<![CDATA[Michigan House Democrats Site Feed]]> http://www.housedems.com <![CDATA[House Dems Propose Bills to Add Disclosure to State Contracts]]> http://www.housedems.com/multimedia/videos/house-dems-propose-bills-to-add-disclosure-to-state-contracts <p>House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel(D-Auburn Hills) and state Representatives Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) unveiled plans today to transfer $22 million from a controversial state furniture contract to local schools and place a $1 million cap on bloated state office furniture spending. The proposals are part of a reform package aimed at reining in contract and ethical abuses by the Snyder administration and House Republican lawmakers.</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Propose Bills to Add Disclosure to State Contracts]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-propose-bills-to-add-disclosure-to-state-contracts <p>House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong>(D-Auburn Hills) and state Representatives <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids) and <strong>Rashida Tlaib</strong> (D-Detroit) unveiled plans today to transfer $22 million from a controversial state furniture contract to local schools and place a $1 million cap on bloated state office furniture spending. The proposals are part of a reform package aimed at reining in contract and ethical abuses by the Snyder administration and House Republican lawmakers.</p> <p>“The Snyder administration and legislative Republicans&#8217; decision to prioritize government furniture spending over local school funding is wrong,” said Greimel. “Our kids’ education, not brand-new office furniture from the governor’s cousin, should be our top priority. These reforms will undo politically motivated expenditures by the governor for his family members and instead put those dollars into our classrooms where they belong.”</p> <p>The Democratic proposals come in response to revelations that Snyder administration officials and his controversial NERD fund intervened in the midst of the state’s fiscal year 2012 budget crisis to protect the governor’s cousin, George Snyder, and major financial contributor Haworth Inc. from what could have been a multimillion-dollar cut connected to the state furniture contract. A year later, after House Republicans helped administration officials kill a state Senate budget bill provision to cap furniture purchases for the year at $1 million, the Snyder administration increased a state contract with Haworth by more than $22 million to $41 million. While refusing to scale back new state office furniture purchases that benefited the governor’s cousin and major Republican campaign contributors, the Snyder administration and legislative Republicans proceeded to cut over $1 billion from education funding, and police and fire protection while raising $1.42 billion in taxes on retirees and middle-class families.</p> <p>“Gov. Rick Snyder told Michigan’s parents, seniors and struggling communities that while they needed to do some heavy lifting to pay for his budget priorities, there would be shared sacrifice. Instead, Michigan’s middle-class families did all the lifting, the governor’s family and political friends were protected, and they unloaded more new, un-needed furniture onto the taxpayers,” said Dillon, Democratic vice chairman of the House Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee. “The legislation we are proposing today will restore some fairness and integrity to our state contracting system and support the priorities of Michigan’s families instead of the governor’s.”</p> <p>The reform package announced today would:</p> <p>• Amend the 2015 budget to transfer $22 million from the General Fund to the School Aid Fund. This reflects the difference between the 2011 Haworth contract and its current authorization level of $41 million.</p> <p>• Amend Michigan’s 2015 budget to include a $1 million limit on purchases of office furniture.</p> <p>• Require all high-level state employees, including the governor and his staff, to report their income, assets, liabilities and any asset changes affecting them or their immediate family.</p> <p>• Require all state contractors and bidders to disclose any family relationships that exist between corporate officers, owners and directors and senior officials in the Executive Branch of state government.</p> <p>• Amend the Michigan Lobby Registration Act to include &#8220;an individual conducting business under the auspices of the executive offices of the governor or lieutenant governor.” This will require reporting the lobbying of those individuals and also subject them to current lobby limits for public officials.</p> <p>“Secret slush funds, questionable lobbying and back-door deals should not be the Michigan way of doing the public’s business,” said Tlaib, Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We as elected officials are held to a higher standard and individuals in the executive office should be no different.”</p> <![CDATA[House Democrats Decry Expansion of For-Profit Education in Michigan ]]> http://www.housedems.com/multimedia/videos/house-democrats-decry-expansion-of-for-profit-education-in-michigan <p>Members of the House Democratic Caucus expressed their outrage and dismay at the passage of House Bill 4369, which paves the way for more schools to be taken over and run by for-profit charter corporations.</p> <![CDATA[House Democrats Decry Expansion of For-Profit Education in Michigan]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-democrats-decry-expansion-of-for-profit-education-in-michigan <p>LANSING &#8212; Members of the House Democratic Caucus expressed their outrage and dismay at the passage of House Bill 4369, which paves the way for more schools to be taken over and run by for-profit charter corporations. The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.</p> <p>&#8220;Locally run public schools are the bedrock of Michigan communities. This bill removes this cornerstone and hands schools over to corporations looking to make a quick buck off our kids,&#8221; House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. &#8220;Beyond that, it doesn’t solve the underlying problem of funding cuts and has no standards for student performance. This is bad policy, plain and simple.&#8221;</p> <p>Legislative Republicans began this takeover model with the Education Achievement Authority (EAA), which has run 15 schools in Detroit with disastrous results. Now that State Superintendent Michael Flanagan has ended the state’s exclusive contract with the EAA, any number of entities can emerge under the State School Reform/Redesign District, operating as many as 50 schools. It’s unclear whether these entities will have a board that is accountable to the public or subject to the Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act.</p> <p>&#8220;Every other school district in Michigan has a democratically elected board and a superintendent accountable to the public. The EAA has neither,&#8221; said Rep. <strong>Thomas F. Stallworth III</strong> (D-Detroit), whose district includes three schools run by the EAA. &#8220;It’s a travesty that those taking over struggling schools insist that they operate behind closed doors. What better indicator of failure is there than refusing to be accountable to the people you claim to help.&#8221;</p> <p>HB 4369 prioritizes schools with students in grades K-8, putting the focus on where for-profit charter schools can make the most money. The bill is unclear on how a school is supposed to leave the reform district if performance improves, meaning a school could be faced with an indefinite takeover. Schools already in the reform district have seen subject proficiency decrease since their takeover.</p> <p>&#8220;This bill has no exit strategy in place and doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Since Republicans took control of state government in 2011, $3 billion has been diverted away from schools,&#8221; said Rep. <strong>Ellen Cogen Lipton</strong> (D-Huntington Woods), Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Education Committee and co-chair of the House Democrats’ School Reform Task Force. &#8220;We need to do a better job of stepping in and helping schools before they fail, and we have legislation that would do just that.&#8221;</p> <p>Two Democratic-sponsored bills, HBs 5268 and 5269, came out of task force meetings last year. This legislation would create an audit program for struggling schools before they fail and determine the true cost of education so that money can be spent wisely. After sitting in the House Education Committee for more than a month without action, both bills were discharged to the floor, but the full House has yet to consider them.</p> <p>&#8220;The Republican governor claims to want to operate on data and metrics, but Rep. Lipton and I introduced data-driven solutions to improve education that haven’t gotten so much as a hearing. Meanwhile, his fellow Republicans continue on this failed course,&#8221; said Rep. <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids), fellow co-chair of the School Reform Task Force. &#8220;This has never been about turning schools around. This is about handing public schools over to private entities so they can profit off our kids. It’s unconscionable.&#8221;</p> <![CDATA[House Dems: Women’s Health Rider Law a Step Backward for Michigan]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-women-s-health-rider-law-a-step-backward-for-michigan <p>LANSING – An extremely controversial law that mandates women – and only women – buy extra health insurance in order to have full health care coverage takes effect today, setting back women throughout Michigan and hampering Michigan’s comeback efforts. The law, based on a Michigan Right to Life citizen’s initiative, demands that women buy extra insurance to cover medical procedures that would preserve a woman’s health during a miscarriage or end a pregnancy that is the result of a rape or incest. The law not only places a burden on women, but also on small businesses that want to offer employees full health care coverage by increasing their costs. At the same time, it discourages talented workers from locating or remaining in Michigan.</p> <p>“This law unfairly punishes women simply for being women,” said Rep. <strong>Marcia Hovey-Wright</strong> (D-Muskegon), chairwoman of the Women’s Democratic Caucus. “Women deserve the same access to full health care as men receive, but only women are told they must buy extra insurance to get it. This law is an attack on women’s health and their economic security, and it is an embarrassment to the state of Michigan.”</p> <p>The law was passed by the state Legislature in December, after Republicans caved in to pressure from Michigan Right to Life. Had Republicans not capitulated to special interest demands to pass the law, the proposal would have been put to a vote of the people in the November election. Instead of giving all voters in Michigan the ability to decide, the controversial law was instead decided by Republican legislators and the 3 percent of Michigan’s population who signed the Right to Life petition. According to polling, the majority of Michiganders asked disapproved of the law, which was so extreme it was previously vetoed by two Republican governors – John Engler and Rick Snyder – and goes so far as to punish women who need a medical procedure to preserve their health when a wanted pregnancy ends in a miscarriage.</p> <p>“Women’s health is a critical issue, not a political football to be tossed around by special interest groups and politicians. Now, there will be no peace of mind for women who become pregnant by rape or incest and are further victimized by this new law that will require them to pay out-of-pocket if they decide they don’t want to continue a pregnancy that resulted from such a violent act,” Rep. <strong>Sarah Roberts</strong> (D-St. Clair Shores) said. “And, unfortunately, many women who are prone to high-risk pregnancies will have no peace of mind knowing that their desire to have a baby may have to be balanced against incurring tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills if their insurance company does not provide a rider or they did not purchase a rider prior to their pregnancy.”</p> <p>With the law now in effect, small businesses that want to offer full health care coverage are also paying the price. Making the health care riders available to employees adds to the health care costs of a small business and women. Additionally, not every health care insurer in Michigan offers these women’s health riders. This puts companies that offer full health care coverage as a recruiting tool at a disadvantage when talented workers compare job opportunities in Michigan to those in other states, and can force uncomfortable conversations between employers and employees.</p> <p>“A law that disrespects women and discourages skilled and talented workers from calling Michigan home is wrong for our state. At a time when we should be doing everything we can to return opportunity and economic growth to Michigan, we are being held back by this punitive and archaic law that oppresses women and hurts small businesses,” Rep. <strong>Pam Faris</strong> (D-Clio) said. “When the Republicans imposed this law on the people of Michigan, they did so at the expense of women and our state economy.”</p> <![CDATA[Tlaib: Mid-Year Budget Bill Passes with Bipartisan Support]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/tlaib-mid-year-budget-bill-passes-with-bipartisan-support <p>LANSING - State Representative <strong>Rashida H. Tlaib</strong> (D-Detroit) declared victory today on the supplemental budget bill, Senate Bill 608, approved by a House-Senate Conference Committee this morning and sent back to both chambers for final approval.</p> <p>&#8220;We came to an bipartisan agreement that puts a date on when we have to solve the Health Insurance Claims Assessment shortfall, so that&#8217;s good for hospitals and the state budget,&#8221; said Tlaib. &#8220;Hutzel Women&#8217;s Hospital will get only half of the state and federal funding that it deserves which is unfortunate because the infant mortality program it runs with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is critically important for Detroit and Michigan families who rely on it to save the lives of their babies. We will continue to fight for full funding.&#8221;</p> <p>The conference committee version of Senate Bill 608 now puts $215 million for road budgets with $100 million going to local governments to cover the costs of sanding, salting and plowing snow this winter. Another $115 million is appropriated for priority road projects. Funding is also set aside in the Road and Risk Reserve Fund if the HICA funding shortfall if another permanent solution isn&#8217;t reached by Sept. 30. Filling the HICA shortfall will stabilize the state&#8217;s Medicaid system and will help hospitals who would otherwise be stranded with unreimbursed Medicaid expenses.</p> <p>&#8220;Now our job is to ensure that we meet that Sept. 30 HICA deadline and that we don&#8217;t fund it through the House Republican proposal to tack it on as a fee in their unacceptable so-called auto insurance reform proposal,&#8221; said Tlaib. &#8220;I was proud to work on a bipartisan basis to get crucial funding to help out our middle class families - especially women and children &#8212; throughout Michigan.&#8221;</p> <![CDATA[Reps. Lipton, Dillon Win Discharge of Bills to Help Struggling Schools ]]> http://www.housedems.com/multimedia/videos/reps-lipton-dillon-win-discharge-of-bills-to-help-struggling-schools <p>House Bills 5268 and 5269 would establish locally determined transformation processes to improve Michigan’s struggling schools, and requiring a study to determine what it actually costs to educate a student in a Michigan classroom.</p> <![CDATA[Reps. Lipton, Dillon Win Discharge of Bills to Help Struggling Schools]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/reps-lipton-dillon-win-discharge-of-bills-to-help-struggling-schools <p>LANSING - Michigan House Democrats&#8217; School Reform Task Force co-chairs Reps. <strong>Ellen Cogen Lipton</strong> (D-Huntington Woods) and <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids) today demanded that their bills to help turn around struggling schools be discharged from the House Education Committee so they can be debated and voted on. Their discharge attempt was successful, and the bills were placed on second reading.</p> <p>&#8220;??We need to act on our legislation to help Michigan&#8217;s struggling schools because the Education Achievement Authority is not providing the good education these children need,&#8221; said Lipton. &#8220;??We know that there is a problem because State Superintendent Michael Flanagan has notified the EAA that he&#8217;s ending the state&#8217;s exclusive contract with it. Our bills would do more to fix struggling schools by seeking input from teachers, school administrators, parents and other community members to turn struggling schools around before children fall behind. I urge House Republicans to take quick action on our bills.&#8221;</p> <p>House Bills 5268 and 5269 would establish locally determined transformation processes to improve Michigan&#8217;s struggling schools, and requiring a study to determine what it actually costs to educate a student in a Michigan classroom. Both bills are proposals that were outlined in the House Democrats&#8217; School Reform Task Force report released in September 2013.</p> <p>&#8220;Parents and students in these schools, along with state educators know the EAA is a failure,&#8221; said Dillon. &#8220;Moving HB 5268 and 5269 to the House floor is a good first step, but more work needs to be done to help these schools and students. We are offering a plan to help these schools, and we need to act on it now.&#8221;</p> <p>To read the House Democrats&#8217; School Reform Task Force Report visit <a href="http://www.HouseDemTaskForces.com/school-reform">www.HouseDemTaskForces.com/school-reform</a>.</p>