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November 2013: Legislative Update

SB 358: An Accident Waiting to Happen

SB 358 removes the electrician’s license requirement for work in manufacturing and mining operations, putting Michigan workers at risk. The bill requires a business only employ one master electrician, who is not even required to be at a mining or manufacturing site. Working with electricity can be dangerous and should be done by trained and licensed professionals. Mistakes can mean injury or death to the electrician or even the entire work site. This bill passed the Senate 21-17 and is now in House Regulatory Reform Committee.

Our email action campaign to House Regulatory Reform members generated a huge response, but the Republican-led House Regulatory Committee is continuing to push this dangerous legislation and will meet on Tuesday, November 5, at 9:00am in Room 521 at the House Building.

Contact your State Representative to STOP this reckless legislation. Find your Representative at: www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/

Unemployment Bills passed House and Senate

Both chambers have approved a package of six bills (HB 4949-54) dealing with a variety of unemployment issues, including the reversal of judicial decisions regarding repayment of benefits, drug tests and federal conformity requirements.

Democrats won amendments in committee, and the UIA will now be required to waive repayment in those cases where benefits were awarded because of a clerical or administrative error by the UIA, the failure of an employer to report or incorrectly report earnings information to the UIA or when the claimant is at or below the poverty level. Previous language only permitted a waiver, which was always denied under the Snyder administration.

Another bill in the package, HB 4952, cuts off benefits to laid off workers who refuse to take or fail to pass a pre-employment drug test. The basic premise of the test requirement remains flawed. It doesn’t test impairment on the job. It only detects trace elements of a substance whose effect likely wore off before the individual showed up at work. The bill doesn’t define how the information about a pre-employment drug test result of a job applicant is conveyed to the UIA. A potential employer is not a party to a UI claim, since they haven’t employed the tested individual, yet their pre-employment test may be the reason the individual is cut off of benefits. Both the previous employer and the potential employer will likely be caught up in a large number of appeals, if not lawsuits, regarding test results. A similar bill was passed in Wisconsin and was quickly repealed as business owners were caught up in appeals for people they never employed.

The bills passed and have been signed by the Governor.

Senate Bills 541-545 Clarifying Public Employee Health Insurance Law

SB 541-545 are a package of bills that provide some technical fixes to counter the Treasury Department’s inaccurate communication to local governments on the interpretation of the 80/20 Law (PA 152). It also contains a fix for the “Individual and Spouse,” increasing the dollar amount cap of employer contribution because members in this category were paying inordinate employee contributions compared to the other groups.

The bills passed in the Senate and are in the House Financial Liability Reform Committee where some members are suggesting that employer contribution rates be lowered on the other coverage categories rather than raising the “Individual and Spouse” category.

HB 4878 Mega Voting Precincts

Representative Jacobsen (R) introduced a bill that would combine precincts, selected by the Secretary of State, creating mega-precincts that could make it more difficult to access polling locations. It would also permit voluntary consolidation of smaller precincts for elections administration between townships, etc.

We provided AFL-CIO opposition to the bill regarding the mega-precinct language as a voter suppression technique. At the House Ethics and Elections Committee a substitute bill was introduced striking all of the mega-precinct language from the bill, and cleaning up other areas. We will have to stay vigilant as they may try to reintroduce this concept in another bill.

HB 5112 Letter Grades for Public Schools

It’s one thing to create a report card which informs schools about ways they can improve. Such a report card might have many different categories, each evaluated to show a school its strengths and weaknesses and to show areas where to improve. This is not what HB 5112 does. This bill gives a school, that is a complex system of various students, teachers and courses, one single grade to be judged upon.

Imagine if your child came home from school with a report card that doesn’t tell you how well she is doing in Math, English or Social Studies, it only says “Your child is a D.” Worse, your child got the D because the grading system requires a certain percentage of students be in the D category regardless of his or her proficiency. This is how schools will be graded under HB 5112. The new grading system automatically gives the bottom 5% a grade of ”F.” This is yet another way corporate outsourcers demonize public schools so they can push their agenda to steal public funds for their for-profit schools.

This bill was introduced and moved to a committee hearing within 12 hours. Now, imagine who might be concocting and promoting these ideas. According to CBS News in Detroit, the Great Lakes Education Project, a school-choice advocacy group founded by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Dick Devos and his wife Betsy has given input on the legislation. But who is advocating on behalf of students and working parents?

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