” It appears that is not going to happen because of trust issues, the upcoming election and the impact term limits has on institutional knowledge.
House Bill 4925 is sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser). The bill lowers truck weights to 80,000 pounds. Lane is the minority vice chair of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and has “lobbied” to have truck weights reduced during the entire time she has served on the committee. It is important to continue to monitor and lobby against this bill because of the negative impact it would have on the forestry community and other commodity haulers.
House Bill 4242, sponsored by Rep. Ken Goike (R-Ray Township) has completed legislative action. The bill is in response to a 2012 Supreme Court decision where an Idaho couple won their case and will be allowed to challenge the EPA over a wetland issue. The purpose of the bill is to require all administrative rules be necessary and not be overly burdensome to an individual.
Senator Mark Jansen (R-Grand Rapids) plans to meet with the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department director and MIOSHA in an effort to determine why LARA allows MIOSHA to treat religious sects differently than they do law abiding, tax-paying, insurance carrying businesses. Legislation to EXEMPT religious sects from carrying workers compensation insurance is being crafted. Legislation to REQUIRE religious sects to carry workers compensation as other business are required to carry will also be introduced by Rep. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City).