From My Desk in Lansing:
Wow, what a difference one week makes. Last year we saw one of the busiest legislative sessions in the history of Michigan. But it wasn’t until last week that I was able to see some of the bills our office authored see the light of day. In just two legislative sessions the house passed HB 4653 and HB 4656, which protect the sanctity of the ballot box and HB 4658, which takes away the exemption for prisoners. I’ll talk more about those later in this article.
2011 brought us a year of significant change for Michigan. The legislature adopted a balanced budget for the first time in many years. Furthermore, the budget was completed in the timeliest fashion in over three decades, thus avoiding unnecessary struggles near a fall deadline. The new general fund budget led to an approximately $460 million dollar surplus for the state of Michigan, something that also has not happened in many years. We can now start paying down some of the debt and long term obligations that has been accumulating over the past decade.
The Michigan Business Tax is no more as of January 1, 2012. With this jobs-killing tax gone, Michigan is now a more business-friendly environment that will open the door for private expansion.
In addition to passing a number of key pieces of legislation in year one, we as legislators have tightened up our belts as well. My salary is 10 percent lower than my predecessor and we just recently cut our benefits, along with my staff. As far as lifetime health care for legislators...GONE. And we voted to get rid of this for ourselves ... not just future legislatures.
In an effort to be more transparent, my office expenses and pay are on-line at: http://www.gophouse.com/welcome.asp?District=24. Click on the link titled "Government Transparency" on the left hand side of the page below my name and picture.
The year 2012 is an opportunity for us to build on what we started in 2011. With state government spending under control, we look to continue reducing unnecessary tax burdens and pay down our debt. This year proves to be promising as Governor Snyder mentioned in his State of the State Address. The Governor is committed to rebuilding our crumbling roads, take action to prevent violent crimes in our cities and continue efforts to address the growing concerns over our health and wellness.
The end of advertising on ballots
Two important pieces of legislation that I sponsored have passed through the House this past week.
House Bill 4653 bars elected or appointed officials from displaying their names on temporary materials at a polling location. House Bill 4656 prevents the display of the names of any elected or appointed official on election-related materials such as absentee ballots sent to voters.
This will level the playing field in elections that involve incumbents who are also candidates in some races. Often absentee ballots arrive in an envelope that bears the name of an elected official issuing the ballots, and often that same official is listed as a candidate on the ballot. That could give a candidate an unfair edge over an opponent. Signs at polling places that instruct voters on procedure also often have the name of the official who is in charge of the election on them, giving them an unfair advantage. All this while, their opponent cannot post their name within 100 feet of the polling place entrance.
These bills are just common-sense legislation that will remove any advantage an elected or appointed official who is overseeing elections might have because of signage or a return address on an envelope. We are working to reform elections to make them more equitable, and this is just one piece of that effort. I am very pleased to have bipartisan support for these bills as both passed by a vote of 106-0. The bills now go to the Senate for consideration.
No more sales tax exemption for inmates
You pay sales taxes ... I pay sales taxes. The rich pay sales taxes...the poor pay sales taxes. But in the State of Michigan, break the law and go to prison, we’ll waive your sales tax. This would be like being in a duty free store.
By a vote of 93-13 the Michigan House of Representatives voted in favor of HB 4658 that I introduced to end this sales tax exemption for prisoners.
There are only two groups of taxpayers that are currently exempt from the sales tax -- nonprofit groups and felons serving time in state prisons. It simply is not fair that law-abiding citizens in Michigan should pay sales taxes and those who scoff at the laws of our state do not. We are not asking prisoners to pay any more than you or I pay on products.
Inmates have been exempt from paying the 6-percent sales tax since 1971.
The amount of taxes felons have been exempted from is only estimated to be $505,000 in 2011, which is still a half-million dollars that could be going toward schools and local governments. House Bill 4658 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Roads Town Hall
Please join me for a town hall meeting on "How do we pay for Michigan's crumbling roads?" The town hall will be on Monday, Feb. 13th, from 6 - 8 p.m. at the Macomb Intermediate School District Central Training Room 100 B located at 44001 Garfield Road, Clinton Township, with special guest State Representative Marilyn Lane and Guest Speakers:
- State Representative Ken Goike - Vice-Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation
- State Representative Lesia Liss - House Transportation Committee
- Robert Hoepfner - Director of Roads, Macomb County Department of Roads
- Drew Buckner - Manager of Macomb Transportation Center, Michigan Department of Transportation
- Roy C. Rose - Civil Engineer, Vice Chair of Businesses for Better Transportation
District Office Hours
8 - 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 13, at Big Apple Bagel in Harrison Township
Please Note: Dockside Cafe Office Hours in St. Clair Shores will be replaced this month by the Roads Town Hall mentioned above.
About this column: State Rep. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township, discusses issues in the 24th District.