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News & Press: Legislation/Policy

February Legislative Report

Friday, March 2, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Allan Wachendorfer
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LSP Report

February 2018

Allan Wachendorfer

Noah Smith

Budget Update


Governor Snyder recently presented his FY 18-19 Budget recommendations. This kicks off a several month long process whereby the legislature will eventually come to an agreement on what to present back to the Governor in June as a final budget. What the Governor recommends doesn't always go, rather it sets the tone for the conversation that's to come - which NASW-Michigan will follow closely and provide input when necessary. What was recommended by Governor Snyder was largely "flat," meaning it is very close to the same spending as last year. There are a few items of note as follows:



·      Supports Health Michigan Medicaid expansion with state match needed to continue the program

·      $0.50/hour increase for direct care workers 


Human Services

·      Continues "heat and eat" program that increases food assistance for families, people with disabilities and seniors

·      $1 million TANF increase - the first in years



·      $5 million to support Early-On

·      Increased funding for foster care caseloads

·      K-12 per pupil increase from $120 to $240


Judiciary/criminal justice 

·      $1.5 mil GF for the Westside Residential Alternative to Prison alternative sentencing program

·      The MDOC will stop private food contracts and go back to in-house food provisions 

·      $46 mil for Indigent Defense Commission

·      $2 mil for Vocational Village, an MDOC technical skills training program



·      $13.4 million for distribution of healthy food through food pantries, etc.; supporting new mothers w/ breastfeeding support and home visitations; behavioral/physical health services through schools; toxicological services/lead poisoning testing/water filters

·      $25.9 mil to replace pipes and meet the demands of Concerned Pastors lawsuit



·      $3.7 million GF to increase per diem rates for emergency homeless shelters from $12 to $16 per night per client served



·      No expansion of At-risk School Aid funding

·      No expansion of adult education funding

·      No increase in child care assistance

·      No increase for senior in-home services 


CARES Task Force Update:

As previously reported in January, the Michigan House of Representatives released their House C.A.R.E.S. Task Force final report.


The House C.A.R.E.S. (Community, Access, Resources, Education, and Safety) Task Force was a bipartisan group of legislators from the House of Representatives who aimed to identify problems and solutions for the Michigan mental health system, specifically where it intersects with criminal justice. The new report outlines a number of possible solutions that could help enhance current services, and reduce existing barriers to mental health care. The following are bills that have recently been introduced in response to the report:


HB 5085 would direct 4% of revenues from liquor taxes to Michigan’s local community mental health agencies for administration and delivery of substance use disorder prevention and treatment programs. At least 25% must be used for programs not exclusively related to alcohol. The bills would also direct DHHS to seek additional funds via federal funding, grants, and any available matching funds. The bill would equate to approximately $17m in additional funding for substance abuse treatment distributed via the ten regional Prepaid Inpatient Health Plans (PIHPs). The bill recently passed the House Health Policy Committee and now moves to the House floor – NASW supported.


HB5450-52 would eliminate the broad employment ban in licensed inpatient facilities for most misdemeanors and felonies and reduce the length of ban for more serious crimes. Employers would still have the choice of employing individuals or not. For certain felonies (such as causing death, criminal sexual conduct, felony firearm, and mis-prescribing of medications) the ban would be reduced from 15 years to 10 years. For certain misdemeanors (violent firearm and criminal sexual conduct), the ban would be reduced from 10 years to 5 years. The bill recently heard testimony in House Law and Justice Committee – NASW supported.


HB 5487 would create a “universal credentialing” process whereby a licensed health professional who meets the criteria to be reimbursed by one Medicaid Health Management Organization (HMO), automatically can be reimbursed by ALL HMOs. The bill recently heard testimony in House Health Policy Committee – NASW supported.


HB 5439 would require the MDHHS to create and administer an electronic inpatient psychiatric bed registry for the purposes of identifying available beds in Michigan. Facilities would be required to provide real time status of available beds. The beds would be categorized by patient gender, acuity, age, and diagnosis. Qualifications for individuals in need would still be subject to the regular requirements of each facility. The registry would be made accessible to PIHPs, health plans, CMHs, hospitals, and other appropriate providers. The bill recently passed the House Health Policy Committee and now moves to the House floor – NASW supported


HB 5524 requires MDE and MDHHS to create a professional development course in "mental health first aid" for teachers identifying potential risk factors and warning signs, strategies for dealing with a crisis are included. The bill recently heard testimony in House Health Policy Committee.  


Driver Responsibility Fees

The Governor and GOP leadership recently came to an agreement on a bi-partisan, bi-cameral set of bills aimed to end “driver responsibility fees (DRF),” which are fees attached to past driving infractions, imposed by legislation back in 2003. In 2011, the fees were reduced, but the legislature, via HB 5040-5046, and 5079 & 5080, and SB 609-615, and SB 624-625, now aims at “total amnesty” by eliminating the fee altogether. The House bills call for total amnesty immediately whereas the Senate bills would phase in the amnesty over 6 years with immediate amnesty for any debt over 6 years old. It now seems the agreement will favor the House version of the bills in exchange for a tax deal that increases the personal income tax exemption to $4,900. The change is part of a legislative fix to restore the tax break after its use was rendered incompatible with the recent federal tax overhaul.


Unsurprisingly, DRFs hit low-income families and lower-skilled workers disproportionately, and directly contributes to the cycle of poverty. Some of the statistics are staggering: the average individual who owes a DRF owes $1,600, but some owe more than $10,000. Currently, more than 300,000 drivers have a suspended license because they cannot pay their DRFs. The vicious circle is that many of these drivers still have to get to work, and risk driving on a suspended license. If they are pulled over with a suspended license – or without insurance because they don’t have a valid license to get it – they are charged with another infraction that includes, you guessed it, another DRF assessment. And on the cycle goes.


NASW-Michigan, as in the past, supports this legislation and is pleased to see it moving to the Governor for a signature.


Child Custody Bills

Senate Bills 419-21, introduced by Senators Emmons, Pavlov, and Jones, respectively, were introduced in light of recent court decisions about child removals in neglect cases. The bills would define “neglect” in the juvenile code, Child Protection Law, and the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Act. Currently neglect occurs when a parent fails to provide adequate food, clothing, shelter, or medical care, but the statutes do not contain a standard definition of neglect. The definitions also do not take into account whether a parent has adequate resources and whether a parent was offered financial or other assistance to rectify the situation.


Furthermore, currently, when a child is removed based on neglect, any time the mother has a child in the future she is automatically flagged for an investigation. Judges have the discretion to terminate custody solely based on the previous removal regardless of the change in circumstances that led to the previous removal. The bills would require the court to make additional or different findings in order to terminate parental rights – a reflection of a 2016 Michigan Court of Appeals decision.


The bills have passed the Senate, the House Judiciary Committee, and now await action on the House Floor. NASW supports the bills.


Criminal Sexual Conduct and Youth

House Bills 5530 and 5531 are sponsored by Rep. Lana Theis, a Republican from Livingston County. HB 5530 prohibits a student who was convicted as an adult or a juvenile of Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or attempted CSC, from attending that school again if the victim still attends that school. HB 5531 adds criminal sexual conduct to the zero tolerance/mandatory expulsion for a weapon statute. Both bills are currently in the House Law and Justice committee awaiting a hearing. HB 5532, sponsored by Rep. Sylvia Santana, is a companion bill to HB 5530 and rounds-out the 3-bill package.


HB 5407, introduced by Representative Hughs – Muskegon County, would require the presence of the defendant during presentation of victim oral impact statement(s) unless the judge deems that the defendant would be disruptive or presents a threat to the safety of any individuals present in the courtroom. Another consideration that will likely be added to the bill is allowing the survivor to request the perpetrator not be in the courtroom during the statement. The bill recently passed the House Law and Justice Committee and awaits action on the House Floor.


A 3-bill package was recently introduced that creates a Child Abuse Offenders Registry, along the same lines as Michigan’s Sex Offender Registry. SB 261, 62, and 63 are awaiting a final vote on the Senate floor. In fact, the bills are modeled very closely to the existing registry, though it is a separate registry, not combined with the Sex Offender Registry (SOR). It would include both a law enforcement-only registry, and a registry viewable by the public, again, tracking Michigan’s SOR.


Embryos as Victims

HB 4500 modifies Michigan’s sentencing guidelines statute to consider a fetus or embryo as a person with regard to being the victim of a crime. Michigan has a set of variables that add to a criminal Defendant’s “score” with regard to the sentence they will ultimately face if convicted. One such set are “Offense variables,” which add nuances to the severity of a crime. In the case of HB 4500, Offense Variable (OV) 9 is modified; this is the OV that deals with the number of victims in a crime. If multiple victims died or were placed in danger of injury or death, the points added to a defendant’s score increase anywhere from 0 to 50. HB 4500 says that a fetus or embryo can count among the number of victims.


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