Lansing Update: January 5, 2007

In this issue of Lansing Update:

  1. Legislation Creating a Statewide Cord Blood Bank Enacted
  2. Farmland Preservation Bill Vetoed
  3. 94th Legislature Set to Begin Next Week

Legislation Creating a Statewide Cord Blood Bank Enacted

The Department of Community Health will soon be assembling a statewide network of cord blood banks and creating a public awareness campaign to publicize its existence following the enactment of several bills this week. The governor, however, vetoed legislation that would have provided cord blood donors a state income tax credit.

Umbilical cord blood is considered to be a treasure-trove for adult stem cells, which are working to help thousands of people recover from injuries and are also helping to treat several dozen different diseases. The cord blood banks will help parents store their child’s umbilical cord blood for future usage.

One of the bills in the package that was signed into law allows 21st Century Jobs Fund money to be spent on cord blood banks as long as the banks go through the same competitive grant process that other projects after 21st Century Jobs Fund money have to go through.

The legislation that was vetoed, House Bill 6292, would have amended the Income Tax Act to establish a tax credit, up to $100 for a single return or $200 for a joint return, that was equal to 50 percent of the sum of cash donations made to the statewide network of cord blood stem cell banks.

Those bills that were signed into law include House Bill 6291, 6293 and 6295.

Farmland Preservation Bill Vetoed

Legislation that would have allowed a farmland owner to enter into a 20-year agriculture district contract with the Michigan Department of Agriculture to preserve the land for agricultural use was vetoed by the governor this week. House Bill 4257, sponsored by Representative Howard Walker [Link no longer available —Ed.] (R-Traverse City) had passed the House of Representatives 95-11 and the Michigan Senate 25-12.

Over the years, farmland preservation has been a persistent and, at times, vexing issue facing state policy makers, and can generally be distilled into two main issues: (1) reducing the tax burden on farmland, and (2) slowing so-called urban sprawl. Additionally, the taxation of agricultural land has long been a problematic issue for the state. Michigan is said to be alone among the states in not taxing farmland based on its value as agricultural property.

Michigan Catholic Conference testified in support of House Bill 4257 during the legislation process due to the Conference’s interest in land-use stewardship and the protection of Michigan family farms for the sake of food production.

Michigan farmers would have saved on average about two-thirds on their property tax bill under the legislation. The Senate Fiscal Agency estimated the cost of the proposal around $1.5 million in the first year and nearly $9 million by the time the enrollment into the program closed in 2013. The governor vetoed the bills saying the state could not afford the tax credits at this time.

94th Legislature Set to Begin Next Week

On Wednesday, January 10, 2007 the 94th Michigan legislative session will begin as incumbent and newly elected members of the legislature make their way to Lansing.

The day will be largely ceremonial, as members will take the oath of office with family and relatives filling the House of Representatives and Senate chambers. Members will also participate in a process that will determine which officials sit where for each session day.

The Michigan Senate and House of Representatives Web sites have been updated to include the new members, along with all elected officials’ contact information.