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May 13 | This Week in Government: 5 Republicans Invited To Mackinac Conference Gubernatorial Debate; Term Limits, Financial Disclosure Changes Headed To Ballot

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. 5 Republicans Invited To Mackinac Conference Gubernatorial Debate
  2. Term Limits, Financial Disclosure Changes Headed To Ballot
  3. Disclosing Dollars Spent By Detroit Zoo, DIA Debated By Senate Panel
  4. Shirkey, Industry Leader Tout Proposed Blockchain, Crypto Study
  5. MI Opts Out Of Fed Requirements For Physician Supervision Of CRNAs

 


5 Republicans Invited to Mackinac Conference Gubernatorial Debate

James Craig, Perry Johnson, and Kevin Rinke are three of the five Republican candidates invited to the Detroit Chamber of Commerce’s Mackinac Policy Conference gubernatorial debate on June 2, assuming they all make it on the ballot.

Also invited to the debate are Ryan Kelley and Garrett Soldano. Notably missing from the list is Tudor Dixon who, along with Mr. Craig and Mr. Johnson, is facing petition challenges.

All three have since filed responses to the challenges (See Gongwer Michigan Report, May 11, 2022). Mr. Craig appears in the most serious trouble for being blocked from ballot access.

In its release, the chamber said its members and the Michigan Republican Party determined the selection process and a recent statewide survey of Republican primary voters informed the selection. The survey collected its votes from 500 anticipated August 2022 Republican primary voters between April 29 and May 1.

“The Mackinac Policy Conference is pleased to welcome Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial hopefuls to Michigan’s Center Stage as they present their vision for our state’s future,” Sandy Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said in a statement. “We look forward to the candidates for governor giving our attendees and a statewide audience their perspectives on Michigan’s future beyond campaign soundbites.”

If the Board of State Canvassers rules on ballot petition challenges, the chamber will switch up the debate participants. The other five candidates – Mike Brown, Ralph Rebandt, Donna Brandenburg, and Michael Markey Jr. – will not appear on stage, however they have been invited to attend the conference.

Related: [Chamber Invites Top 5 Candidates To Participate In GOP Gubernatorial Debate]


Term Limits, Financial Disclosure Changes Headed to Ballot

The Legislature took historic votes Tuesday morning to send the first significant changes to the state’s 30-year-old term limits law to the November ballot, but not before weakening the proposed financial disclosure requirements within the ballot measure in an amended form.

Introduced Tuesday by House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), HJR R was passed by a 76-28 vote in the House and then quickly passed by the Senate 26-6, obtaining the necessary two-thirds votes for sending the proposed constitutional amendment directly to the ballot.

The joint resolution contained much of the language being pushed by the coalition Voters for Transparency and Term Limits (See Gongwer Michigan Report, March 1, 2022).

House lawmakers are currently capped at three, two-year terms of service, though can go on to be elected to the Senate and serve for two, four-year terms for a total of 14 overall years of public service. That would be lessened to 12 years under this joint resolution, though a person could choose to serve all 12 years in a singular chamber.

In addition to the stipulations surrounding cumulative years served, the proposal also would require financial disclosures from officials for the first time.

It specifies that by April 15, 2024, the Legislature, the governor, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, and the attorney general must electronically file an annual financial disclosure report with the Department of State.

The disclosure would require a description of assets and sources of unearned income, sources of earned income, description of liabilities, and positions currently held. That would include a position held as an officer, director, trustee, or employee of any business enterprise, nonprofit, labor organization, or institution other than the state itself.

The positions required for disclosure would not apply to positions held in any religious, social, fraternal or political entity, or positions that are solely of an honorary nature.

Additional disclosure requirements would include:

  • Agreements or arrangements with respect to future employment, a leave of absence while serving as a legislator or state officer, continuation or deferral of payments by a former or current employer other than the state or continuing participation in an employee welfare or benefit plan maintained by a former employer;
  • Gifts received and required to be reported by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent, as prescribed by state law;
  • Travel payments and reimbursements received and required to be reported by a lobbyist or lobbyist agent as prescribed by state law; and
  • Payments made by lobbyists or a lobbyist agent to a charity in lieu of honoraria.

Of significance, however, were the several changes to the proposed financial disclosure requirements contained in the coalition’s proposal that were weakened prior to coming before the Legislature.

Language in the ballot group’s proposal stating the financial disclosure rules must be at least as strict as those for Congress was removed. Also removed in the resolution was language referring to a requirement to disclose “purchases, sales or exchanges of a security or real property.”

The coalition’s language would have required the reporting of liabilities, income, and assets. Under HJR R, that language instead requires a description of liabilities, assets, and sources of income.

For reporting gifts and travel reimbursements, the proposal dictates that lawmakers must report all gifts and travel reimbursement. The resolution only requires what is currently required for lobbyists to report.

Asked why the House felt the need to move the joint resolution Tuesday, Mr. Wentworth was short in saying that the caucus has “been talking about this for weeks as a caucus and as a Legislature.”

“When the votes are there, you move it,” he said. “So, that’s what we did.”

There is, though, a massive caveat in the joint resolution which relies heavily on yet-to-be-passed legislation.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for Mr. Wentworth, said that would include what qualifies as a conflict of interest along with how to implement this portion of the joint resolution. Residents would be able to bring legal action against the state directly to the Supreme Court should the Legislature not enact legislation by December 31, 2023.

“The alternative was to just adopt the congressional standard which doesn’t fit … existing Michigan requirements – for example, lobbyist interactions – but then … it creates a standard for what is a conflict of interest for our congressmen, which may not apply to be a conflict of interest for a state rep,” Mr. D’Assandro said.

Mr. Wentworth said that aligning lawmaker reporting requirements with lobbyist reporting requirements would make it so both parties are playing by the same rulebook. Therefore, if a lobbyist doesn’t report something that a lawmaker does, it would be easy to see where reports are falling through the cracks.

“I think it’s absolutely a slam dunk,” Mr. Wentworth said of reporting requirements. “Right now, under current law, it’s on lobbyists to report, right? This would actually require the legislator to report as well so that checks and balances. If a lobbyist were not to report something, there’s no (current) balance, there’s no check on that.”

He continued: “If a legislator then actually discloses, and the lobbyist doesn’t, then there’s a check and balance there. I think this is actually much stricter of an approach we need to make, to make sure that this is a focus.”

Asked why the House didn’t carve out terms within the joint resolution ahead of passing it out of the lower chamber, Mr. Wentworth said it was important that voters knew what they were voting on and that there was only “a certain amount of space you can do that with.”

“To make sure that they know that these are the priorities of financial disclosure and term limit changes is key,” he said. “Then the Legislature can enact the policy going forward.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) did not make himself available to reporters following session, but in a statement praised the proposal as being a solid option for the voters to weigh in on the fall.

“By enabling lawmakers to serve out all their time in one chamber, even if for an overall shorter period of 12 years instead of the current 14, individuals would be free to focus on issues that are important to the communities they represent rather than on their next career move,” Mr. Shirkey said. “Likewise, it is also important that we strike a reasonable balance when it comes to the financial information elected officials must disclose to help make government more transparent, and not further discourage good folks from running for office.”

Mr. Shirkey has long been a supporter of changing the state’s laws on term limits. He has also been opposed to certain levels of financial disclosure, which he has repeatedly said might dissuade otherwise qualified persons from running for office.

Patrick Anderson from the Term Limits Defense Fund slammed the Legislature’s action as lacking any discussion. He said he was in the lobby in the Senate when the 26th vote went on the board and “the lobbyists around me quietly cheered.”

“This was adopted with no notice to the voters. It was hastily passed it with no debate. They even suspended the rules so they could avoid reading it out loud,” he said in a statement. “Whether you like term limits or not, this is a disgrace. These elected officials just reminded voters why they need to limit the power of incumbency. The stench of this ambush of the voters will last all the way to November.”

The breakdown of Tuesday’s House vote on HJR R split members of both caucuses:

HOUSE DEMOCRATS VOTING YES: Breen, Bolden, Cambensy, Camilleri, B. Carter, T. Carter, Cavanagh, Cherry, Clemente, Coleman, Ellison, Garza, Harris, Hertel, Hood, Hope, Jones, Koleszar, Kuppa, LaGrand, Liberati, Manoogian, Morse, Neeley, O’Neal, Pepper, Peterson, Pohutsky, Sabo, Scott, Shannon, Sowerby, Steckloff, Steenland, Tate, Thanedar, Weiss, Whitsett, Witwer, Yancey, and Young.

HOUSE DEMOCRATS VOTING NO: Aiyash, Brixie, Haadsma, C. Johnson, Rabhi, Rogers, Sneller, and Stone.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOTING YES: Alexander, Beeler, Bellino, Berman, Beson, Brann, Calley, Clements, Eisen, Filler, Frederick, Green, Griffin, Hall, Hoitenga, Hornberger, Howell, Kahle, Lightner, Lilly, Marino, Meerman, Mekoski, O’Malley, Outman, Paquette, Posthumus, Slagh, Tisdel, Vansingel, Wakeman, Wendzel, Wentworth, Whiteford and Yaroch.

HOUSE REPUBLICANS VOTING NO: Albert, Allor, Bollin, Borton, Carra, Damoose, Farrington, Fink, Glenn, Hauck, S. Johnson, LaFave, Maddock, Markkanen, Martin, Mueller, Reilly, Rendon, Roth, and VanWoerkom.

HOUSE MEMBERS NOT VOTING: Anthony, Brabec, Lasinski, Puri, and Bezotte.

In the Senate, the six members who voted against the resolution were Sen. Betty Alexander (D-Detroit), Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), Sen. John Bizon (R-Battle Creek), Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township), Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) and Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington).

Six members were absent and did not vote Tuesday. Those included Sen. Jim Ananich (D-Flint), Sen. Jon Bumstead (R-North Muskegon), Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Niles) and Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit).

Related: [Advocacy In Action Update: Chamber Supports Term Limit Reforms]


Disclosing Dollars Spent By Detroit Zoo, DIA Debated By Senate Panel

A pair of bills that would require the Detroit Zoological Society and the Detroit Institute of Arts to disclose how they spend their money saw some pushback during a Tuesday testimony before a Senate committee, with some questioning if this was a move to make now private nonprofits subject to regulations reserved for public and government entities.

SB 818, heard by the Senate Oversight Committee on Tuesday, would amend the Open Meetings Act to include accredited zoological institutions and art institutes that receive tax money and require all meetings to be open and available to the public. A separate bill, SB 819, would amend the Freedom of Information Act to also include zoological institutions and art institutes to disclose how they spend the money they receive upon request.

Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), SB 818’s sponsor, said the issue at hand was about transparency. Mr. Runestad said approximately $22 million annually is dedicated to the DIA and $5.8 million is given to the Detroit Zoo.

Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties have authority boards that levy taxes for each of the institutions, and once the millages are approved by the voters, the authority boards allocate the money to the DIA and the Detroit Zoo. These authorities are subject to FOIA, however, the Detroit Zoo and DIA do not have to disclose how they spend those dollars.

“What happens with the money once it’s at the two institutions? We don’t know,” Mr. Runestad said. “We are told that the entities, they’re private, so you shouldn’t be able to look at them. Well, are they, when 70 percent of (the DIA’s) funding, 33 percent of (the Detroit Zoo’s) funding is from public taxpayer dollars?”

Mr. Runestad said he is open to including a prohibition of disclosing the donors and open to modifying the bill to allow for leaders at the DIA to discuss purchasing art in a closed session.

Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) raised some concerns about the bills, asking why the two institutions were explicitly named and were the only vendors subject to the Open Meetings Act and FOIA while other vendors the authorities use, such as a vendor for accounting and a vendor for auditing, would not be included.

“It’s concerning to take a private entity and make it public through government action,” Mr. Irwin said.

Mr. Runestad replied he saw a real difference between a private company that’s among a multitude of private companies competing for the business of the authority, adding these two entities do not operate like other private companies.

“The way I see it and I think the general public sees it as nothing more than a pass-through entity – the authority – to a quasi-governmental agency, Mr. Runestad said.

Speaking on behalf of the Detroit Zoo was Kirk Profit, the director of Government Consultant Services, while Honigman LLP attorney Peter Ruddell spoke on behalf of the DIA. Both said they valued transparency and Mr. Profit said the entities receive the funding they do because of their transparency with the public.

“You look across different budgets – community health, education, social services, roads, transportation, public safety – a lot of that money is going to go to a private vendor,” Mr. Profit said. “By exposing those private vendors to this kind of sunshine, by law that is appropriate, and we embrace it for government entities … should we expand the notion of a public body to a nonprofit private entity?”

Mr. Ruddell clarified the DIA does not receive 70 percent of its funds from public entities. He also said the bills’ language is so vague it could be argued for example if Sen. Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Township) donated to the DIA in his will, his will could also be subject to FOIA.

No other action was taken on the bills. Committee Chair Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) said he hopes to discuss the bills again in the coming weeks.

OTHER BUSINESS: A bill that would require the Legislature to appropriate and disburse each year the amount needed for local governments to pay mandates required by the state saw no action.

Mr. McBroom, the bill’s sponsor, said an amendment for SB 449 is currently being worked on.

Under this bill, local governments could choose not to provide a new service required by the state unless a fiscal note is prepared, and the state appropriated the necessary funds.

If the money is not appropriated to the local governments, the bill would also prohibit the state from imposing a penalty, withholding funds, or imposing any form of monetary sanction on the local governments for failing to comply with the state requirement under certain circumstances.

The Department of Treasury would also be required to develop an account system to assist in the fiscal note process and the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget would be required to adjust the necessary funding to meet the state’s funding responsibility for each fiscal year.

Depending on the workload, the Senate Fiscal Agency estimates an additional full-time employee may be needed in the Legislature. Treasury would also experience additional costs to develop the accounting system.


Shirkey, Industry Leader Tout Proposed Blockchain, Crypto Study

Senators were told Thursday a proposed study of blockchain and cryptocurrency could eventually open the state up to the technology while making Michigan attractive to an educated workforce and new financial capital.

Before the Senate Economic and Small Business Development Committee for testimony only was SB 888, a bill that would create a Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Commission.

Membership of the 16-member commission would include a member apiece appointed by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders, two gubernatorial appointees, the heads of the departments of Attorney General, Treasury, Technology, Management, and Budget or their designees, and several others.

The duties of the commission would be to investigate blockchain and cryptocurrency and develop a set of recommendations for the expansion of blockchain technology and the cryptocurrency industry in the state.

“I can’t think of a topic today that is more pertinent than making sure Michigan is welcoming to the trends in the use and application of blockchain technology and everything associated with cryptocurrency,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), a co-sponsor of SB 888, told the committee. “This is not simply to create a commission. This is really sending a signal to the nation and the world that Michigan is paying attention.”

Mr. Shirkey testified in the place of Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint), the bill’s main sponsor, who was not available to testify Thursday.

Bob Burnett, co-founder of Florida-based Divvy Systems and Barefoot Mining, told the committee bringing blockchain technology and cryptocurrency mining to Michigan could have huge implications.

Mr. Burnett said advantages include having a finite amount of currency in the system, being able to make transactions more quickly than a traditional bank and there being a permanent chronological record of all transactions.

He also explained, when asked about prices for bitcoin cratering in recent days, that the currency is better for investment rather than attempts at short-term gain.

“It’s an appropriate place to save money in the long term,” Mr. Burnett said, using the example of placing some bitcoin aside for a grandchild’s college education.

For mining purposes, Mr. Burnett said Michigan is an advantageous location due to its moderate climate and diverse resources.

When asked about environmental concerns of mining, Mr. Burnett said the industry’s percentage of renewable energy is higher than other industries. Further, he said mining can locate right next to an energy source, saving on expensive transmission methods and potential increases in emissions.

The time to begin researching blockchain technology and cryptocurrency is now, he said.

“By doing nothing … you’ll get ignored,” Mr. Burnett said, adding relationships and infrastructure may be in place elsewhere if Michigan were to wait to get involved.

Under SB 888, factors to be studied would include the feasibility and risks of the technology’s use in state and local government and Michigan-based businesses would be among the commission’s areas of investigation.

Areas of government use to study would include government records, delivery of services, use in statewide registries including for firearms, marijuana, and elections processes.

For business use, areas of study would include whether it is advisable for businesses to maintain corporate records through blockchain technology.

Other areas of study would include the impact on state revenues, what changes to the state’s tax structure may be needed, whether cryptocurrency transactions should be part of state sales tax, the feasibility of regulating energy consumption associated with cryptocurrency, and best practices for its use to government, businesses, and residents.

A report containing the commission’s recommendations and draft legislation for implementing recommendations would be due to the House and Senate within one year of the commission being appointed and seated.


MI Opts Out Of Fed Requirements For Physician Supervision Of CRNAs

Michigan will become the 20th state to opt-out of federal requirements for a physician to supervise certified registered nurse anesthetists after Governor Gretchen Whitmer late last month penned a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid asking to do so.

“I have concluded that it is in the best interest of Michigan Citizens to opt-out of the current physician supervision requirement, as provided in the federal regulations, and that the opt-out is consistent with Michigan state law,” Ms. Whitmer wrote in an April 18 letter to the CMS. “This letter constitutes my formal notification of the State of Michigan opt-out.”

The decision was informed after her own review of the topic and done in consultation with both the Michigan Board of Nursing and the Board of Medicine, as well as on the advice of legislative leaders, Ms. Whitmer noted in the letter.

It directly follows the creation of PA 53 of 2021 – formerly HB 4359, sponsored by Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Township) – which allowed CRNAs to work in accordance with national standards while also mandating that a CRNA hold a specialty certification for at least three years before practicing without supervision.

Another requirement would be for physicians, podiatrists and dentists to be part of a patient-centered care team (See Gongwer Michigan Report, July 13, 2021).

Michigan Association of Nurse Anesthetists President Adam Kuz praised the move in a Thursday statement, saying: “Governor Whitmer’s action in signing the opt-out ensures Michigan’s patients have access to efficient and value-based, high-quality care which optimizes healthcare teams across our state.”

Roughly 2,600 CRNAs are currently practicing in Michigan making up 70 percent of all anesthesia providers in the state.