LANSING, MI — The Michigan House and Senate each passed bills this week, including the state’s long-negotiated budget, approved in the House with a significant boost to school funding.
As budget talks between the two chambers and the governor’s office continue, the Michigan Senate has teed up a bill to delay the statutory July 1 budget deadline if necessary.
Here’s more on all the latest developments in Michigan politics:
House passes budget bill, but its fate in Senate remains uncertain
In bipartisan votes late Thursday evening, the Michigan House approved budget bills with a big increase in funding for K-12 schools — but whether the Legislature can come to a final agreement on the funds before their self-imposed July 1 deadline remains up in the air.
The deal that passed the House was negotiated with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration, and the governor praised its passage in a statement. But the Senate was not immediately on board, adjourning until Wednesday, June 30. Talks between the House and Senate are ongoing.
Under the House-passed budget legislation, funding for K-12 schools clocks in at about $16.7 billion, up nearly 8% from current-year spending levels. The plan would fully eliminate gaps in per-pupil funding between school districts — all K-12 Michigan school districts would get $8,700 per pupil — and schools would get a minimum of $1,093 per student in federal pandemic funding.
The general fund budget under the House bills includes a 2% increase in statutory revenue sharing for local governments, but is otherwise similar to current-year spending. Some budget questions remain unsettled under the House budget proposal, including funding for community colleges and universities and how to allocate additional federal funding available to the state.
House leaders are eager to meet the statutory July 1 deadline agreed to in 2019 for determining an overall state budget and a school funding plan. But funding to equalize the amount of per-pupil spending for each school district remains a sticking point in the Senate.
Last week, the Michigan Senate teed up a bill to delay the statutory July 1 budget deadline if necessary. If it’s delayed again, it would be the second straight budget cycle in which lawmakers didn’t meet the statutory deadline.
Under the state Constitution, lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to craft a budget. But schools and local government leaders, which generally operate on a different fiscal year schedule, have long supported early adoption of budget bills so they have better clarity on what they’ll get from the state.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Senate Appropriations Chair Jim Stamas, R-Midland, said he’s committed to working with House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, and didn’t rule out the possibility of coming to an agreement by July 1.
Trump attacks Michigan Republicans over election report
Former President Donald Trump took aim at two Republican Michigan lawmakers in a statement issued Thursday after a report led by Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, debunked several false claims surrounding the results of the 2020 election.
Trump’s email hit the inboxes of his supporters one day after a Michigan Senate committee unveiled a report Wednesday morning that found no evidence of systematic voter fraud in the 2020 general election.
In the statement, Trump called the report – which used hours of public testimony and “countless” documents to conclude the 2020 general election was free from fraud – a “cover up.”
“Michigan State Senators Mike Shirkey and Ed McBroom are doing everything possible to stop Voter Audits in order to hide the truth about November 3rd,” the former president wrote.
Trump rehashed conspiracy theories about Detroit polling locations, which were the center of unsubstantiated fraud claims last November.
“The truth will come out and RINO’s will pay at the polls, especially with primary voters and expected challenges,” Trump said.
Trump ended the statement Thursday by leaving the phone numbers to Shirkey and McBroom’s office.
“Call those two Senators now and get them to do the right thing, or vote them the hell out of office!” Trump said.
The truth about the 2020 presidential election — that President Joe Biden legitimately won the state by 154,000 votes — wasn’t unequivocally espoused by many Republican leaders in Michigan until the announcement of the Republican-led report last week.
Still, one House Republican from Three Rivers told reporters this week that he isn’t sure whether or not Joe Biden’s victory in November was lawful.
On Tuesday, state House Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, introduced House Bill 5091, which would create a bipartisan audit board to review the 2020 general election, to complete what he described as a forensic audit.
Controversial election bills moving through Legislature
The House on Wednesday approved a controversial measure to require voters to show identification to cast a ballot, also tacking on a provision that would compel election workers to verify voters’ signatures at the polls.
As amended by the House, Senate Bills 303 and 304 would remove the option for voters to sign an affidavit of identity in lieu of providing official photo identification at the polls. Instead, a prospective voter who showed up without ID would be issued a provisional ballot and would have to later prove their identity to their local clerk for their vote to count.
Another House change would require election workers to compare a voter’s signature with digitized signatures in the state’s qualified voter file. If an election worker determines the signatures don’t match, voters would have to cast a provisional ballot and confirm their identity to local clerks within six days of the election.
Supporters of the measure say the changes would make Michigan’s elections more secure. But the legislation passed 58-52 over the opposition of House Democrats, who said the measures would put up additional barriers, especially for minority voters.
“This is nothing but modern-day Jim Crow laws created to mute the already voiceless,” said state Rep. Tenisha Yancey, D-Harper Woods. “These bills will only create more obstacles for those who already had so many obstacles to be able to maintain their rights to vote.”
Senate votes to end federal unemployment supplement
The Michigan Senate voted Tuesday to scrap the $300-per-week federal unemployment supplement offering additional money to people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
House Bill 4434, which cleared the Michigan House last week, was pitched by Republicans who supported the bill as a step towards “normalcy” as the state ends its COVID-19 restrictions, arguing the measure would help small businesses bolster hiring amid a crippling labor shortage.
As it’s written now, the legislation would end all additional federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits — including the PUA and PEUC programs — effective July 31. If passed, Michigan would join 26 states that have cut the extra $300-per-week benefit, 20 of which have cut all federal benefits.
The bill passed the Senate 19-16 over objections from Senate Democrats, whose attempts to amend the bill on the floor were unsuccessful.
The legislation was not granted immediate effect, however, meaning even if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed it, the existing benefits would not end before they’re set to expire on Sept. 6.
Whitmer, who has spoken in favor of continuing to use federal funding to boost the state’s economic recovery, would likely veto the bill.
Jewell Jones violates bond after providing court with ‘less than honest’ information
After providing a court with “less than honest information,” state Rep. Jewell Jones, D-Inkster, avoided jail Thursday, but has been ordered to undergo drug and alcohol testing for violating terms of his bond.
Livingston County District Judge Daniel Bain ordered the 26-year-old lawmaker to wear an alcohol ankle monitor, to comply with all terms and conditions of his bond and to immediately be tested for drugs following Thursday’s hearing.
The orders stem from an April drunken driving arrest in Handy Township. Jones faces charges of drunken driving, resisting police, possession of a weapon while under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving.
Livingston County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Christina Richards had recommended Jones be held in contempt of court, alleging that he was excused from drug and alcohol testing under false pretenses.
Bain said that the only reason he signed the order to allow Jones to forgo drug and alcohol testing was because he was under the impression he would be living at Camp Grayling during the entirety of his National Guard training.
Jones was unaware he was required to notify the court upon leaving the camp, his lawyer said.
“I think when you went to Camp Grayling, you knew you were going to go to your House commitments,” Bain said. “You were deceptive with your own attorney, less than candid with prosecutor’s office and with this court.”
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