Who won, lost in 1st quarter of Michigan legislative session
Lansing — The first quarter of the legislative session was dominated by Michigan voters' rejection of the previous Legislature's road-funding proposal and passage of a new state budget.
Lawmakers also tackled issues such as adoptions, criminal sentences and school bake sales. Here's a look at the winners and losers in the first six months of the two-year session:
The resounding defeat of tax increases linked to more road spending means motorists continue to have deteriorating roads. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-led Legislature agreed to shift $400 million in general funds to transportation in the next budget, but $1.2 billion is the minimum road officials say they need to keep infrastructure from falling into disrepair and from costing more to pave later. A House-passed alternative relies largely on existing tax revenue. The Senate plans to unveil a proposal soon. A compromise could come this summer, though the fall is more likely when legislators resume a full-time voting schedule — with another construction season lost.
Faith-based adoption agencies: Winners
Catholic Charities and other faith-based adoption agencies that handle foster care and adoption placements for the state won approval of a Republican law letting them turn away applicants for religious reasons. Supporters say it codifies existing practice and ensures the viability of private agencies, which receive $20 million a year in state funds for adoptions. Opponents vow a lawsuit and say the measure discriminates against gays and unmarried people wanting to adopt. The law, which Snyder signed before a pending U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, could keep faith-based agencies' footprint intact depending on court rulings.
Local governments: Losers
Snyder is likely to sign legislation that would prohibit municipalities from requiring businesses to pay wages, benefits or provide sick days exceeding state or federal requirements, a win especially for the restaurant lobby and a loss for organized labor and city officials asserting local-control rights. The bill also would prevent the future enactment of local measures under which construction workers on municipal public works projects are paid more. Michigan's law mandating prevailing wages on state-financed projects remains intact, though conservatives are organizing a petition drive so Republican legislators can repeal the law over Snyder's opposition.
Young offenders: Winners
A bipartisan law makes more criminals eligible for a second chance by raising the age limit to qualify for a diversion program for younger offenders. The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act let judges issue a sentence that does not result in a conviction or criminal record if the offender was 17 to 20 years old at the time of the offense and completes probation, jail or prison without incident after pleading guilty. The law expands eligibility to those who commit a crime when they are 21, 22 or 23.
Film incentives: Loser
Snyder is likely to sign a bill that would end incentives that encourage the production of movies, TV shows, video games and Internet and music videos in Michigan. Critics say the spending is unjustified. Backers say it helps Michigan compete with other states in landing productions. The program began in 2008 as a refundable tax credit and was converted to a cash incentive in late 2011. The state paid out $225 million in credits as of December 2013. It has disbursed another $33 million under the new incentives program, an amount that will grow once already-authorized projects are finished.
Unhealthy snacks: Winners
A law allows brownies, candy and other snacks to be sold again at in-school bake sale fundraisers. The state Education Department had allowed no exemptions to new federal nutrition standards. Now schools can host at least two fundraisers a week that violate the guidelines.
Welfare recipients with truant children: Losers
A law makes permanent a policy under which families whose children skip school lose their welfare benefits. Families lose eligibility for cash assistance if a child under 16 fails to meet attendance requirements. Under current policy, benefits may be restored if the child attends school for 21 consecutive days.
Veteran students: Winners
A law aims to make veterans and active-duty military members attending college eligible to receive academic credits for some of their military experience.
Private prison: Winner
A law allows minmum-security prisoners at a privately owned prison 65 miles north of Grand Rapids. The GEO Group has announced contracts to house up to 1,000 Washington state inmates and 675 Vermont prisoners at the North Lake Correctional Facility near Baldwin. Michigan stopped sending its young inmates there in 2005.
Budget winners include lower-funded school districts and those with many disadvantaged students, charter schools, low-income children in need of dental services in Michigan's three largest counties, the Pure Michigan advertising campaign, efforts to test backlogged rape evidence, the state's "rainy day" fund and an academy to train new state troopers.
Budget losers include higher-funded K-12 districts that meet state benchmarks and whose students do better academically, economic development programs, a juvenile justice facility near Ann Arbor pegged for closure and Human Services staffing levels.
Follow David Eggert at http://twitter.com/DavidEggert00
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.