Lansing Update: December 12, 2008

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. $134 Million in Executive Order Budget Cuts Approved
  2. Conference Committee on Smoking Ban to Meet; Measure’s Future Uncertain

$134 Million in Executive Order Budget Cuts Approved

The Legislature took a major step toward alleviating the state’s 2008–09 budget deficit this week by approving some $134 million in budget cuts [Link no longer available —Ed.] recommended by the Granholm administration. With a 27-2 margin in the Senate Appropriations Committee and a 15–3 margin on the House side, Executive Order cuts will take place in the departments of Human Services, Community Health, and Corrections, including the closure of two prisons.

The state’s deficit of at least $240 million is likely to grow larger because of the nation-wide recession, State Budget Director Bob Emerson told assembled members of the Joint Appropriations Committee, with the 2009–2010 budget expected to be even worse. According to Emerson, the state could face a deficit of up to $300 million next year, [Link no longer available —Ed.] even if rumored stimulus funds totaling $1 billion are received from the federal government.

With the passage of this week’s E.O. cuts, the facilities to be closed include the Deerfield prison in the Michigan Reformatory complex in Ionia and Camp Branch in the Lakeland correctional complex in Coldwater. Cuts to the Department of Human Services took place primarily because of a reduction in caseloads, which is the result of stricter rules on eligibility, Emerson reported. Those cuts include:

Other cuts within the Department of Human Services include eliminating the previously approved $410,000 for a 4 percent increase in certain foster care programs and a $1.1 million increase for burial rates.

Revenue sharing for local communities, state funding for public schools, community colleges and universities were all spared from this week’s cuts.

Conference Committee on Smoking Ban to Meet; Measure’s Future Uncertain

A statewide ban on smoking in public places inched a few steps closer this week as Senate majority leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) named Senate members to a conference committee for House Bill 4163, which will meet Monday at 10 a.m. Senator Bishop’s action took place after MCC staff activated its Catholic Legislative Advocacy Network [Link no longer available —Ed.] urging phone calls into the majority leader’s office.

The future of the legislation is uncertain, however, as the smoking ban is one of the more contentious pieces of legislation to pass through the Legislature this year. Public health advocates, led by the Campaign for Smokefree Air, have urged passage of the bill, citing numerous studies indicating [Link no longer available —Ed.] the increase of public health while debunking the myth that a smoking ban hurts business. Organizations representing the state’s bars and restaurants have asked for the decision to be made by each business individually, not government mandate.

Senate conferees named this week include Senators Cropsey (R-DeWitt), Sanborn (R-Richmond) and Basham (D-Taylor). They are joined on the House side by Representatives Clack (D-Flint), Meisner (D-Ferndale) and Hildenbrand (R-Lowell). A conference committee for House Bill 4163 was named after the Senate and House passed differing versions of the ban; the Senate passed a complete ban while the House version has exemptions for cigar bars, bingo halls and casinos in Detroit.

All three Republicans in the conference committee voted against 4163 before the conference committee was named while all three Democrats supported the bill.