May 14, 2008
Dog eats Majority Leader’s homework or I forgot it
LANSING – The rumors were running rampant in the Capitol on Tuesday on why the House did not take up the smoking ban bill, House Bill 4163, and subscription only Gongwer confirmed them.
On Thursday the Senate approved a tougher substitute of the bill that was previously passed in the House in December, and it was expected the bill would move to the House for concurrence on that very Thursday. That didn’t happen because of the late hour, but it was sure to happen on Tuesday when the House and Senate reconvened.
Tuesday was also the day hundreds of people from the American Cancer Society descended on the Capitol for their annual mini-Relay for Life that raises money for cancer research and victims. The rumors were that Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, who blocked the House version since January and the Senate version since January 2007, failed to send the bill to the House. That was at least partially true in that it never made it the 100 or so feet, and the only thing that is in dispute is the reason.
To quote a famous Saturday Night Live character, “How convenient.”
The official alibi given was, “Senate Secretary Carol Viventi said it was the result of being unable to proofread the bill until Tuesday,” according to Gongwer. It also went on to say, “Viventi had previously planned a four-day weekend, so she was not available to review the bill on Friday or Monday. Then Tuesday she had car troubles trying to get into the Capitol.” Right. By the way, the Secretary of the Senate is appointed by the Majority Leader and is a member of the controlling party. The assistant is a member of the minority party, but Bishop is blocking that a replacement to that position, too.
Bishop, obviously, is opposed to the bill, but mounting public pressure forced him to allow a discharge vote Thursday, and his caucus apparently caught him by surprise when nine Republicans voted for the bill. He had planned to offer a sop substitute that would have allowed a bar or restaurant to opt out of the ban by just putting up a smoking allowed sign.
Passage in the House is no longer a slam dunk because the Senate version does not include exceptions for non-Native American casinos.
The fear is that lobbyists for the Detroit casinos, as well as the Michigan Restaurant Association, will be lobbying hard for a no vote. HB 4163 only passed by 10 votes in the House, and Detroit-area Representatives – under the mistaken belief Detroit casinos will lose business to places like Soaring Eagle – may vote no, either killing the bill or adding so-called “carve outs.” The bill would then have to go back to the Senate for either concurrence or a conference committee, but Bishop has said he committed to allowing one vote on the bill, not two. That would clear the way for him to introduce his watered down version.
If the House concurs with the substitute, it will be sent back to the Senate for enrollment and signature of the governor, and she has said she will sign the bill. The bill will take effect 90 days after the end of the current legislative session on December 31, so the effective date would be April 1, 2009. Traditionally, bills are given immediate effect after they are approved, meaning it would go into effect 90 days after the governor signed it. However, that takes a two-thirds vote or 26 votes in the Senate, and only 25 Senators voted for the bill.