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Sept. 17 | This Week in Government: Budget Bills to Go Through Conference, Voted on Next Week; Hearing on IDs for Undocumented Scrubbed Amid GOP ‘Concerns’

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. Omnibus Budget Bills to Go Through Conference, Voted on Next Week
  2. Hearing on IDs for Undocumented Scrubbed Amid GOP ‘Concerns’
  3. Redistricting Starts in Detroit to Build U.S. House Plan
  4. HFA: Overall August 2021 Tax Collections Up Compared to Year Prior
  5. 43% of Teaching Certificate Holders Not Employed in Teaching Position

Omnibus Budget Bills to Go Through Conference, Voted on Next Week

A pair of omnibus budget bills containing the 2021-22 fiscal year budget is expected to go through the conference committee process and come up for a vote sometime next week, officials said Thursday, but details on budget numbers were not yet available.

The process was still being finalized a day after appropriators and the administration announced that a budget agreement had been reached.

One omnibus bill will contain budgets for state departments and agencies, with the second bill containing the higher education budget.

Abby Mitch, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), said in a Thursday statement there were no details on budget numbers yet available, but outlined the tentative process for reviewing and passing the budget next week.

“We are planning a regular process with conference committees and then a floor vote,” Mitch said, adding the plan is for votes either next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Kurt Weiss, communications director for the State Budget Office, and Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), both confirmed the timeline and the two omnibus bills in short statements. Weiss said more specifics on budget numbers would be available next week.

Plans to hold votes on the budget would come roughly one week ahead of the deadline to have a completed budget by Oct. 1.

The K-12 schools budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year was passed in late June, while the remaining budgets for departments and agencies as well as higher education and community colleges were left for negotiations over the summer legislative recess.

Some of the main areas of disagreement between the Legislature and administration in the leadup to the agreement have been in the higher education and Department of Health and Human Services budgets.


Hearing on IDs for Undocumented Scrubbed Amid GOP ‘Concerns’

A committee hearing on legislation that would have allowed undocumented persons living in Michigan to obtain a state identification card was abruptly canceled Tuesday after some members of the majority House Republican Caucus relayed concerns to leadership.

The House Rules and Competitiveness Committee, scheduled to meet at noon, distributed a cancellation notice just after 10:30 a.m.

Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell), said when asked why the meeting was canceled that “several members reached out to the speaker with concerns, so he asked Rep. Lilly not to hold the hearing.”

As to what those concerns were, D’Assandro said different members raised different concerns.

“But generally, members raised issues with both the policy and the need to focus on finalizing the budget this week,” he said.

HB 4835 would define a resident as every person living in the state instead of every person living in the state who is legally present in the United States. HB 4836 would set the parameters for an undocumented person to obtain a state identification card and prohibit law enforcement from detaining, arresting, penalizing, or discriminating against a person solely on the basis of that person displaying their state identification card.

A message was left with Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Township), the committee chair, seeking comment about the cancellation and plans for the bills going forward.

The bill sponsors, Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy) and Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids), said in interviews they remain hopeful the bills will see a hearing. They praised Lilly as a good partner on the issue. Ms. Kuppa said, however, they were surprised by the sudden committee cancellation.

“He understood the need with his Rules and Competitiveness Committee to keep the state competitive and the economic impact,” she said.

As to the unspecified concerns from Republican members, Hood said, “That barrier is not new. What is new are the allies that are showing up on behalf of this.”

Both said the need for undocumented persons to have official identification is a vital economic issue. There are people who cannot get to jobs that help keep the state’s economy running without identification, they said.

Kuppa said she has received a number of calls from her district pleading for help on the issue.

Hood said undocumented persons will choose to go to states where they can get identification.

“When groups of immigrants have choices to make about where they go in the country to work, this issue is coming up as a key barrier,” she said. “What they risk when they come to Michigan is they can be targeted while they’re just doing the simple task of getting to work, getting to school, access to medical care, whatever those simple steps of daily life are.”

And Kuppa said all that Tuesday would have entailed was a hearing.

“We’re not passing legislation by having a hearing,” she said. “When you want good policy, you discuss it. And you debate the points of the policy.”


Redistricting Starts in Detroit to Build U.S. House Plan

Learning from its decisions in the Senate mapping process, the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has commenced work on plotting U.S. House lines in Michigan’s most sprawling metropolis – Detroit – as opposed to its most remote areas in the Upper Peninsula.

Work on Thursday saw the body build a large portion of its U.S. House map, which was a leap forward for the commission after it toiled for weeks to complete its Senate plan, which was put to rest on Wednesday (See Gongwer Michigan Report, September 15, 2021). Commissioners at first wanted to complete an alternative map for that plan with other adjustments, but the members agreed that their time was short, and drafting for congressional districts took precedence.

Commissioners also learned during one of two afternoon meetings that the commission had survived its first legal challenge before the Supreme Court, where a serial litigant sued the commission over the strong possibility that it will not meet its September 17 deadline to have draft maps proposed to the state and ready for public comment. The case was dismissed because the high court was not persuaded to hear and rule on the matter.

Regarding the day’s mapmaking mission, commissioners chose to start in Detroit because they had struggled mightily while building the Senate map to balance the city’s largely Black voter population across several districts as to not pack them into just one or two districts – which would violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

That led the group to build two districts in Detroit bisecting it to the east and west by Woodward Avenue, with 8 Mile Road as a natural northern border for both districts.

The district to the west of Woodward also encompassed Harper Woods and the Grosse Pointes, and south to include the northern portion of the Downriver cities, like River Rouge, Melvindale, Ecorse, Lincoln Park, and Allen Park. From the 8 Mile border, this district also rose north to include Center Line and Warren in Macomb County.

To the east of Woodward, the second Detroit district included the remaining portion of the city’s west side, Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, Livonia, Westland, Garden City, Inkster, Redford, Redford Township, Romulus, and Taylor.

A third district was created above that 8 Mile border comprised of a large portion of Oakland County, including the cities of Wixom, Walled Lake, Northville, Novi, Farmington Hills, Southfield, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Bloomfield Township, West Bloomfield proper, and West Bloomfield Township, Keego Harbor and Waterford Township.

Each of these districts would be strong Democratic districts.

The southern Downriver communities like Flat Rock, Brownstown, and Woodhaven were drawn into one district comprised of the whole of Washtenaw County, a single township in southwestern Oakland County, and a northeastern border portion of Jackson County.

Beneath that, commissioners draw sprawling southern border districts comprised of Monroe, Lenawee, Hillsdale, Branch, St. Joseph, and Cass counties, the eastern border of Berrien County, as well as the remaining western half of Jackson County and all of Calhoun County.

Directly east, another large district was drawn to encompass Kalamazoo, Van Buren, Barry, and Allegan counties, the remaining portion of Berrien County, and some of the southern Ottawa County.

In the center of the state, a district was drawn including all of Ingham, Eaton and Livingston, Shiawassee, and Clinton counties, with the eastern half of Ionia also drawn in.

On the west side of the state, the commission proposed a district comprised of all of Kent County, the western edge sans two townships of Ionia County, the eastern edge of Ottawa County, and a township on the southeastern edge of Muskegon County.

A massive Thumb district encompassed St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron counties, most of Tuscola County, and portions the tri-cities area of Saginaw, Bay City, and Midland, including the eastern half of Midland County.

To the west of the Thumb district, commissioners drew a smaller district that consumed all of Macomb County except for the portion taken up by the eastern Detroit district.

A large district comprised of all of the Upper Peninsula and eastward down the Lower Peninsula to include Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Alpena, Alcona, Iosco, Oscoda, Ogemaw, Arenac, Gladwin, Clare, Mecosta, Isabella, Montcalm, Gratiot counties, as well as the western halves of Midland and Saginaw counties.

FRIDAY MEETINGS ADDED: Several commissioners over the past several weeks have lamented that time to complete mapping was tightening by the day.

With just one map plan completed, commissioners urged adding more meetings to their schedule to ensure that they have time deliberate on districts without feeling rushed.

That led the commission on Thursday to approve the addition of Friday meetings to its existing schedule. Actual Friday meeting dates were not readily available and would likely be brought to the commission as a proposed schedule amendment by ICRC Executive Director Suann Hammersmith. The commission would then need to vote on the proposed amended schedule at a future meeting.

A motion to add Saturdays as well resulted in a 5-5 vote, so the motion failed.

Aside from commissioners themselves, members of the public and various groups supporting the commission’s work believed that more time would help the body create fair and thoughtful maps. Leaders of Voters Not Politicians, the group that helped pass the constitutional amendment creating the ICRC, in a news conference Thursday asked the commission to consider adding dates and extended times to its schedule.

FULL U.S. CENSUS DATA RELEASED TO COMMISSION: The more user-friendly version of previously delayed census data was released to states on Thursday, completing the U.S. Census Bureau’s data dump in a tabulated format that is easier to parse than the granular data released in August.

The release will have no major effect on the commission’s mapping work as the body’s mapping consultants have been able to translate and transpose the legacy format data into its software, autoBoundEdge.

It will, however, give commissioners an easier way to load the data onto their state-provided computers and software.

In a statement, Quentin Turner, program director for Common Cause Michigan, said the release will help the public and groups engage more equitably in the process.

“Ten years is too long to sit out this redistricting cycle. We are grateful to all those who have already made their voices loud and clear and for fair redistricting. We encourage everyone in Michigan to join us in our call for fair maps today. If you care about having a say in your future, your family’s future, or your community’s future, we need you to participate in redistricting,” Turner said. “A strong and vibrant democracy is a participatory democracy, one in which we the people have the power to make political decisions. That power is stronger when we fight together.”


HFA: Overall August 2021 Tax Collections Up Compared to Year Prior

A strong housing market is to thank for higher year-over-year real estate transfer tax collections, the House Fiscal Agency said in its July 2021 revenue update released Tuesday.

Overall, the state brought in $2.63 billion in August, $270.8 million more than in August 2020, bringing the fiscal year-to-date collections to $3.86 billion more than in the previous year.

Net income tax collections for the year thus far are $1.27 billion more than a year ago, totaling $938.3 million in August 2021. Income tax refunds continue to be smaller than anticipated, the HFA said, which boosted net income tax collections.

On a fiscal year-to-date basis, net business taxes were $419.2 million more through August 2021 than one year ago as corporate income tax collections remain strong, exceeding the May 2021 projections by about $175 million. Smaller than expected state business tax refunds also contributed to higher net business tax revenue.

Revenue from consumption taxes – sales tax, the use tax, beer and wine taxes, liquor taxes, and tobacco taxes – totaled $1.16 billion in August, which was $1.74 billion more than that same time a year prior. The HFA said that sales tax and, to a lesser degree use tax, collections continue to exceed expectations as consumers purchase taxable goods at a higher rate than before the onset of the pandemic.

Additionally, revenues from the state education tax and the real estate transfer tax in August were $214.8 million and $48.5 million, respectively. Collections from the transfer tax through August were $132.5 million more than at this point last year, which the HFA credits to strength in the housing market.

The transfer from the lottery to the School Aid Fund was $90.0 million in August, and year-to-date transfers were $100.2 million more than fiscal year 2019-20.

As for the School Aid Fund, revenue was estimated at $1.35 billion in August, $116.3 million above the amount established at the consensus revenue estimating conference in May. This is credited to a higher than projected collection of sales and use taxes.

Year-to-date School Aid Fund revenue for the current fiscal year is about $529.9 million above the consensus revenue projections, largely because of higher than estimated sales and gross income tax collections.


43% of Teaching Certificate Holders Not Employed in Teaching Position

Of the nearly 150,000 current, valid teaching certificates issued by the Department of Education, 64,847 of those certificate holders – or just a little over 43% – were not employed in a teaching position as of October 2020.

That’s according to an educator workforce data report released by MDE’s Office of Educator Excellence, which was a focus during Tuesday’s State Board of Education meeting. Data used within the report was gathered between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, and is intended to provide a snapshot into the state’s teacher recruitment, retention, and accountability efforts.

Approximately 149,689 individuals held a current, valid teaching certificate as of October of last year, with 143,499 of those living in Michigan. The remaining 6,190 valid certificates are held by people who live outside of the state. Overall, 84,842 teachers are currently employed in a teaching position and using their valid certificate.

The licensing metrics include individuals holding a valid teaching certificate with an issue date on or after January 1, 1980, and who are younger than the age of 70. This is also not a complete reflection of the number of educators working in Michigan, which is slightly more, averaging anywhere between about 87,000 to 89,000, according to Leah Breen, director of the Office of Educator Excellence.

In remarks to the board, Breen said the office broke down numbers as it did because the officials are not just interested in recruitment from the perspective of bringing new bodies into the workforce but in encouraging educators to return to the workforce.

“We reach out to these different populations in different ways depending on where they are in life, their age, their current validity of their certificate, how long have they been employed or not employed,” she said. “It helps us understand the pool of our educators.”

However, if a person were to try and look at the number of employed teachers within Michigan, they might receive a number closer to 108,801, Breen said, adding that number reflects teachers with multiple placements, meaning that a teacher could technically be counted twice if they work in more than one district.

Additional workforce data outlined in the report shows a sharp decline in the number of first-year teachers in 2019-20 compared to 2018-19. The most recent data indicates there were 4,927 first-year teachers – determined by counting the individuals in the Registry of Educational Personnel assigned to a public school in a teaching assignment for the first time since the 2003-04 academic year – which was a drop from the 5,194 first-year teachers the year prior.

The state boasted a total of 452,403 general teaching endorsements for the 2019-20 academic year (educators can have an unlimited number of endorsements, accounting for the large metric), roughly one-fifth of which were centered in elementary education. It also issued 7,335 total valid Career Technical Education endorsements, with the largest amount going to endorsements for business, management, and administration.

During that same time, the state issued 957 new school administrator certificates and renewed 1,453. For social workers, 171 were issued full approval, 112 were issued a continuation of their temporary approval, and 291 were given temporary approval during the 2019-20 academic year.

The state also renewed 205 school psychologist certificates, issued 43 preliminary school psychologist certificates, and fully credentialed another 66.

As for guidance counselors, 183 total school counselor credentials were issued during the 2019-20 academic year with 24 being preliminary, another 24 receiving an endorsement, 36 credentials being issued on a temporary basis and the remaining 99 being issued a School Counselor License.

READ BY GRADE 3: While it’s estimated that more than 3,600 of Michigan’s third-graders could be retained due to poor scores on a literacy assessment, that final amount will not be known until possibly mid-October.

Marty Ackley, MDE spokesperson, told Gongwer News Service following the meeting that October 18 is the targeted date for the data’s release in a report compiled by Michigan State University’s Education Policy Innovation Collaborative. That will be based on data gathered by the Center for Educational Performance and Information, which comes from local districts. Once that data is compiled, MDE will release the numbers in conjunction with EPIC.