Lansing Update: January 22, 2010

In this week’s Lansing Update:

  1. Senate Committee Moves Embryo Research Transparency Bills
  2. Senate Republicans Eye Medicaid Cuts in Plan to Reform State Government

Senate Committee Moves Embryo Research Transparency Bills

The Senate Health Policy Committee this week passed on to the full State Senate legislation that would statutorily implement Proposal 08-2, the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2008 that authorized the legal destruction of human embryos for research purposes.

The package of bills is deemed necessary to ensure that any research violations are met with appropriate penalties, since none are included in the actual constitutional language, and to provide a clarification of terms found in the amendment. Committee member and attorney Senator Bruce Patterson (R-Canton), has made the argument that elected officials are bound by the constitution to establish in state law the provisions of Proposal 2.

According to a statement [Link no longer available —Ed.] from MCC following the hearing “While nothing in this package of bills would infringe upon the will of the people regarding Proposal 2 of 2008, it is necessary for the Legislature to establish a statutory framework for human embryo research in Michigan.”

The committee passed Senate Bills 647-652 on a 5-2 vote, with Senator John Gleason (D-Flushing) joining the Republicans in support of the package. Democratic Senators Gilda Jacobs (Huntington Woods) and Hanson Clarke (Detroit) voted against the legislation.

According to the bills, those conducting human embryo research must file a one-page annual report with the Department of Community Health; buying or selling human embryos for valuable consideration would be prohibited, as would be the creation of human-animal chimeric embryos; a voluntary and written informed consent process would be established for those who provide in-vitro fertilization services; and, in order to uphold the original intent of the state’s cloning ban, the trafficking of cloned human embryos into the State of Michigan would be prohibited.

Senator Tom George (R-Kalamazoo), chairman of the committee, indicated it could be a few weeks before the full Senate votes on the bills.

Senate Republicans Eye Medicaid Cuts in Plan to Reform State Government

In an effort to scale back the size of state government and to reduce its operating costs, Senate Republicans this week introduced a $2 billion government reform plan [Link no longer available —Ed.] that would have a sweeping impact upon public employees, local governments, public schools and Medicaid recipients.

The largest components of the package would need significant support to come to realization, as they would need to pass both chambers of the Legislature with two-thirds support, and then appear on a statewide ballot. Michigan for the last several years has faced budget deficits ranging from $500 million in the middle part of the decade to over $2 billion each of the last two budget cycles. Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, as well as many political pundits and editorial pages, have called for significant government reforms to end Michigan’s structural deficit, with Speaker of the House Andy Dillon’s proposal to pool public health insurance costs [Link no longer available —Ed.] being the most noteworthy from the Democrat side.

According to the Senate Republican proposal, public employees would take a 5 percent pay cut and pay at least 20 percent of their health insurance premiums, and lifetime health benefits for elected officials not vested before this year would end, saving the state an estimated $1.8 billion. Competitive bidding for support services and capping administrative costs in public schools would save anywhere from $350 million to $650 million. The plan would also call for reducing the number of state departments from 16 to 11, and eliminating some Medicaid services that Republicans claim are not mandated by the federal government in order for the state to receive federal Medicaid funds.

The plan to cut public employees’ salaries and mandate increased health care premium contributions are proposed constitutional amendments and would have to be approved by voters on the August statewide election ballot. Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) has stated a committee will be established to look into the proposals presented by his caucus.