New Legislative Session Set to Begin Today

Aaron Keel

By Aaron Keel, MASB Assistant Director of Government Relations

DashBoard, Jan. 11, 2017

Coming on the heels of a rather successful lame duck, we’re looking to get quickly back into the swing of things here at the Capitol with more than 40 new Representatives taking office this January.

But before we get there, here is a quick recap of some of the biggest stories from the end of 2016:

First, we were successful in stopping MPSERS reform, which would have closed the current MPSERS retirement system for all new public school employees and moved them to a defined contribution/401k-type system. This type of change would have cost the School Aid Fund at minimum $1.2 billion over the next five years with no guaranteed long-term savings.

We were also successful in stopping a dangerous income tax shift that would have diverted more than $430 million from the School Aid Fund, or almost $300 per pupil, to the General Fund by changing the way income tax revenues are distributed.

However, look for both of these proposals to be resurrected sometime this year. The incoming speaker-designate (Rep. Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt Township) has stated publicly that changing the school pension system is one of his top priorities, and Gov. Rick Snyder still believes the school aid tax shift makes good accounting sense and is the right thing to do. We disagree on both counts.

Finally, we were able to pass changes to our zero tolerance laws to give local boards more flexibility when dealing with suspensions and expulsions. We were pleased to help push this important change across the finish line, and hope that schools will now have the flexibility they need when dealing with these important discipline issues. The new law will take effect on Aug. 1, 2017.

Some things to look for in the next few weeks include:

  • New House members will be sworn in at noon on Jan. 11, 2017, signifying the official beginning of the 99th Legislature.
  • The Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference on Thursday, Jan. 12 beginning at 9 a.m. This is where the Directors of the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies and the State Treasurer come to an agreement on forecasts of revenues to be used in preparing the state budget.
  • The Governor’s State of the State Address on Jan. 17, 2017, at 7 p.m.
  • The Governor’s budget presentation will take place sometime in early February. Stay tuned for a date and time.

As always, make sure you are signed up for News From the Capitol for all of the latest information, as well ways to be involved in the process.

We look forward to your continued advocacy in the New Year!

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