12.18.14:  Michigan road funding talks down to final day


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Talks over raising taxes to repair deteriorating Michigan roads have come down to the last day of voting in the Legislature this year.

Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders plan to resume negotiations Thursday morning in hopes of brokering a minimum $1.2 billion deal. A solution may be done through legislation only, a ballot measure proposed for a statewide vote or a combination of both.

Legislators are planning for a marathon session that may stretch into Friday.

Snyder says talks are centered on a number of principles. They include generating an extra $1.2 billion a year for transportation funding, not harming K-12 and municipal budgets, making sure taxes at the pump go to roads, keeping fuel taxes in check and preventing a tax hike from disproportionately affecting lower- and middle-class residents.

He says lawmakers are “heading in a direction where it may be possible to check those boxes.”

12.17.14:  Michigan road funds deal in doubt this session


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders are still talking about how to raise taxes to improve Michigan’s roads, as chances rise that no deal will be struck before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

The Republican governor says negotiators are trying to balance at least five priorities by Thursday’s deadline. They will meet again Wednesday after days of talks.

Top legislators’ main concerns include generating at least $1.2 billion more a year for transportation infrastructure but not harming schools and local governments also funded in part by a sales tax on fuel. Other priorities range from ensuring taxes at the pump go to road repairs and that they aren’t too high.

Snyder says that negotiators are “in the hunt” to strike a deal and “we are not just going in circles.”

12.17.14:  Bills signed to create parolee work certificate


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation allowing Michigan inmates released on parole to be given a work certificate if they complete a career and technical education course and meet other requirements.

The “certificate of employability” would be good for four years and is geared to helping reduce the high unemployment rate among parolees.

They could show the document to potential employers as evidence of job training, no major misconduct in prison and that they passed work skills assessments. The state Corrections Department would have to revoke the certificate if a prisoner commits another felony.

Snyder said in a statement after Tuesday’s signing that: “Finding employment … helps parolees become productive members of society and it saves taxpayers money.”

The legislation requires the state to give released inmates documents regarding their criminal convictions, history behind bars and whether they obtained degrees or completed other programs while incarcerated. It also would let employers cite a certificate of employability as evidence that they were not negligent in hiring someone with a criminal history.

Meanwhile, Snyder signed a bill that seeks to modernize licensing practices and requirements and defines common phrases across the debt management industry. Snyder’s office says the bill brings Michigan more in line with current business practices.

Snyder also signed legislation to enable Michigan and Indiana to continue working together through Jan. 1, 2018, to survey the Michigan-Indiana state line. The original partnership calling for shared responsibilities and costs was established in 2010 and was due to expire.


12.15.14:  Michigan Senate meeting for rare Monday session


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Senate is meeting for a rare Monday session as lawmakers enter their final week of voting this year.


Legislation not approved this week will die and have to be reintroduced in the next two-year session that begins in January.


The top issue for Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders remains a potential tax increase to boost road funding. The Republican-led House and Senate have approved different transportation funding plans. One would raise fuel taxes, and the other would effectively divert funding from schools and local governments and instead direct it to the transportation budget.


If a deal is reached, House-Senate conference committees could begin meeting as early as Monday but more likely Tuesday or later.

12.12.14:  Number of bills make it’s way to the House


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The  Michigan Senate has voted to make it a crime to coerce a woman to have an abortion against her will. The bills approved 26-11 yesterday next go to the House.


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — and some other online retailers would have to collect Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax on purchases under legislation approved by the state Senate. Backers say the bills would level the playing field because brick-and-mortar businesses already must assess the tax on customers. The legislation passed yesterday heads to the House.


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan legislative leaders have named four Republicans and two Democrats to serve on House-Senate conference committees that will consider competing road funding bills in the final week of the session. The three House members are Republicans Jim Stamas of Midland and Rob VerHeulen of Walker, and Democrat Marilyn Lane of Fraser. The three Senate members are Republicans Arlan Meekhof of West Olive and Mike Kowall of White Lake, and Democrat Jim Ananich of Flint.

12.11.14:  Lawmakers face last chance to approve new bills


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — It’s the last chance for Michigan lawmakers to begin approving new bills and have any hope of seeing them signed into law this year.

Under the state constitution, all legislation passed for the first time by the House or Senate can’t be voted on by the other chamber for five days. That means Thursday is pivotal because the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn next week.

Bills not passed initially Thursday must be reintroduced in the next two-year session.

It’s a day the Republican-led Legislature could effectively decide the fate of a number of contentious bills. They cover issues such as auto title loans, coerced abortions, barring local governments from demanding that developers meet wage and hiring thresholds, and forcing online retailers to collect Michigan’s 6 percent sales tax.

12.11.14:  Recount confirms narrow GOP Senate race victory


KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) — A recount confirms that Republican Margaret O’Brien narrowly beat Democrat Sean McCann in the race for the 20th District state Senate seat in Kalamazoo County.

The recount completed Wednesday concludes that O’Brien got 61 more votes than McCann. He asked for the recount after the original count showed him losing by 59 votes in the Nov. 4 election.

Both candidates are state representatives with terms ending this month.

The final count shows O’Brien with 36,645 votes, or 45.58 percent. McCann has 36,584 votes, or 45.50 percent.

The race also had a strong Libertarian candidate. The county says Lorence Wenke got 7,171 votes, or 8.92 percent.

That’s 92 fewer votes than he got in the original count.


12.11.14:  Drug testing of welfare recipients sent to Snyder


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Adult welfare recipients who are suspected of substance abuse would be given drug tests under Republican-backed legislation headed to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

The bills receiving final legislative approval Wednesday would start a suspicion-based drug-testing pilot program in at least three counties. The pilot would last for one year.

If recipients of cash assistance who are thought to be using illegal drugs refuse to be tested, they would lose benefits for at least six months. Recipients who test positive the first time would be offered treatment. Repeat offenders would be ineligible for welfare but could reapply if they later test negative.

The Republican-led Senate voted 26-10 along party lines to send the legislation to Snyder.

Republicans say people shouldn’t be able to spend public funds on drugs. Democrats say the bills target the poor and should have been amended to also require drug testing of business executives whose companies get tax incentives or other public aid.

Michigan has roughly 80,000 welfare recipients, 21,000 of them adults age 18 and older who could be subject to drug testing depending on which counties were selected for the pilot.


12.1.14:  Lawmakers return for Lame Duck Session


WASHINGTON (AP) — The lame-duck session of Congress starts today with a loaded list of things to do in just about two weeks — all without letting disagreements spin into a government shutdown. The list includes keeping the government running into the new year, renewing expired tax breaks and approving a defense policy measure that has passed for more than 50 years in a row. The Republicans take over come January.


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers have three weeks left in their lame-duck session to enact a potentially wide-ranging assortment of bills, topped by a measure to significantly boost road funding.

The Republican-led Senate’s recent approval of a bill to more than double state gasoline and diesel taxes over four years faces an “uphill climb” in the GOP-controlled House, says Speaker Jase Bolger. He’s floating an alternative to gradually eliminate the state sales tax at the pump while raising per-gallon fuel taxes a corresponding amount.

Legislation not approved in December will die but can be reintroduced in the next two-year session starting in January.

Lawmakers also will debate criminal sentencing changes, gay discrimination and religious liberty bills, teacher evaluations, film incentives and changing how Michigan allocates electoral votes to presidential candidates.


11.19.14:  Nativity scene proposed for Michigan Capitol lawn


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan officials are considering whether a Christian Nativity scene and a counter-display from a secularist group should join the state Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn this holiday season.

The State Capitol Commission on Monday agreed to contract with the Michigan attorney general’s office for a part-time staff attorney over six months for $37,000. The attorney would advise the commission on various issues, including the request to place a representation of the birth of Jesus at the state Capitol.

Commission member John Truscott says he expects the office will approve the Nativity with the same conditions as demonstrations that are frequently held on the grounds. He declined to say who made the request.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation based in Madison, Wisconsin, said Tuesday it would request a counter-display if the Nativity is approved.