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The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. It influences public policy through education and advocacy.

Legislure Adjourns: Lame Duck Over

The Legislature adjourned early Friday morning after passing a road funding bill that many decry as a failure of leadership or a punt down the road because it leaves the decision on a key element, increasing the sales tax from 6% to 7%, to the voters in a special May election. The Michigan constitution requires a vote of the people to increase the sales tax and also requires that the vote to put it on the ballot pass the legislature with a 2/3 vote. That was why the final vote in the Senate was not until 5:30 am Friday. There was some horse trading in there. Read this Free Press article for details.

The legislators seemed to get the message that they did not want money from education to go to the roads. They claim the schools will actually get more funding. We'll have to see how that works out in practice.

The good news is there was no Electoral College "reform" and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was not passed by the Senate.

Term limited Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Witmer said at the end. "Days like today make it easier to say good-bye."

Latest on Lame Duck from Lansing Wednesday, December 17

The Governor and legislators have been struggling to work out a road funding plan and time is running out. Possibly tomorrow. Our local school superintendents have spoken up and made it clear that fiunding for roads should not come at the expense of the schools.

Nothing has been heard about electoral college "reform".

It appears the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB5958) is going nowhere in the Senate. The Governor has said he would have liked it coupled with expansion of the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act expansion of civil rights to the LGBT community.

Al Pscholka's bill HB6074 that would prohibit Michigan's public university athletes from being classified as public employees and thus able to unionize, sailed through both houses without hearings or discussion and is on its way to the Governor's office. There are conflicting reports, from an expected signing to the need for further study.

Lame Duck Report Monday December 9: LWVMI Issues Two Action Alerts

The League of Women Voters of Michigan has issued two Action Alerts encouraging members and other citizens to contact their legislators on two critical issues.

On Sunday morning the Action Alert was on the Bolger road funding plan (HB4539). This is the bill that Mr. Bolger said would provide adequate funding for infrastructure without raising taxes. It would do this by phasing out the current 6% sales tax on gasoline that currently goes for education and local governments and replacing it with another tax just for roads. The problem is it would leave a $700 million hole in the education budget -- which Jase Bolger says would eventually be filled by increased tax receipts. The bill now goes to the Senate. Since the Senate has its own, quite different road funding plan that would increase taxes, there will be negotiations.

The second Action Alert came out today in opposition to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB5958) passed by the House last week and going to the Senate. Supporters argue that the law would limit the government's ability to place a burden on the exercise of religion. They also say there is a federal Religious Freedom law and that 27 other states have similar laws. This is correct and it was the federal law that Hobby Lobby used in the Supreme Court in their succesul fight to limit contraception coverage in their employee insurance plan. Opponents argue it is a license to discriminate on a small to a large scale.

To keep up to date on what is going on the LWVMI Facebook page is a good place to go. Advocacy VP Judy Karandjeff is making regular posts.

Lame Duck Session Issues

To begin the week read a nice summary article from the Detroit Free Press. It does not, however, mention the Electoral College bill, which has had two committee hearings but has not been voted on yet by the House.

An interesting bill, HB6074, that would prohibit student athletes from unionizing is expected to be voted on this week. It is sponsored by our own Al Pscholka District 79. Mr. Pscholka feels student athletes are in school to get an education. Never mind that they are unpaid players in a hugely profitable business, that most colleges don't care if they get an education or not and that coaches are the highest paid public employees in most states, making about four times more than college presidents.

Here are some links to articles that have appeared elsewhere on some of these bills. Write your legislators and tell them where you stand.

Bolger Plan bill: From Leader Publications, an excellent letter by Superintendent Jarpeof the Brandywine School District . Also from the Detroit Free Press, an "article by Stephen Henderson".<http://www.freep.com/story/opinion/columnists/2014/11/28/roads-michigan-taxes-bolger-potholes/19633043/>

Religious Freedom Restoration Act: An article from the Free Press

Watch the Lame Ducks: Roads & Electoral College "Reform"

With the election over, the Advocacy team is shifting its attention to the legislature's lame duck session (this being the session before the outgoing legislators leave office and the incoming ones take office). Two years ago in its lame duck session the Michigan Legislature passed a record amount of legislation, including Right to Work. This year road funding and Electoral College "reform" are two of the big issues. The Governor says Electoral College reform is not on his agenda, but we have heard that before and perhaps a little horse trading will be involved?

On November 13 the Republicans set the stage, before leaving Lansing until December 2 for the hunting season and Thanksgiving. The Senate voted to approve a gas tax increase for road funding, HB5477, that sent a message. See the Free Press article.

Then Rep. Pete Lund introduced his latest Electoral College bill. It was quite different from his last bill, which would have allocated Michigan's electoral votes based on the vote in Congressional districts. This time the allocation would be based on the popular vote, with the candidate who wins the statewide vote getting at least 9 of the 16 electoral votes and maybe more, depending on the margin of victory. The losing candidate could also pick up votes. Read thIs article from Bridge for a more complete explanation. Of course, it could all change as the bill works it's way through committee and the House and Senate.

Any changes in the allocation of Electoral College votes will have national implications. The Republican National Committee has selected 5 "test states" for "reform", all states in which the Republicans control all branches of government. They are also all blue states; there are no red states on the test list. And tinkering with any long-standing system could have unintended consequences.

Lunch with the League "Aging Well in Michigan"

On November 12 League member Renee Reid-Smith spoke to members and guests about aging in Michigan specifically, but much of what she said would apply anywhere in the U.S. The audience was both fascinated and appalled at what they heard. So much so that future lunch meetings may focus on various aspects of elder care and health care generally. Renee is on the left in the picture and another League member, Linda Strohl is on the right. Linda is head of our area's Meals on Wheels program. Among other jobs, Renee is the governor-appointed Commissioner to the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging ("MCSA"), and represents our very own Area IV.

Dean Marie Lynn Miranda Speaks at Fernwood on October 23

The Dean of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment was the speaker at an event co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Fernwood Botanical Garden. She talked about the research on child mortality she started at Duke and continues in Ann Arbor . The U.S. rate is too high in every state, but the reasons are elusive. It's not just poverty or race or the lack of pre-natal care. Increasingly, however, results point to maternal environment being the principal culprit, specifically air pollution in high traffice areas.

In response to a question on the link between autism and the environment, Dean Miranda announced that her department is receiving a $1.6 million federal grant to examine the potential social and environmental links to autism.

District 21 and 79 Forum Videos Still Available

Watch the video of this forum. The candidates for District 21 State Senate are John Proos, shown at left, and Bette Pierman, shown at right. The candidates for District 79 State House are Al Pscholka, shown below left and Eric Lester, below right.


District 59 Forum Video Now Available!

Watch the video of the District 59 forum from Monday night October 13 featuring state representative candidates Mike Moroz, shown at right, and Aaron Miller, shown at left.

Photos by LWVBCC member Phil DeVore.

5th Judicial District Video Also Available!

Also available now is the 5th Judicial District Forum video with candidates Donna Howard, shown at left, and Stephen Smith, shown at right.

Photos by LWVBCC member Phil DeVore.

Evening at the Gallery Party October 2

Pictured here a group of League members posing for the camera of expert photogrpaher and League member Phil DeVore. From left to right John Ripley, Jean Sharp, Earl Bickett, Pat Lauth, Donna Dutton and Susan Gilbert.

A good time was had by all at this membership/election kick off party. Tom and Judy Burnison graciously made the Burnison Galleries available for our party and many local restaurants, food shops and caterers provided delicious treats.

LWVBCC Awarded Pokagon Grant!

LWVBCC was notified that it received a grant in August from the Pokagon Fund for the purchase of video recording equipment. This equipment will be used to record candidate forums; then these recordings will be posted on the internet. More voters will thereby be able to view the candidates performance "live" as they answer unscripted questions from the League and the audience.

The recording equipment will also be used to record various League presentations for later viewing by interested parties.

Many thanks to the Pokagon Fund for not only providing the funding for the purchase of this equipment, but also for recognizing the importance of getting candidate information out to the voters "live". It makes a difference to hear and see the candidates in a forum situation.

LWVBCC Newsletters

View our informative e-newsletter, published almost monthly. The December 2014 newsletter is now available. It is a copy of an e-newsletter and does not have the same professional appearance as the original. If you would like to join our mailing list email wm@lwvbcc.org.