Sep 17, 2009

Double standard reigns in Michigan Senate

LANSING – At least one Michigan Democratic Senator expressed his frustration at the Senate majority’s refusal to move any bills sponsored by a Democratic.

Sen. Ray Basham, D- Taylor, expressed that frustration Wednesday during the statement portion of the Senate session after bombastic Sen. Nancy Cassis, R-Novi, got up and made another speech about the House Democrats declining to take up Senate Bill 1 that would eliminate the Michigan Business Tax (MBT). The bill passed the GOP-controlled Senate in January. You will recall that when Republicans controlled both the House and Senate back in 2006 they eliminated the Single Business Tax (SBT) right before the 2006 elections as a campaign ploy with no replacement in site. The MBT was a bipartisan effort to replace the revenue from the SBT.

Voting to kill the MBT with no replacement would be as irresponsible as killing the SBT was with no replacement was.

Basham, who has been trying for some 12 years to push his workplace smoking ban through, said he agreed with Cassis that good legislation should get a hearing no matter who sponsored it. Very few bills sponsored by Democrats have moved in the Senate.

“By not dealing with this legislation, we are losing 3,000 people a year in Michigan who are dying from smoking-related illnesses,” he said. “Secondhand smoke is related to 17 respiratory diseases, and so to bottle up legislation—and that is just one of my bills—there are a number of bills that the interest groups have signed off on that aren’t moved for whatever reason.”

Basham, who has spent his entire 12 year career in the Legislature in the minority, first in the House and now the Senate, said he would write a letter and intercede with House Democrats on behalf of SB 1, sponsored by Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Grand Rapids.

“Maybe it is because I have a “D” in front of my name; maybe it’s because of Ray Basham; maybe it’s because of Downriver; or maybe it’s because I drive a Ford truck,” he said. “I don’t know why my legislation is not moving, and I absolutely agree with the Senator from the 15th District.”

Amazingly, Senate Majority Leader Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, took the unusual step of replying to Basham just before he adjourned the session, and then he tried to make the claim the Senate took up the smoking bill. Not true.

“I think this body several months ago passed one of the strongest antismoking pieces of legislation that this state has ever seen,” he said. “It was killed in the House of Representatives.”

The House passed House Bill 4377 in May with bipartisan support that bans smoking in casinos and so-called cigar bars, but the Senate has refused to take it up or Basham’s bill, SB 114, that bans smoking with no exceptions.

Last session in December 2008 after the House and Senate passed different versions of the smoking bill a routine conference committee was assigned to work out a compromise between the two bills, and Basham and Cropsey were two of the three conferees assigned from the Senate.

But Cropsey admitted on the Senate floor in April that the workplace smoking ban bill died in the conference committee last December because he refused to compromise. The fact is it was Cropsey who killed the bill because he refused to do his job.

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