Legislature Returns—What’s Next on Its Agenda?

Jennifer Smith

By Jennifer Smith, MASB Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Sept. 6, 2017

The Legislature returns to its normal schedule this week after a fairly quiet summer recess. MASB has a complete list of bills that we are monitoring, but there are a few we are hoping will see action sooner rather than later.

One of those bills is Senate Bill 271, which would allow schools to start before Labor Day. However, a school would not be allowed to be in session on any Monday or Friday in August, and it maintains the ban on having school the Friday before Labor Day. Despite wide praise from the school community for finally calling an end to the pre-Labor Day prohibition, there were concerns raised over the mandatory four-day weekend in August and how it would impact delivery of some special education services, child care services and family scheduling.

SB 271 was passed by the Senate Education Committee in March and has remained on the Senate Floor awaiting debate. We are working with the bill sponsor and the education community to get a vote scheduled on the bill. We would also like to see the mandatory four-day weekend shortened to three and allow schools to have four-day school weeks, which would be more beneficial for students.

Another priority is Senate Bill 384, which would allow sinking funds to be used for school buses. This has been a legislative priority of MASB for many years, and although we were successful in getting a bill passed last session to expand the uses of sinking funds for technology and school security, buses were not included at that time. The bill appears to have wide support and we are hoping to convince the Senate to hold a vote soon. We urge you to also contact your Senator and ask for support and a vote on the bill.

Also in the Senate is House Bill 4184, which would require a physical presence to vote in a board meeting. Changes were made in the House before passage that addressed some of our concerns, including fixing the language so that all elected bodies are treated the same. We will continue to work with the Senate to address further concerns, but are pleased with the work we have been able to get done so far to make this bill much more palatable if it becomes law. This bill is under consideration by the Senate Committee on Elections and Government Reform.

In the House we are following Senate Bills 103-106, which would create statewide definitions and policies for truancy and chronically absent. These bills passed the Senate in the spring, but still need a lot of work. They are currently under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee. It is unclear when or if they will be brought up.

The House is also holding hearings with the Department of Education regarding the ESSA submission. It is rumored that letter grades could be part of that conversation; we will be watching all of that closely. The House Education Reform Committee is meeting tomorrow to approve a bill, House Bill 4665, to allow a student that is enrolled in a strict discipline academy to be able to finish out the school year there, even if his/her suspension is over.

Finally, we were pleased to see Gov. Rick Snyder veto Senate Bills 94 and 95, which would accelerate the sales and use tax exemptions on the trade-in value of an automobile or recreational vehicle. MASB is opposed to this legislation because of the negative effect it would have on the School Aid Fund. It’s been widely reported that the Senate Majority Leader and Speaker of the House have expressed interest in attempting to override the veto. We have sent a letter to all legislators urging them not to take action and to let the veto stand.

Want to know more about how things work around the Capitol? Join us for the Behind the Scenes at the Capitol event on Thursday, Oct. 12. Attendees will get to watch Senate session, go on the House Floor and hear from legislators who are former school board members. Registration is now open, but is limited to the first 50 people. Please contact us if you need more information.

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