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Posted on 02.01.2016 Under Legislative

Monthly Legislative Report for MAT

Judy Augenstein, recipe Legislative Consultant

February 2016

A sometimes emotional Governor Rick Snyder accepted blame at the State of the State address for the state’s role in lead contamination in some parts of Flint, proposing $28 million for short-term aid and promising to spend the remaining three years of his administration healing the city’s wounds.  Governor Snyder delivered his sixth State of the State address facing circumstances unlike any governor has faced.

The governor, his staff and entire administration are under siege for how they responded to concerns about water quality and lead contamination in Flint’s drinking water.  The task force Snyder created to figure out what went wrong said in its preliminary findings the main responsibility fell to the Department of Environmental Quality for failing to ensure corrosion control treatment once the city switched from the Detroit water system to the more corrosive Flint river as an interim water source.
During the State of the State address Republicans whooped and hollered to support the governor while Democrats sat in silence for most of the speech.  Outside the Capitol Building, hundreds of protesters roared their disapproval throughout the speech.  In the 49 minute address, using a prepared text for the first time in the annual speech instead of an outline, Snyder spoke for 15 minutes on Flint.
Governor Snyder also devoted a chunk of his speech to the crisis in the Detroit Public Schools, which could run out of money before the end of the school year and risk defaulting on some obligations to vendors.  A somewhat surprising amount of the the speech was devoted to other topics including the creation of commissions to recommend changes to governance and finance in public education and enhance the economy.
Snyder said he is establishing a commission to make recommendations on upgrading the state’s infrastructure with a report due in September.  Water lines, natural gas lines, sewage pipes, water pumps, electrical lines and more are urgent needs.  Snyder plans to issue an executive order requiring MDOT to confer with local officials and utilities on every new road project because that is the best time to fix broader infrastructure, which often runs beneath roads.
Governor Snyder said he wants to create commissions on 21st century education and building the 21st century economy.  He put a little more detail on the education commission, saying he wants it to study the many goals and recommendations from the multitude of task forces and studies on education and develop recommendations on a public education structure, governance and finance.
The Legislature is working to find funding for the Detroit Public School situation while Detroit school workers continue to hold “sick outs” (calling in sick) canceling school at most Detroit area schools.  The Legislature has appropriated $20 million towards the Flint water crisis and more funding is expected. These two issues are the top legislative issues being addressed at this point.
That being said, we continue to position and move our issues forward.
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