Capitol News

November 2012

After hundreds of millions of dollars from both transparent and undisclosed donors, fewer voters turned out on November 6 than in 2008. And the Michigan election produced — the status quo. Same President, same U.S. Senator, same members of Congress minus the one seat Michigan lost to reapportionment, same control of both houses of Congress, same 4-3 Republican-nominated majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, the same Republican-controlled Michigan House, and the same Michigan Constitution with no new amendments.

CNN’s exit polls indicated that nationally, those 65 and over were 16% of the electorate and went for Romney by 56%; those 18 — 29 were 19% of the electorate and went for Obama by 60%. Women were 53% of the electorate and went for Obama by 55%. Whites were 72%of the electorate and went for Romney 59%; African-Americans were 13% of the electorate and went for Obama by 93%; Latinos were 10% of the electorate went for Obama by 71%; Asians were 3% of the electorate and went for Obama by 73%.

Not that there weren’t some changes in Michigan. Dems pounded Republicans with the pension tax, cuts in education, and business tax breaks. Dems were able to take 5 seats away from incumbent House Republicans. Four of the five defeated Republicans voted for the income tax reform including the pension tax. Of 110 House members elected for next session, 59 are Republicans, 51 Democrats; 24 are female (down from 27), 86 male. The House Republicans re-elected for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger who narrowly survived a heated re-election campaign in his own district. The Dems chose a newcomer with only 8 months experience, Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills. Since he was elected in a special election for a vacated seat in February, he can run for 3 terms.

Ballot Proposal 2 Lost Big

Michigan SERA endorsed Proposal 2 that would have not only assured the right of virtually all workers in Michigan to collective bargaining but added a provision in the Constitution giving state employee unions the right to bargain pensions and retirement benefits, taking the power away from the Legislature. However, 57.4% of voters nixed the proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution. Most Capitol area political pundits believed that the large number of proposals on the ballot, their complexity, negative advertising, and the No on Everything message gave voters the best reasons to reject all proposals this year. Michigan voters have approved 31 amendments to the Michigan Constitution and rejected 43 since the 1963 document was approved.

The defeat of Proposal 2 has raised talk of potential changes to the Michigan Public Employee Relations Act to prohibit agency shop provisions in public sector collective bargaining agreements, which would bar mandatory union membership or dues.

Lame Duck

Lame duck session of the Michigan Legislature, which begins November 27 for up to 12 days, will not be quite as frantic as it would have been had the Democrats flipped the Michigan House. Lame duck session is likely to see movement on high priority legislation because all bills introduced and not passed die at the end of the year and have to go through a re-introduction process in the next session of the Legislature. Action is likely on the Blue Cross Blue Shield legislation, SB 1293 and 1294. It would convert the Blues into a nonprofit mutual insurance company, end Attorney General oversight of its rate changes, and require the Blues to provide $1.5 billion over 18 years to assist with health care in the state. That legislation has cleared the Senate and is pending in the House.

A report on the cost of converting the school employee retirement system to a defined contribution system is due in mid-November. Quick action will likely follow. Revisions to the Personal Property Tax are a high priority. And the Legislature needs to replace the now repealed PA 4 of 2011, the state’s emergency manager law. There also is talk of reviving legislation that would curb catastrophic claims benefits for auto accident victims. The auto insurance reforms in HB 4936, a major priority of the insurance industry that has drawn heavy opposition from physicians, consumer advocates, attorneys and others, has been stuck on the House floor for more than a year.

Legislative Activity

The Legislature met only 1 day in October. On that same day, the Governor signed a new law, PA 324 of 2012, that would allow a person who previously occupied property as his or her principal residence but presently resides in a nursing home or assisted living facility, to retain the property tax exemption for that residence if he or she manifested an intent to return to the property by satisfying all of the following conditions:

  • The owner continued to own the property while residing in the nursing home or assisted living facility.
  • The owner had not established a new principal residence.
  • The owner maintained or provided for the maintenance of the property while residing in the nursing home or assisted living facility.
  • The property could not be occupied, could not be for sale, could not be leased, and could not be used for any business or commercial purpose.

The changes largely would codify existing Department of Treasury policy and guidance on administration of the property tax and the principal residence exemption. The law has immediate effect.

In keeping with election season, a number of bills were introduced addressing election reform. House Bill 6020 would prohibit an individual circulating a petition from being paid for each petition signature collected, and require petition circulators to wear identification badges. Petition circulators could be paid by the hour. It is thought that this would cut down on the professionalization of petition circulation and make ballot proposals more likely to be based on grassroots support.

HB 5973 would allow same-day voter registration, eliminating the 30-days in advance requirement. Many states allow this now. HB 5978 would permit split or mixed ticket voting in primary elections, a popular idea among independent and non-aligned voters. HB 5979 and 5980 would require nonpartisan election of county clerks, the purpose being to remove the perceived party favoritism in administering election systems. HB 5982 would permit electronic submission of voter registration applications on the Secretary of State’s Website, a response to increasing internet technology applications.


A scheduled rollback of the state income tax to 4.25 percent from 4.35 percent and an increase of the personal exemption from $3,700 per person to $3,950 took effect October 1.

Before the end of the year, the President and Congress have to resolve numerous fiscal issues:

  • The fate of the Bush tax cuts, particularly those for the wealthiest Americans.
  • $1.1 trillion in automatic cuts to both defense and domestic discretionary spending.
  • The debt ceiling, which may be hit before the end of the year.

Social security, Medicare, tax deductions and credits are all in the mix. If nothing is done by the end of the year, the automatic sequestration cuts agreed to in 2011 kick in and taxes revert to Clinton-era higher rates for everyone, not just the wealthy. Communicate with your member of Congress and our two U.S. Senators your views on these matters.

The report of the one-person grand jury investigating Speaker Jase Bolger’s involvement in Rep. Roy Schmidt’s (R-Grand Rapids) party-switching fiasco is still due and may create some stir when released.

There is a November 28 hearing on the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that part of PA 264 of 2011 requiring active state employees in the defined benefit pension system to contribute 4 percent of their salary to remain in the DB pension plan.

News of the Day

If you are a SERA member, you are eligible to receive News of the Day, a periodic e-mail about breaking news and media stories of interest to state employees and retirees. Write to giving your name and chapter.

Editor’s note: Mary Pollock is the Lansing SERA Chapter and SERA Council’s Legislative Representative. She may be contacted at 1200 Prescott Drive, East Lansing, MI 48823-2446; Phone 517-351-7292; E-mail

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