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Update From State Sen. Steve Bieda

Sen. Bieda shares his thoughts from and updates from Lansing.

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to send you the latest edition of my e-Newsletter. This e-Newsletter is a money-saving way for me to communicate with you and keep you informed about legislative activities. Below you will find information on upcoming events, legislation that has recently been passed by the Senate, as well as other news and updates.

Please feel free to distribute this information to others and contact my office with ideas about what we can do to better serve you. Communication with you is extremely important to me as I consider issues before the Michigan Senate.

Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Michigan Senate. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Gun Laws:

The horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has touched the entire nation and has left us all wondering how anyone could commit such violence against innocent children. We grieve for the families who lost their sons and daughters, their brothers and sisters, their mothers. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. Regrettably, in the middle of the night, just a few short hours before this massacre occurred, Michigan’s legislature voted to allow people to carry concealed weapons into schools, daycares, churches and stadiums. While none of us sitting in that chamber could have predicted the horrors that would soon befall Sandy Hook Elementary School, those unspeakable events serve to underscore that guns simply do not belong in our schools. I voted against this legislation and I hope in light of recent events that Governor Snyder will do what’s right for Michigan’s children and veto SB 59.

(Editor's note, Gov. Snyder did veto this bill)

Right to Work Legislation:

One of the most controversial topics of the Lame Duck session was the introduction and passage of so-called Right to Work legislation. The rapid pace at which these bills, SB 116 and HB 4003, were introduced and voted on left little room for discussion and allowed many rumors to circulate unchecked. Forbes magazine, known for is conservative commentary, published an article that concisely stated the real impact of this legislation. The article details how closed shops (those that allow union members only) haven’t existed since the Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947, and that no one is forced to join a union, but they must pay what amounts to agency fees for the services that the union is legally required to provide to union and non-union members alike. The article importantly notes that the Republicans in Congress who drafted this legislation saw it as a matter of fairness. It also points out the dues paid by non-members are not allowed to be used for political activities.

When collective bargaining rights laws were strengthened in Michigan in 1965 they received nearly unanimous support by the legislature and were signed by Governor George Romney, father of Mitt Romney. In stark contrast, Right to Work was introduced and voted on within mere hours of Governor Snyder announcing his support and passed only with Republican votes. Regardless of whether you support this legislation or not, the way the bills were passed marked a sad day for the democratic process. There were no committee hearing on the bills, debate on the House and Senate floor were limited and no serious consideration was given to any amendments. Bills with such far-reaching implications deserve more thought and consideration.

Recall Reform:

Another piece of legislation passed at the 11th hour of the Lame Duck session and without the benefit of public debate would change the way elected officials are recalled in the state of Michigan. While I strongly believe that the recall process must be protected from those who would seek to abuse it, I also feel that the process must be open to a true grassroots movement seeking to oust lawmakers who are not appropriately representing their constituents. Unfortunately, HB 6060 drastically restricts the timeframe and reasons that a recall can occur, making it difficult for even a well-financed group, let alone concerned citizens, to meet the onerous constraints.

Personal Property Tax:

I have long been critical of the Personal Property Tax and called for a thorough review of this policy. The PPT is a tax that in essence punishes a business for investing in Michigan. I feel that addressing this tax should have been the first order of business for the legislature at the start of this session and was willing to work across the aisle to help reform it. An important factor in the reform for me is that the PPT is a significant source of income for many local governments and that any changes must be accompanied by replacement revenue. Sadly the PPT reforms became yet more legislation that was pushed through in the final hours of the Lame Duck session. I voted against these bills because I feel that they did not adequately address the concerns of our cities and schools, which have already seen significant reductions in revenues and made drastic cuts to vital services.

The legislative package to repeal the Personal Property Tax consists of House Bills 6022, 6024, 6025 and 6026. HB 6022 would devote a portion of use tax revenue to reimburse local governments for up to 80 percent of the revenue they would lose as the industrial portion of the PPT is phased out - if the local government’s loss of personal property tax revenue equaled at least 2.5 percent of its total real property tax revenues. HB 6024 would enable a local government to levy a special assessment on industrial property holders to ensure no loss in funding for emergency services, which includes police, fire, ambulance and jail operations. HB 6025, which creates the Michigan Metropolitan Areas Metropolitan Authority Act to receive the use tax revenue and reimburse local governments. HB 6026, which moves the portion of the use tax revenue to the authority, requires statewide voter approval in the August 2014 primary election.

Education Achievement Authority:

I have heard from many of you expressing concern for legislation that would make permanent the Education Achievement Authority and make it a statewide district operating Michigan’s lowest performing schools. I share the reservations that many of you had that this legislation was moving too quickly before any results of the EAA had been seen. I am happy to report that these bills were not brought up during the Lame Duck session, which will allow more time for thoughtful discussion and research on the best ways to improve our lowest performing schools and to best serve the students of this state.

Bieda Sponsored Legislation to Become Law:

SB 358 is part of a package of bills that add animal fighting to the state’s racketeering provisions. This would allow the state to seize proceeds and property associated with the crime. Dog fighting is still an on-going problem in Michigan and across the country, despite being illegal for over a century. While significant criminal penalties exist for those who engage in dog fighting, the law is largely silent on the economic aspect of the crime. Thousands of dollars can exchange hands for just one fight, making the potential financial gain outweigh other possible penalties. Dog fighting operations often involve multiple crimes, such as tax evasion and gambling and the fights usually draw individuals who engage in other illicit activities involving weapons and drugs.

SB 848 is part of a package of bills that together would increase the penalties for repeat domestic violence violations, allow a domestic violence offense that had been discharged and dismissed to be counted as a conviction for determining an enhanced sentence for repeat domestic violence violations, establish a penalty for assaulting another person by strangulation or suffocation and include the enhanced sentences in the sentencing guidelines. All too often perpetrators of domestic violence use strangulation as an overt expression of their ability to control the life and death of their victims. These bills seek stricter punishment of those who torture their victims in this manner.

SB 988 creates a new statute to designate the pedestrian walkway running east to west between the Michigan State Capitol building and the Michigan Hall of Justice as the “Frank J. Kelley Walkway”, in recognition of the service provided to the State by former Attorney General Frank J. Kelley from December 28, 1961, to December 31, 1998.

SB 421 would have required manufactures to add a bittering agent to anti-freeze, whose sweet taste makes it deceptively dangerous for children and animals. While the bill did not make it to the governor’s desk this session, I am grateful to the American manufacturers who have agreed to voluntarily add a bittering agent to their product. While this will undoubtedly save lives, I will continue to push this legislation to help protect our children and pets from foreign-made anti-freeze that may not contain the bittering agent.

Electoral College:

Michigan’s Electoral College delegates gathered to officially give our state’s 16 electoral votes to President Barack Obama on Monday, December 17, 2012. I was deeply honored to lead Michigan’s delegates of the Electoral College in the Pledge of Allegiance as well as make some remarks after their votes were cast. The re-election of President Obama is an historic event, and I was humbled to play a role in today’s ceremonies. Michigan directly benefited from President Obama’s efforts to revitalize America’s auto industry. We’ve seen the big three hire more workers and make further investments in our state. I’m excited to see that growth continue during his second term. Below is a picture from the proceedings that day.

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