<![CDATA[Michigan House Democrats Site Feed]]> http://www.housedems.com <![CDATA[Roads Plan Would Raise Road Funds, Protect Schools, Communities, Families]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/roads-plan-would-raise-road-funds-protect-schools-communities-families <p>LANSING &#8212; House Democratic leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee vice chairwoman <strong>Marilyn Lane</strong> (D-Fraser) and Rep. <strong>Thomas F. Stallworth III</strong> (D-Detroit) said today that the roads plan approved by the Legislature is a win for taxpayers, schools and local communities. Under the plan, voters would decide on a ballot proposal that would raise the state sales and use tax from 6 to 7 percent to benefit public schools and eliminate the sales tax on motor fuel. If that passes, companion bills also take effect including those giving tax relief to middle- and low-income families, increasing funding for at-risk schools and increasing fees on heavy trucks.</p> <p>&#8220;For the first time in four years, we were able to forge an agreement that offers voters the option to generate the revenue we need to finally fix and maintain our roads, while also giving families much needed tax relief, and increasing funding to our schools and local governments,” said Greimel. “This is a victory for Michigan residents.”</p> <p>The ballot proposal would go before voters in May 2015. If approved by voters, it would raise $1.3 billion over four years by eliminating the sales tax on gas and moving to a tax on gas based on the wholesale price, while sending more, constitutionally protected, money to schools and local governments who would otherwise lose money because of the elimination of the sales tax at the pump. Upon voter approval, the following legislative action would also take effect:</p> <ul> <li>Full restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) taking it back to 20 percent of the federal credit, an increase of $277 million.</li> <li>An additional $300 million would go into the School Aid Fund and that funding would be protected under the constitution so that it would only go for PreK-12 schools through community colleges.</li> <li>$40 million for at-risk schools.</li> <li>$94 million in additional funding for local units of government.</li> <li>Additional funding for mass transit.</li> <li>Increase fees on trucks weighing more than 26,000 pounds, and requiring warranties on road work.</li> <li>Commit to hiring more minority and women workers in the construction industry.</li> </ul> <p>“This plan finally addresses our road and infrastructure needs and it does so in a responsible way that holds schools, communities harmless while generating some tax relief for middle-class and low-income families,” said Lane. “Voters can be assured that this ballot proposal is a straight-up plan to fix and maintain our roads. By also protecting our schools and communities we’ve created a plan that will keep our state and local economies growing.”</p> <p>“By including my legislation to increase hiring of women and minorities in the construction industry, we ensure that Michigan workers will benefit from the road work created by this new roads funding,” said Stallworth, chairman of the Detroit Caucus and Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. “Taxpayers can vote for this ballot proposal knowing that they will voting to create new jobs for their family members, friends and neighbors, as well as fix our roads.”</p> <![CDATA[Statement from House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) on the proposed road funding plan:]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/statement-from-house-democratic-leader-tim-greimel-d-auburn-hills-on-the-proposed-road-funding-plan <p>“Not only is this the comprehensive road repair plan that House Democrats and people around the state have been demanding, but it will also provide tax relief to Michigan families and take a great step forward toward restoring funding to our schools. Asking voters to approve a tax increase isn’t a step we take lightly, but taxpayers will get better roads and better schools in exchange, and provide income tax relief to offset the cost to working families.</p> <p>“This plan represents a real opportunity to move Michigan forward, and I will work with my caucus to secure the votes necessary to pass this plan and put the proposal before voters.”</p> <![CDATA[What's Wrong with the Bolger Road Plan?]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/what-s-wrong-with-the-bolger-road-plan <p> <img alt="" src="https://mihousedemsblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/bolger-road-plan-jpg.jpg" title="" /></p> <![CDATA[Rep. Lane Says Democrats Committed to Finding Roads Solution]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/rep-lane-says-democrats-committed-to-finding-roads-solution <p>LANSING - State Representative <strong>Marilyn Lane</strong> (D-Fraser), Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said today that she and her Democratic colleagues are committed to finding a sustainable, comprehensive plan to repair and maintain Michigan roads than what was passed by House Republicans on Thursday evening.</p> <p>&#8220;Our roads aren&#8217;t in good shape and we need to find a solution that solves the problem without creating problems for future legislators to deal with,&#8221; said Lane. &#8220;??We aren&#8217;t finished with this roads package and there are still two weeks left in Lame Duck. My Democratic colleagues and I want to pass a responsible roads plan and we will keep working hard until we do.&#8221;</p> <p>On a vote of 56-53, with all Democrats and three Republicans voting no, House Republicans passed House Bill 4539 which would phase in a repeal of the 6 percent sales tax on gasoline. All gasoline tax revenue would then be dedicated to transportation. The Michigan Department of Transportation has said that they need at least $1 billion annually to just maintain our roads. This plan would not generate $1 billion in transportation revenue until 2021. By then, our roads are likely to be in significantly worse shape.</p> <p>Speaker Bolger&#8217;s plan also impacts that portion of the sales tax on gasoline that is dedicated to the School Aid Fund and to revenue sharing for local units of government. In the first year of the plan, schools would lose about $65 million. In Fiscal Year 2022, when the plan is fully phased in, schools would lose about $900 million per year according to the House Fiscal Agency. Local communities would see a decrease in revenue sharing by as much as $121 million dollars annually by the time the plan is fully phased in. Revenue sharing helps to fund local police and fire services, as well as other important services residents rely on.</p> <p>&#8220;Speaker Bolger&#8217;s plan that fails to find any new revenue for our roads and, instead, creates holes in the budget for schools and revenue sharing for local units of government is not the solution we&#8217;ve been working toward in committee and with our colleagues for the past two years,&#8221; said Lane. &#8220;There&#8217;s no leadership or fiscal responsibility in just shifting money around when we are facing a roads repair bill in the billions of dollars. We can and must do better.&#8221;</p> <p><img src="http://mihousedemsblog.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/bolger-road-plan-jpg.jpg?w=619" alt="" title="" /></p> <![CDATA[House Democrats Fight House Speaker's Roads Plan That Hurts Schools]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-democrats-fight-house-speaker-s-roads-plan-that-hurts-schools <p>LANSING - House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee vice chairwoman Rep. <strong>Marilyn Lane</strong> (D-Fraser) and Rep. <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids) today said they are ready to vote to fix Michigan roads, but not at the expense of taking money out of schools and local communities to pay for road repairs. House Republicans brought House Speaker Jase Bolger&#8217;s plan to the floor, which would repeal the 6 percent sales tax on gasoline while phasing in an increase in a tax on the wholesale price of gasoline. That plan essentially shifts money that now goes to schools and local government to roads.</p> <p>&#8220;Legislative Republicans cut funding for our schools in 2011 to pay for a massive tax cut for large corporations, and it is unconscionable that they now want to take another $750 million per year out of our classrooms to fix roads,&#8221; said Greimel. &#8220;It is irresponsible and short-sighted to try to fix one problem by slashing funding for schools.&#8221;</p> <p>The Republican proposal would exempt gasoline and diesel fuel sales from the sales tax while increasing the gasoline tax in order to eventually raise about $1 billion per year to fund road repairs, according to House Republicans, without any replacement source for our schools. Currently, a large portion of that 6 percent sales tax on gasoline goes is constitutionally dedicated the state School Aid Fund. The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency estimates that if HB 4539 - the bill that repeals the sales tax on gasoline - becomes law, schools would lose as much as $750 million per year, and the per-pupil foundation grant would have to be cut accordingly. Bolger claims that, according to economic projections, schools would make up the money they lose by increases in the sales tax revenue as the economy grows.</p> <p>&#8220;??There are a number of bills and proposals to raise money to fix our roads that don&#8217;t take money away from other parts of our budget, and those are the proposals we should be considering,&#8221; said Lane. &#8220;??Our roads and bridges are in dire need of repairs, but taking more money out of ours schools to do this is not a solution. Speaker Bolger is showing a complete lack of leadership and political courage by even suggesting that we fund roads by taking more money away from schools, which will undoubtedly increase class sizes even more and mean less money for books and other resources.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;??If this plan passes then we won&#8217;t have to worry about school buses doing any damage to our roads because school districts won&#8217;t be able to afford to send buses out to pick up our kids,&#8221; said Dillon, Democratic vice chairman of the House Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee. &#8220;??Our schools have already lost money thanks to the 2011 tax changes, and if we defund our schools by another $750 million a year, then school districts throughout the state are going to face hard choices. We have to have good roads in order to keep and attract new business and industry, but we also have to have good schools in order to educate our kids to succeed in the workforce. HB 4539 won&#8217;t do that, and that&#8217;s why we can&#8217;t support it.&#8221;</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Slam Bill Giving License to Discriminate]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-slam-bill-giving-license-to-discriminate <p>LANSING – House Democrats are criticizing a bill that would allow individuals to discriminate under the guise of religious beliefs. House Bill 5958, introduced by House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), would create the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It passed the House by a vote of 59-50 along party lines.</p> <p>“It seems to me that Republicans in the House only wish to push through legislation that would allow for discrimination, while the Democrats are trying to protect people,” said Rep. Phil Cavanagh (D-Redford), minority vice chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where HB 5958 passed 7-4 along party lines. “While both sides have come together to help people recently, this is a great divide that must be bridged for the sake of our state and our people.”</p> <p>Democrats fear that HB 5958 is too broad, with many individuals and groups having the chance to claim religious beliefs as a reason to cheat the system, such as not paying interest on loans. A Quaker counselor could also choose not to aide a soldier based on religious beliefs. The bill was designed to accompany an update to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, with one version protecting gender identity or expression, and the other only adding sexual orientation. Both versions failed to pass through committee this week and Speaker Bolger has declared the issue ‘dead’.</p> <p>“This legislation opens up an unknown future for those who would fall victim to discrimination if Republicans can make it law,” said Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton (D-Huntington Woods), a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “Where does the line end? So many people have different yet sincere religious beliefs, there’s a possibility that anyone can use this defense simply to discriminate.”</p> <p>Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, offered several amendments to the bill, including ones stating that RFRA couldn’t be used as an excuse to discriminate and that RFRA couldn’t be used to justify child abuse. All were voted down along party lines. Other Democratic amendments also failed.</p> <p>“This bill puts state government into the position of determining which religious views are sufficiently sincere to qualify,” Irwin said. “This violates the principle of separation of church and state. The amendments offered by myself and my Democratic colleagues in committee tried to offer some protection for Michiganders, but Republicans are hell-bent on destroying any small comfort left in our state.”</p> <![CDATA[House Democrats Fight House Speaker’s Roads Plan That Hurts Schools]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-democrats-fight-house-speaker-s-roads-plan-that-hurts-schools <p>LANSING &#8212; House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee vice chairwoman Rep. <strong>Marilyn Lane</strong> (D-Fraser) and Rep. <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids) today said they are ready to vote to fix Michigan roads, but not at the expense of taking money out of schools and local communities to pay for road repairs. House Republicans brought House Speaker Jase Bolger’s plan to the floor, which would repeal the 6 percent sales tax on gasoline while phasing in an increase in a tax on the wholesale price of gasoline. That plan essentially shifts money that now goes to schools and local government to roads.</p> <p>&#8220;Legislative Republicans cut funding for our schools in 2011 to pay for a massive tax cut for large corporations, and it is unconscionable that they now want to take another $750 million per year out of our classrooms to fix roads,&#8221; said Greimel. &#8220;It is irresponsible and short-sighted to try to fix one problem by slashing funding for schools.&#8221;</p> <p>The Republican proposal would exempt gasoline and diesel fuel sales from the sales tax while increasing the gasoline tax in order to eventually raise about $1 billion per year to fund road repairs, according to House Republicans, without any replacement source for our schools. Currently, a large portion of that 6 percent sales tax on gasoline is constitutionally dedicated to the state School Aid Fund. The nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency estimates that if HB 4539 &#8212; the bill that repeals the sales tax on gasoline &#8212; becomes law, schools would lose as much as $750 million per year, and the per-pupil foundation grant would have to be cut accordingly. Bolger claims that, according to economic projections, schools would make up the money they lose by increases in the sales tax revenue as the economy grows.</p> <p>“There are a number of bills and proposals to raise money to fix our roads that don’t take money away from other parts of our budget, and those are the proposals we should be considering,” said Lane. “Our roads and bridges are in dire need of repairs, but taking more money out of ours schools to do this is not a solution. Speaker Bolger is showing a complete lack of leadership and political courage by even suggesting that we fund roads by taking more money away from schools, which will undoubtedly increase class sizes even more and mean less money for books and other resources.”</p> <p>“If this plan passes then we won’t have to worry about school buses doing any damage to our roads because school districts won’t be able to afford to send buses out to pick up our kids,” said Dillon, Democratic vice chairman of the House Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee. “Our schools have already lost money thanks to the 2011 tax changes, and if we defund our schools by another $750 million a year, then school districts throughout the state are going to face hard choices. We have to have good roads in order to keep and attract new business and industry, but we also have to have good schools in order to educate our kids to succeed in the workforce. HB 4539 won’t do that, and that’s why we can’t support it.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Concerned About Electoral College Legislation]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-concerned-about-electoral-college-legislation <p>LANSING – State Representative Harold L. Haugh (D-Roseville), minority vice-chairman of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, along with committee members Reps. Andy Schor (D-Lansing) and Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser) voiced their concern over House Bill 5974, which would change the way Electoral College votes in presidential elections are allocated in Michigan by eliminating the current winner-take-all system of awarding presidential electors and replace it with a proportional system of awarding electors among the top two candidates of the popular vote count. The committee took testimony today on the bill.</p> <p>“I always was taught that you play by the rules of the game and if you don’t win, you don’t get to change the rules of the game” said Rep. Haugh.</p> <p>Under the bill debated today in committee, nine of Michigan&#8217;s current 16 Electoral College votes would go to the presidential candidate who won the state and the other seven would be distributed based on a percentage of the margin of victory.</p> <p>The change is seen by many as a way for Republicans to turn the tide in their favor when it comes to GOP presidential hopefuls performing better in Michigan. Republicans claim the change is necessary for Michigan to become more relevant to presidential candidates in both parties.</p> <p>“This bill does nothing to attract presidential candidates and resources to Michigan,” said Rep. Schor. “In fact, it lowers the possibility. In a close race, this proposal would have the top two candidates competing for 2 or 3 electoral votes instead of our current 16. In a state of almost 10 million people, our influence would be reduced to that Delaware (925,000 people). It seems to me that the Republicans are throwing up the white flag, saying they can never win Michigan, and taking what they can get instead of competing for all 16 electoral votes.</p> <p>“Also, this hasn’t worked in other states, and they have not attracted presidential candidates.”</p> <p>In the 2012 presidential election, President Barack Obama won the popular vote in Michigan over Mitt Romney, 2,564,569 to 2,115,256, thus earning all of the state’s 16 electoral votes. With this legislation, President Obama would have won Michigan’s 12 electoral votes, giving Romney four.</p> <p>&#8220;Fundamental to our democracy is the concept of one person, one vote,” Rep. Lane said. “This legislation undermines that principle and threatens Michigan&#8217;s influence in presidential elections. Candidates should win on their merits, not by rigging the system.&#8221;</p> <![CDATA[House Dem Caucus: Elliott-Larsen Must Protect All LGBT People]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-dem-caucus-elliott-larsen-must-protect-all-lgbt-people <p>LANSING – The Michigan House Democratic Caucus said today that it stands against any proposed change to the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act that fails to protect all members of the LGBT community or allows for religious discrimination.</p> <p>“When it comes to legal protections for marginalized and targeted groups of people, we cannot compromise,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “No Michigander deserves to be denied employment or housing because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, and the civil rights of all of them must be protected. We can’t support any bill that falls short of that. Justice demands that we stand up for the rights and equality of all people, not just some of them.”</p> <p>It’s anticipated that a bill to be introduced by Rep. Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) would grant civil rights protection on the basis of sexual orientation, but not gender identity. However, in a recent survey, more than half of transgender people asked said they have suffered from workplace discrimination. It’s believed the bill would also allow people to claim a religious exemption that allows them to discriminate against members of the LGBT community.</p> <p>“We must never allow faith to be an excuse for bigotry,” Greimel said. “One person’s civil rights can never be subject to another’s religious belief. We can’t accept a civil rights law that is so flawed and leaves so many people behind. We urge our Republican counterparts to work with us to create a real civil rights bill that will protect all LGBT Michiganders.”</p> <![CDATA[House Democratic Caucus Retains Rep. Greimel as Leader]]> http://www.housedems.com/news/article/house-democratic-caucus-retains-rep-greimel-as-leader <p>LANSING – The Michigan House Democratic Caucus chose to keep Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) as the House Democratic Leader for the 2015-2016 session. Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) will serve as Democratic Floor Leader.</p> <p>“The task of standing up for Michigan’s hardworking families, its seniors and students goes on,” Greimel said. “Michiganders still need a strong voice in the Capitol, and the House Democrats pledge to speak loudly on their behalf. Whether it’s tax relief for working, middle-class families, repealing the tax on senior retirement or restoring critical funding for our schools, the House Democrats will be with the people of Michigan every step of the way, fighting for a better tomorrow.”</p> <p>Greimel joined the Legislature during a special election in 2012 and was elected the House Democratic Leader later that year. An attorney who practiced in the areas of labor, employment and civil rights, Greimel previously served as a member and president of the Rochester Board of Education. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science, a master’s degree in public policy and a law degree from the University of Michigan.</p> <p>Singh, elected to the state House in 2012, served as the mayor of East Lansing and spent 10 years as an East Lansing City Council member, where he helped strengthen ties between the city and Michigan State University and worked on regional cooperation and economic development. He has also served as the president and CEO of the Michigan Nonprofit Association and worked on the New Economy Initiative. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Michigan State University.</p> <p>“The House Democrats are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” Singh said. “At a time when families are still seeking good-paying jobs in a sluggish recovery, seniors are struggling to make ends meet under the new retirement tax and Michigan kids are sent to underfunded schools, we have no time to rest. We’re eager to go to work for the people of Michigan.”</p>