Legislation to Watch in December

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Nov. 25, 2015

The Legislature returns from its Thanksgiving break on Tuesday, and has a full list of items that have been rumored to be acted on by the end of the year. The following are some of the issues we are watching. Stay tuned for action alerts from your Government Relations team.

Detroit Public Schools—The Governor has touted reforms for Detroit Public Schools as one of his priorities for the year. However, bills have not yet been introduced and he has now backed his timeline up to the spring. We are hearing that the legislation could be introduced next week and when it is we expect the Senate to act quickly. The main issue the Governor has talked about, creating two districts, appears to still be  the core. The current DPS would remain in name only to pay off debt and a new Detroit School System would be established to educate students. Details on how this will all come together remain scarce. We will pass along any and all information we receive once there is actual legislation to review.

Third Grade Reading—In October, the House passed House Bill 4822, which addresses reading proficiency by third grade. It is currently before the Senate Committee on Education. The Chair has stated that he will bring the bill up for a hearing, but it may not be until after Christmas. While positive changes were made in the House, concerns remain about the lack of parental involvement and state-mandated retention. MASB will continue to monitor the bill and let you know when the committee schedules a hearing.

Energy Choice—Earlier this month, the House Committee on Energy Policy passed a comprehensive energy reform package that will lead to the elimination of electric choice for schools and others. HB 4298 passed the committee by a vote of 18-7. It is now before the full House where we will continue to oppose the bill and advocate for schools’ ability to achieve a lower rate and participate in electric choice programs. Action is expected on this bill as soon as the House returns on Tuesday. An action alert will be sent out on Monday morning for you to contact your State Representative.

Critical Shortage ListHB 4059 would allow our schools to hire retirees to fill substitute positions, instructional coaches and areas identified as educator shortages by the State Superintendent. The bill is currently before the Senate for final passage and we are hopeful it will be sent to the Governor before year end.

Unfunded MandatesSenate Bills 388-390 would require the Legislature to establish the cost of mandates in bills for local governments and schools to be addressed before they become law. A hearing was held on these bills earlier this month and the sponsor is working to address a few of the issues that were raised. We may see the bills back before the committee in December.

Dark Stores—The House Committee on Tax Policy began a series of hearings on the issue of “dark stores.” This refers to large box stores that have been appealing their property tax values and arguing that they should be assessed at the value they would have if the store was out of business and the building shuttered and vacant. The committee chair stated that further hearings would be held in December and we are working to make sure that the school side of the story will be represented.

Guns in Schools—SB 442 would ban open carry in pistol-free zones, such as schools, but in return would allow concealed carry of guns. This is being touted as a compromise to the “open-carry issue.” The bill is now before the full Senate for consideration in the coming weeks. We urge you to contact your Senator to share your concerns about this legislation.

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