Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's 2 AM. Do you know where your legislator is?

Capitol Dome With Clouds
According to our logs, they were still in Lansing. Hits in the middle of the night. 2:31 am. 3:33 am. And just now 4:57 am.


No MIRS, no Gongwer yesterday. Dave Eggert at the AP checked in 12:20, and the story was updated this morning to include the news that they were still there at 4:30 am.


Both the Democratic-led House and Republican-controlled Senate began swapping a slew of bills with spending guidelines for individual state departments for the budget year that starts Oct. 1. But bipartisan support was lacking as debate over bills rolled into early Thursday morning.


Senate Republicans approved 10 bills at spending levels about $163 million below Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm's recommendations. House Democrats, meanwhile, prepared separate bills that would spend more than the governor proposed, including doubling parts of her original 2.5 percent funding increase for public universities.


House providing funding, Senate shooting low (but not as low as they claim they need to shoot) and not a lot of details as of this morning. One interesting tidbit from the Detroit News-


Senate bills generally will call for spending less than Granholm has recommended for such departments as the State Police. House bills call for added spending on higher education.


Weren't the Republicans the ones running around with their hair on fire over prison reforms? And now they vote to cut the budget for the State Police? Very curious.


Craig DeRoche was obviously up way past his bedtime. There, there, Craig. It will be OK. Andy says so over the flip...


The Democrat-led House passed budget bills for K-12 schools late Wednesday. But final passage of bills for universities and community colleges stalled early Thursday, although the House remained in session as of 4:30 a.m.


-snip-


During debate on the K-12 schools budget, House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, proposed a tongue-in-cheek amendment to raise school funding by $1 trillion.




Sounds like someone needed some warm milk and a lullaby.


Dillon makes good on his promise to talk to the press.


"We still have to have the process where we get budgets moving back and forth so we're done by Sept. 30," Dillon said. "I'm very comfortable with this. I think we're saying this is ideally what we'd hope to do in this environment. But if we have a revenue shortage, we're going to have to look at paring some of them back."


Not so sure that middle of the night sessions are an ideal environment, but beggars can't be choosers. We wanted them to get to work - but we never expected them to try to do it all in one night.


The danger comes when they try to slip through things like this-


Senators also sparred over a GOP plan to privatize more of Michigan's foster care, adoption and juvenile justice systems and whether a new border crossing over the Detroit River should be public or private.


Turning over the kids to private profiteers is a potentially deadly move. Should we revisit what happened up at the Baldwin punk prison? Not only were there stories of abuse, the prison was not cost efficient.


Republicans have turned "privatization" into a windfall that benefits only their backers and gouges the taxpayer. The idea might have held promise at one time, but it is now just one more thing that the Bush Republicans have screwed up.


Word comes this morning that the lawmakers are headed back to Traverse City this weekend.


Uh-oh.


Dillon said he presented Bishop with a range of possible cuts and tax hikes to solve the budget problem. He wouldn't comment on a broadcast report that his proposals include an income tax increase from the current 3.9 percent to as much as 4.4 percent.


He described his proposals as "a menu of things" and said the two will continue to meet this weekend at a Traverse City meeting of more than 700 lawmakers from 11 Midwest states and three Canadian provinces.


The last trip up north has managed to land Michael Sak in the headlines almost every day for the past week in the Grand Rapids area. Better set a "two drink maximum" for lawmakers so we can avoid more embarrassing incidents, OK? OK.


More to come...