Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Escape from Lansing: Lawmakers on the loose, Granholm cleans up the mess
Well, they are out. They are on the run. They are roaming free in your community, bragging about all the half-baked legislation they left in their wake as they roared out of town on the trail to justifying their existence. Hat in hand they will come to you soon and tell you about all the wonderful things they have done and oh, won't you please, pretty please, let them go back to Lansing to continue ignoring the needs of Michigan citizens?

As you contemplate that request, keep in mind this list of issues and proposals that were swept under the rug as they played political games designed to paint Granholm as "ineffective". By doing so, they have hurt our people, and hurt our state.

Yesterday Governor Granholm acted to extend special pay and benefits for state employees called to active military duty, one of the many things that the Legislature left undone as they ran out the door.

LANSING -Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today acted to extend indefinitely special pay and group insurance benefits for state employees called to active military duty after September 11, 2001. Under current Civil Service Commission rules, the special pay and benefits expire at the end of each fiscal year.

Executive Directive 2006-5, issued today by Governor Granholm, addresses one of the many pieces of unfinished business left behind by the Legislature last week when it adjourned for the fall recess.

"Our state employees who have been called to active military duty responded without hesitation; the least we can do is supplement their military pay and ensure that they and their families are covered by the state's group insurance plan until they are home and back to work," Granholm said. "While I am pleased to extend my gratitude to our troops on behalf of the state of Michigan, I am disappointed that state lawmakers failed to pass legislation on behalf of our military personnel in the public and private sector."

Not only did the lawmakers leave the troops in the lurch, they stiffed the college kids, too.

In addition to military protection bills left on the table last week, Granholm cited a list of bills left unfinished.

  • The New Merit Award scholarship - proposed in 2005, would allow every child in Michigan who continues their education beyond high school to earn a $4,000 Scholarship.

  • Some theorize that DeRoche, under orders from DeVos, blocked this deal just to deny Granholm the win. Sikkema was ready to sign off, but Craig, who thought it was necessary to blow a $2 billion dollar hole in the budget, called it "irresponsible".

    Moving down the list-

  • Stem Cell research - legislation removing limits on stem cell research in Michigan.

  • Michigan has some of the most restrictive laws in the country on stem cell research. Not only is the Legislature denying citizens the potential for cures to life threatening illness, they are hurting the state by driving away researchers, companies and ultimately jobs connected with life science industries.

    The list of unfinished business is long, but there was one interesting omission from the Governor that needs to be mentioned- the SBT. While there isn't a "bill" in front of the Legislature, they left the SBT work undone as they wait for "studies". Or a reading on the wooly caterpillars. Or a sign from God. Or something. Actually, what they are waiting for is the time that they won't have to face the consequences of the cut- after the election when you can't touch them.

    That inaction, though, is having real world consequences right now as businesses are left in limbo on tax rates and abatements.

    From James Epolito, who is still trying to be a good cheerleader for recruitment, but is also faced with the daunting task of convincing business to locate/expand here with only uncertainty and vague promises, comes this-

    James Epolito, head of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. that oversees the MEGA program, said it's tougher to lure companies now that he can't promise what the tax abatements will look like.

    "The other state and countries are putting firm offers out," he said. "I can't guarantee."

    At a time when job creation is crucial, our Republican lawmakers have made it harder for companies to invest and hire. Even Dick said so, which was rather confusing because it is said that he instructed them to break the deal that was reached on the SBT last year.

    A complete over-view of Republican malfeasance would take forever. Here is the rest of the bullet list from the release that highlights the inaction of our lawmakers.

  • 401(K) program - a 401(k) plan like the state's plan for those workers of small companies who do not offer a pension plan.

  • Bullying - requiring every school district in Michigan to have tough and effective anti-bullying policies.

  • Corporate Responsibility - passing measures that will demand high standards of corporate responsibility from any business that seeks a state grant.

  • Ethics for Officeholders - legislation establishing higher ethical standards and stricter, more comprehensive disclosure requirements, barring political contribution delivery and solicitation in public buildings, prohibiting gift payments such as honorarium, and imposing a 1-year ban on lobbying by former officials.

  • Election Reform - reducing bureaucracy for overseas voters and allowing no-excuse absentee voting to reduce lines on Election Day.

  • Medical Privacy - providing patient confidentiality regarding the maintenance and disclosure of medical records and certain health information.

  • Increased Penalties for Drive by Shooting - doubling the penalty for any person who intentionally fires a weapon from a vehicle, snowmobile, or off-road vehicle.

  • ID Theft - new protections against identity theft in Michigan.

  • After School Programs for Middle Schoolers - a program that focuses on math, science, and computer technology to help students meet local, state and federal standards and better prepare them for more rigorous high school curriculum expectations.

  • Early Childhood Education - investing in greater support for early childhood learning.

  • Regional Collaboration - providing incentive for state and local partnership on economic development projects that will have a significant, long-term transforming impact on the economy of Michigan.

  • School Consolidation - requiring the Department of Education to take steps to assist public schools to operate more efficiently.

  • Whew. What the heck have they been doing, anyway?

    Here is one thing that managed to get through- the House passed a bill on drug testing for welfare recipients, because nothing says "election year pandering" like going after the poor.

    Thing is, testing is already in place. Not quite sure how this differs from what we have now, but it sounds like it really wasn't necessary given all the other things they should have been doing.

    The bill would allow for drug testing of a family assistance recipient if a Department of Human Services employee has a reasonable suspicion the recipient has been using drugs.

    Because the DHS employees don't have enough to do as it is.

    Democrats said the legislation wasn't needed because state could give drug tests to welfare recipients now.

    At which point the Republicans took yet another shot at Granholm. Par for the course. They can't be held responsible.

    This goes to the Senate after the break, along with all the other unfinished issues- AND they are supposed to craft a replacement for the SBT, too, before the end of the year. They are going to be very, very busy.

    Just think, you don't get to hold them accountable after the election. They will be free to slash and burn at will, and there won't be a thing you can do about it. And if the unthinkable happens and DeVos is elected... the slashing and burning will be massive.

    Do something about it now. Time to throw out the game players that hold us back only to please the big money donors and social extremists that dominate the Republican Party.

    Re-elect Granholm, and fire your local Republican. Perhaps then we can get some things done and move our state forward.