Dec 28, 2009
Capitol newsletter lists top Legislative accomplishments of the decade
With the end of the decade just three days away, reporters and writers are reflecting on both end of the year and end of the decade with the best of stories and lists. Subscription only Gongwer has put together a list of the most significant laws passed in the Michigan Legislature in the past decade.
My number one is the workplace smoking ban, but it was just number three on their list. Ironically, the Michigan Legislature finally passed a workplace smoking ban that includes bars and restaurants earlier this month after a fight that took the entire decade.
No. 10 – was raising the state’s minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.40 an hour in 2006. Despite Republicans controlling both the House and Senate, Gov. Jennifer Granholm managed to get it done. It was accomplished by attempt to go around the Legislature. Democrats launched a petition drive, and when Republicans saw how successful it was, they went ahead and approved it in the Legislature.
No. 9 – was the groundwater withdraw package of bills to regulate withdrawals of Michigan's groundwater. “In 2006, the first regulations and permits were imposed. Then in 2008, the state went further with the Great Lakes Compact and significantly toughened those rules. Much of the debate surrounded the groundwater withdrawals of the Nestle water bottling plant in Mecosta County.”
No. 8 – was the energy reform package of 2008. It also reversed a legislative decision in 2000 to provide customer choice and instead capped that at 10 percent of the load for Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison to give them the demand stability they said they needed to be able to finance new power plants in the state. But the most important thing it did was create a Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). It required the utility companies to provide least 10 percent of its power by a renewable power source by 2015. It doesn’t go nearly far enough, but it’s a start.
No. 7 – Was the mandatory minimum sentencing laws repealed in 2002. “ Michigan's tough anti-drug laws, especially its mandatory life sentence without parole for anyone trying to deliver 650 grams of cocaine or heroin, earned infamy in the pages of Rolling Stone, which profiled the case of Gary Fannon, who was serving a life sentence under the so-called 650 Lifer Law.” Even with that, Michigan’s incarceration rates were the 2nd highest in the 12-state Midwest region, and our rate is the 11th highest in the nation, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice.
No. 6 – was the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. It was a low point in Michigan when we put discrimination into the Constitution. It was led by the state’s and nations’ leading anti-gay hate group, the American Family Association (AFA) of Michigan.
No. 5 – was the law passed in the lame duck session that made Michigan a “shall issue” state for concealed weapons. It was my introduction to how strident the pro-gun people really are. Not a word about it was spoken during the 2000 election season, but it was passed in the lame duck legislative session in December of 2000.
No. 4 – was the affirmative action ban in 2006. Some of the same people that were behind the same sex marriage ban were behind this ballot question that bans affirmative action programs based on race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin. Even though there was widespread evidence of fraud in collecting the signatures, this was allowed to stand.
No. 2 – was the "Race to the Top” education reform legislation passed just two weeks ago. The package of bills seeks to position the state to compete for up to $400 million in federal funds through President Barack Obama's "Race to the Top" program that requires states to enact major education reforms to receive the funds. Among the things the bills would do is to expand the number of charter schools by allowing current charter school operators to open new charter schools, provide a path for alternative teacher certification and stipulates that districts with at least 25 percent of their students in the lowest achieving 5 percent of buildings in the state would be run by a CEO appointed by the state superintendent.
The top measure of the decade – according to Gongwer – was the replacement of the Single Business Tax (SBT) with the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) in 2007. The Republicans killed the SBT in the summer of 2006 with no replacement in sight as a campaign gimmick because they knew the Republican scandals would hurt them. It did, and they lost control of the Michigan House.