Nov. 10, 2023 | This Week in Government: Sine Die Adjournment Date SetNovember 10, 2023
Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, provides 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.
Legislature Calls it Quits on 2023
It’s official. The Legislature will adjourn for the year on Tuesday.
HCR 11 cleared both chambers Thursday, setting the sine die adjournment date for Nov. 14.
Legislative leaders were mum on the details, but it was widely expected the Legislature would adjourn earlier for the year – essentially canceling two to three weeks of session in December – to allow the presidential primary bill to take effect next year. House Democrats losing their majority next week with the House going to 54-54 following the pending resignations of Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) and Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) to become their hometown mayors added fuel to the earliest sine die in decades.
With sine die on Nov. 14, all bills signed into law this year not given immediate effect will take effect Feb. 13, 2024, unless there’s a specific effective date in the bill after that date.
House Republicans slammed the adjournment announcement, with Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richmond) telling reporters the majority party never told him they were planning to adjourn.
“We could crank out a ton of bipartisan legislation. It would be a lot of fun,” Hall said, in a nod to the pending 54-54 division. “But I think the real reason is they just don’t want to work together.”
Republicans were at least aware that sine die was coming, as a spokesperson for Hall passed out candy canes to members of the press on Thursday adorned with Christmas tags and labeled with the bipartisan priorities the House GOP said it would have liked to tackle in December.
“We wish we could stay and fix our critical bridges that the budget ignored,” one candy cane said.
“We wish we could stay and finally have an Ethics and Oversight Committee hearing,” another read.
Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) said the early adjournment at least means Democrats cannot “impose any more harmful policies,” on the state.
“The hardworking people of Michigan elected this 102nd Legislature expecting us to work together,” he said in a statement. “I came into this year hopeful; it seemed like we could work together. But that just wasn’t the case. At every opportunity to work toward commonsense, middle 70% solutions, the Democratic majority made the conscious choice to sprint to the far left.”
Tate said an early sine die was necessary because many of the priorities passed by the House and Senate did not get immediate effect.
“We just went on a tear,” Tate said. “Up until this morning, moving forward with a transparency package … that we’ve been talking about a long time.”
Besides the presidential primary, Tate cited gun legislation, expanded the earned income tax credit, and repealed the retirement tax.
“We want to be able to actually have these policies that we’ve been talking about, that put people first, actually get down and have an effect on their lives as soon as possible,” he said. “As much as we’ve done that, we tried to move in a bipartisan fashion … the cases that we felt conceptually that we had agreement around – you look at the beginning of the year, I think there was an agreement to have some support around expanding the EITC – unfortunately, we couldn’t get to a place.”
Senate Majority Leader Winne Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) also championed the Democratic majority’s productive year.
“We got through so much, we worked a lot of hours and we felt really comfortable with the progress that we made. We would really like to see these things that did not get immediate effect get immediate effect,” Brinks said.
Those items included LGBT rights, reproductive health care bills, the retirement tax repeal, the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion, and firearms law changes.
Brinks said it was clear early on in the session that the Republicans were not going to grant immediate effect on some issues.
“They were just philosophically opposed to some of those things that we find really, really valuable that people of Michigan asked us for: the gun violence prevention stuff, for instance, reproductive health rights stuff,” Brinks said. “These are things where days and weeks matter, so those were really important for us.”
Nesbitt took aim at the change to the presidential primary date, which he said would disenfranchise half the voters in Michigan and was pointless given that President Joe Biden is running for reelection. He referred to the presidential primary date change as the “Whitmer presidential exploratory committee contingency plan.”
“Less than 48 hours after an election brought the Michigan House to a bipartisan tie, Lansing Democrats are shutting down the Capitol for the rest of the year rather than having to work with Republicans,” Nesbitt said.
Brinks said she was not eager to adjourn early this year if the presidential primary date was the only item needing immediate effect.
“We had a long list of things we want to do,” Brinks said. “I personally have worked for 10 years to be in a position to get all of these things done. We have been incredibly diligent about being here, doing the work, putting things through committee, trying to respect the process, getting stuff ticked off our list, so I was not prepared to adjourn early for one thing if I couldn’t get a lot of the things that are our priorities as a Senate Democratic caucus done.”
The presidential primary wasn’t the only time crunch in the House. House Democrats were contending with the added complication that they will soon officially be at a 54-54 tie in the chamber.
Both Coleman and Stone are in safe Democratic districts, so House Democrats should be back to 56-54 following special elections to fill the seats.
Hall said that instead of adjourning early, the two parties could work on improving education and economic development. He also pushed for what he called a “shared power agreement,” whether that be formal or informal.
“If there’s no agreement, then it’s just gridlock on the board, but we don’t want gridlock,” Hall said. “If you don’t negotiate agreement, then nothing gets done.”
Tate said there was no “shared” power.
“We’re not in shared power. Democrats still control the gavel,” he said. “Those are rules that we adopted at the beginning of the year. …You can strike ‘share’ from it because we’ll still continue to do the work.”
Hall insisted that some sort of agreement or shuffling of committees was necessary.
“We’re going to give them a few days,” Hall said. “And then we’ll work on the shared power agreement next week.”
There are priorities that Tate said he believes the chamber could build consensus on in a 54-54 split, including community and economic development, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, child care, and targeted tax relief.
The Detroit land value tax that Tate and Detroit Mayor Duggan championed could also come back before the House next year, Tate said.
“I’m really optimistic. I’m really proud about the work that we’ve been able to do,” Tate said. “But we know that we’re going to be able to come back at the top of the year and get work done.”
In the Senate, Brinks also said economic development policy is key for Democrats, along with prescription drug affordability and family medical leave. The latter two items were pitched by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but nothing happened on family medical leave, and while the Senate swiftly passed the Prescription Drug Affordability Board, the House did nothing with it.
“I think there’s a space for that that we can come together around a plan that’s workable,” Brinks said about family leave. “We need to bring those stakeholders to the table and have that conversation.”
It would probably require some weekly stakeholder meetings, she said, adding that there are models for family leave in other states that could be models to consider.
Brinks was optimistic about the temporary 54-54 makeup of the House headed into 2024, saying it will present an opportunity to find items of bipartisan agreement to take up early next year.
Tate said he wasn’t concerned about the 54-54 split or the divisions that have appeared within his caucus in recent weeks as House Democrats have struggled to put 56 votes up on the board for many pieces of legislation.
“That’s the institution we’re in,” he said. “We have 56 members that all have their own background and their own experience, and they bring their own experiences here. … It’s healthy for us.”
Many members of both caucuses were disappointed with the financial disclosure package the House passed early Thursday morning, and many said they weren’t confident that House leadership would take the issue up again in the new year.
Tate said he would have more hearings and votes on transparency and ethics.
“We moved the needle significantly,” he said. “There are continued conversations there and saying ‘OK, what can we continue to do.”
Financial Disclosure Package Set to Head to Governor
The Legislature completed its work Thursday on financial disclosure requirements for state elected officials to comply with a voter-approved measure, capped by some additional provisions adopted this week to toughen up the final product in the name of transparency.
Members of the Senate voted Thursday to concur with House changes adopted the previous evening, following some pushback from a pair of Republicans opposed to the package, which said it does not go nearly far enough.
Proposal 2022-1 required the Legislature to pass the first-ever financial disclosure requirements for state elected officials by Dec. 31, 2023. With Thursday the last voting session day of the year, the pressure was on for the Legislature to complete action.
Besides the main Senate bills, the House also passed a new bill late to prevent lawmakers from being seated upon election without filing a financial disclosure (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Nov. 8, 2023).
On Thursday, the Senate votes to concur with the changes to SB 613 and SB 614 were the same 36-2 votes taken earlier this month, with Sen. Jonathan Lindsey (R-Coldwater) and Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) opposed. Also passing the Senate Thursday was SB 374, which the House used as a vehicle bill to accompany the legislation. As amended, the bill would prevent a lawmaker from being seated after being elected if they did not file a financial disclosure.
Senators voted 30-8 to concur with the House substitute for SB 374. Six Republicans joined Lindsey and Runestad in opposition to the bill: Sen. Joseph Bellino of Monroe, Sen. Kevin Daley of Lum, Sen. John Damoose of Harbor Springs, Sen. Roger Hauck of Mount Pleasant, Sen. Michele Hoitenga of Manton and Sen. Lana Theis of Brighton.
Lindsey and Runestad voiced their disappointment prior to the final votes.
Runestad thrashed SB 613, saying the bill does not nearly live up to the spirit of what the voters approved last year. He said the loopholes in the legislation are Grand Canyon-esque and the disclosure provisions weak.
“This bill is nothing more than a hoax, a smoke and mirrors attempt to delude the voters. I must vote no on this mostly toothless bill here today,” Runestad said.
Runestad said he expected proponents of the legislation to tout it as a significant win for transparency. He countered that it was the product of being under the gun due to a vote of the people, and even then, he said there was foot-dragging in completing the work. The senator questioned the idea that the Legislature would do anything further on government transparency with the pressure off after the passage of the bills before them Thursday.
“I’m very discouraged that the quality and the caliber of the so-called disclosure would be this weak,” Runestad said. “It is as a sick, blind, deaf, three-legged kitten just got tossed in among the Lansing wolves. Today is a terrible loss for all voters who wanted true transparency.”
Lindsey called the passage of SB 374 an egregious act by the Legislature. He said it applies to newly elected members but not sitting members.
“I think it’s a terrible bill that we just passed,” Lindsey said.
Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), the sponsor of SB 614, thanked the House for the changes made late Wednesday night, which he said would strengthen the bills, adding the changes were bipartisan.
“We have increased … the transparency for spouses,” Singh said. “When you have legislation like this you sometimes have to take the art of the possible.”
He reiterated past comments that as chair of the Senate Oversight Committee, he looks forward to also seeing possible transparency legislation before the panel next year dealing with lobbyist reporting and non-lobbyist agents.
The House changes to SB 613 would require public officials to disclose whether their spouse is a registered vendor with the state or has a majority interest in a company that is a registered vendor with the state. Officials would also have to disclose if their spouse was employed by a company that is registered with the state as a vendor. The same changes were added to SB 614.
The Proposal 1 implementation bills have been winding through the legislative process in recent weeks, with supporters having said the work on them began months ago.
Supporters have hailed the changes as a strong first step, taking Michigan from being one of the only states in the country without such laws in place to having a floor for transparency required of elected officials.
Opponents have frequently voiced concerns about the overall strength of the package, saying it does nothing to address concerns about the flow of money into officeholder funds and leaves too many loopholes in place to provide adequate clarity to the public.
Sen. Ruth Johnson (R-Groveland Township) offered an amendment to SB 613 that would require officials and candidates to report the name, mailing address, and employer identification number for any political organization or social welfare organization for which they or their spouse are listed as an officer or director.
“I appreciate some of the changes made by our colleagues in the House in the H-3 substitute, but they still don’t go near far enough to ensure the sunshine and transparency the people of Michigan need, want and deserve,” Johnson said.
Johnson supported the bills despite the failure of her amendment.
Coleman and Stone Win, But House Dems Lose
House Democrats lost their narrow two-seat majority in one fell swoop Tuesday night.
Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland) and Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) won their respective mayoral races. That means the House will be split 54-54 between Democrats and Republicans for an unknown amount of time.
According to unofficial election results, Coleman won his race against interim Mayor Mike Londeau, securing 59% of the vote to Londeau’s 40.8%. He’s expected to take office in Westland before the end of the year.
Stone won by more than 1,000 votes, according to unofficial election results, beating out George Dimas, the city’s human resources director whom current Mayor Jim Fouts endorsed. Stone will be the first woman to serve as mayor of Warren (editor’s note: This story was changed to remove a reference to when Stone would take office).
Neither Coleman nor Stone were the top vote-getters in the cities during the primary in August.
Sources in Warren credited Stone’s win to anti-Fouts sentiment, Democrats tying Dimas to former President Donald Trump in a mail piece and Stone’s hard work campaigning door-to-door.
Similarly, Westland City Clerk Richard LeBlanc credited Coleman’s victory to his work campaigning.
“He worked the doors hard (and he always has) and the false committees (fake names and addresses) that spent a ton of money on hit pieces/negative mailers influenced voters. Many of them told me to my face,” LeBlanc said.
House Democrats had mixed reactions to the victories on social media Tuesday night, with some tweeting congratulatory messages.
Rep. Dylan Wegela posted “Coleman Wins!” on X, formerly Twitter, after his colleague secured the mayor’s office in Warren.
Other members appeared less than pleased after Stone’s results rolled in about an hour later.
Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City) simply posted, “Welp.”
Few members of the House were more congratulatory as Minority Leader Matt Hall (R-Richland Township), though.
“Congratulations to two fine public servants, Lori Stone and Kevin Coleman, on winning their elections for mayor tonight. We are entering a new era in Lansing with a House that is now evenly divided 54-54 between Republicans and Democrats,” Hall posted on X. “House Republicans stand ready to work together in the middle to find common ground that will make life better for the people of Michigan but in order to do so we need House Democrats to come to the table.”
Hall went on to say that House Democrats face a choice.
“Together we can forge compromise and achieve the most productive months of the session, or the House Democrat leadership can take their ball and go home until next spring,” he said. “The people of Michigan are counting on us, their elected leaders, to put them first and solve the problems that face our state.”
The House hasn’t faced a tie split since the 1993-94 term when a 55-55 tie occurred after the November 1992 elections, but there’s no modern precedent where the party in control of the House lost its majority mid-term (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Oct. 20, 2023).
The results of the election won’t change the House schedule for the rest of the week, Amber McCann, press secretary for House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit), said earlier this week.
Although Tate and Democratic leadership will maintain control of the gavel and chamber in a 54-54 split under the House Rules, they will not be able to pass legislation without at least one Republican crossing the aisle to vote with them.
Both Stone’s and Coleman’s seats are in safe Democratic districts, but it will potentially take months for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to call a special election and for the seats to be filled.
Tate said on Tuesday that he would prefer the House to operate at “full strength” with representation from across the state but that decisions would be made with the governor following the results of the election.
The victories for Coleman and Stone likely take the option of a special session off the table and increase pressure on the Democratic caucus to get work done in the remaining balance of this year with the two session days this week.
The House is widely expected to have its last voting day on Thursday this week (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Nov. 7, 2023). At a minimum, members must pass legislation to implement the financial disclosure components of Proposal 2022-1.
Senate Moves Energy Siting Bills, Closing in on Gov’s Desk
The Democratic-controlled Legislature completed its work on one of its top fall priorities Wednesday, giving final passage to bills that would quadruple the state’s renewable energy mandate, create a new clean energy standard, and move siting decisions for large-scale solar and wind projects to the Public Service Commission.
Senate Democrats cleared one of its last legislative hurdles for the year by voting to pass the energy project siting bills over sharp objections from Republicans, who said the changes would strip local control and upend Michigan’s rural communities and landscape.
The movement of HB 5120 and HB 5121 puts the controversial proposal on its way to the governor’s desk. Supporters say the legislation is critical to implementing the renewable energy mandate policy package that has also cleared the Legislature. Members voted 20-18 along party lines on both bills. The House later concurred with the Senate’s technical fixes to the bills Wednesday by 56-53 votes along party lines. Lawmakers also completed work on bills that would increase the state’s renewable energy mandate to 60%, taking final votes to concur on late changes ahead of sending the bills to the governor.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in a Wednesday statement, hailed the legislation, saying it would help improve public health and reduce reliance on foreign fuel sources.
“With passage of these game-changing bills, Michigan will become a national leader on clean energy. These bills will help us make more clean, reliable energy right here in Michigan, creating tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and lowering utility costs for every Michigander by an average of $145 a year,” Whitmer said. “I am grateful for the commonsense amendments that ensure local communities can work with utilities on developing clean energy sites. Today we are protecting everything we know and love about pure Michigan.”
Senate Democrats began work on the bills’ clean and renewable energy aspects in the spring. House Democrats did the heavy lifting on the siting authority bills through the summer, and then Whitmer made action on both a key piece of her August “What’s Next” agenda speech on the eve of the fall session.
Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt (R-Porter Township) shredded the Democratic majority for passing a bill package “so adamantly opposed by the citizenry of this state.”
“We stand on the precipice of passing this package of bills despite the fact that it’s jam-packed with state mandates, making families’ electric bills more expensive and creating the very real possibility that the lights won’t turn on,” Nesbitt said. “We’re about to send this to the governor’s desk despite the fact that it will industrialize our farmland, our Pure Michigan, against the wishes of those who live there.”
He said energy policy is supposed to allow for affordable and reliable energy, adding that Democrats went in the opposite direction. Nesbitt said Democrats also silenced the voices of opponents who wished to testify on the bills and did not work across the aisle but instead rushed the legislation through the process.
“All at the expense of Michigan families, seniors and manufacturers. Well done! I didn’t think you had it in you,” Nesbitt said. “You own this destructive, aggressive energy future now, and we won’t let the people forget.”
As passed, HB 5120 and HB 5121 include provisions outlining a process for having developers work with local communities and a public hearing process before moving on to the PSC for consideration. Opponents have skewered the processes outlined in the bills as window dressing and still an affront to local control, turning the process into little more than a rubber stamp for renewable energy projects.
Democrats have said the bills would help the state meet its energy needs while doing so in a way that moves the state toward a renewable energy future. Republicans have ripped the majority, saying it would reduce productive farmland, damage wide swaths of landscape, and upend the economies of rural communities for the benefit of urban and suburban communities.
Lawmakers Wednesday also completed their final procedural steps in concurring with substitutes of the Senate Democrats’ renewable energy mandate package, opening the way for sending the bills to the governor.
A change made by the House to SB 271
would allow the Upper Peninsula to have a slower transition from natural gas and would require the PSC to make and issue a report on the U.P.’s energy needs. The Senate voted 20-17 to concur in the House substitute. As Gongwer News Service reported Monday, the House requested the return of SB 273
from the Senate because it had forgotten to adopt a substitute to the bill last week. Once the Senate returned the bill Wednesday, the House adopted an H-2 substitute that cleared out a duplicative definition in another bill. Otherwise, the bill would require providers whose rates are not controlled by the PSC to develop a carbon emission plan by 2025 (municipal electric providers) and have updated plans every four years thereafter. The chamber voted 56-53 in favor of the bill. The Senate later voted 20-15 to concur in the House amendment. Rep. Josh Schriver (R-Oxford) spoke against SB 273 prior to the vote.
“Just because you add a word doesn’t mean it benefits locals,” he said. “It goes against the wished of the residents you were elected to represent.”
Senators also voted 20-17 to concur in a House substitute on SB 502, the legislation containing the environmental justice language in the package
Another bill, SB 277, would allow farmers to rent their land for renewable energy production while also keeping preserved farmland in the Farmland Preservation Program. Members voted 22-14 to concur in the House amendment on the bill, with two Republicans joining Democrats in support: Sen. Mark Huizenga of Walker and Sen. Michael Webber of Rochester Hills.
Republican senators opposing the bills referenced local control and the effect on farms and communities. They also expressed offense at what they saw as urban lawmakers and Lansing seeking to tell rural Michigan residents what’s best for them while experiencing none of the negative effects as a result.
Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) took aim at PSC Chair Dan Scripps over remarks during Tuesday’s committee hearing in which he outlined the estimated acreage it would take to meet the renewable energy goals and it being about one-half of 1% of Michigan’s total acreage (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Nov. 7, 2023).
McBroom called Scripps’ remarks in committee Tuesday “incredibly irresponsible and patronizing.”
“It is as if the commissioner thinks we’re stupid or hasn’t actually given much thought to the truth. Either way it’s a complete discredit to the position he holds,” McBroom said.
McBroom said the bills are about using prime farmland to further the energy mandate. He said the state’s millions of acres of forest and developed cities are not going to be used for building out renewable energy, nor would shoreline or wetlands.
“We’re not going to build 100-megawatt generation on old farm fields … or in the innumerable small farm fields tucked in the woods all over this state,” McBroom said. “The pressure is on the acres of highly productive cropland in specific areas.”
McBroom said with the proposed changes “we are fundamentally altering our economy.”
“These bills don’t allow the free markets to work and balance out competing interests on a fair process, they corrupt the process, they put a golden brick on one side of the scales,” McBroom said.
Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway) echoed the sentiments of his colleagues.
“This bill isn’t just an assault on local control, it’s an assault on the entire agricultural industry,” Lauwers said. “Farming is a tough job. It’s a competitive industry that is constantly evolving, and it’s routinely made tougher by politicians who don’t understand it.”
He said reducing farmland would put pressure on businesses and the agriculture industry.
Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo), chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, defended the bills. He said the process of approval and constructing renewable energy projects would become more efficient under the proposed changes.
“These bills are an essential component to pursuing and achieving a clean energy future in Michigan, diversifying our economy, supporting workers, farmers and consumers and making Michigan a national leader on clean energy, all while embracing and enhancing personal property rights and upholding public and community input and authority,” McCann said.
McCann said the PSC already has siting authority over critical infrastructure, including oil and gas pipelines and electric generation facilities, as well as electrical transmission and distribution networks.
“The clean energy future plan and this companion siting legislation needed to achieve it will improve our environment, energy service and reliability while using cleaner forms of energy production that are already in use,” McCann said.
The legislation has been subject to a whirlwind of negotiations and amendments in recent days, with HB 5120 being subjected to 24 House floor amendments prior to passage last week (See Gongwer Michigan Report, Nov. 2, 2023). Provisions included allowing the option of local control if municipal governments adopt a renewable energy ordinance no stricter than the legislation, expanding required setbacks, defining “project labor agreements” and outlining the public comment process.
For HB 5121, House changes included that the Upper Peninsula would have a slower transition from natural gas, and the PSC would be required to develop a report on the U.P.’s energy needs.
Technical changes were adopted in an S-1 substitute to HB 5121 prior to the votes.
Several changes were made in an S-4 substitute to HB 5120, including requiring a stormwater assessment needing to be included in project plans as well as a decommissioning plan.
Language was added that if a certificate is not issued, all local policies on the siting of energy facilities, including the right to grant variances, would remain in effect.
Energy storage facility setbacks would match those of solar facilities, including 300 feet from occupied community buildings and dwellings.
The definition of energy facility would also be amended to state that the facility shares a single point of interconnection to the grid.
Sen. John Damoose (R-Harbor Springs) questioned how much lawmakers want to disenfranchise local communities who already feel powerless. Damoose said despite the consideration period for proposals and community hearings provisions; he believed the outcomes would be predetermined.
“We are passing a law here that strips any reasonable control over new facilities that can dramatically change communities for generations to come,” Damoose said.
Sen. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell) spoke about how the landscape would change under the legislation once development begins, with the bulldozing of land, fencing areas off, and putting up energy facilities.
He said the landscape of farmland would be “transformed into a monstrous hellscape,” and land would be built up by fossil-fuel-consuming machinery.
Albert also accused Democrats of taking up a climate agenda as a sort of religion in need of a sacrifice. He said land prices will go up with fewer available acres in production, and those costs would be passed on to consumers.
Albert said he could get on board with a moderate policy that uses the state’s natural resources in a responsible manner but said that’s not what the Democrats were proposing.
“They’re going with a forced radical change now, ask questions later strategy,” Albert said.
Sen. Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes) was even more blunt.
“This bill is about legislators from massively populated communities forcing their unpopular agenda on rural communities,” Outman said.
Outman said Democrats set to vote on the bills have previously thundered against alleged state removal of local control in other areas.
“I ask for a no vote on this bill because it’s a slap to the face of rural Michiganders,” Outman said.
Sen. Kevin Daley (R-Lum) said a key issue he has supported during his time in Lansing is to preserve local control.
“These bills would strip away that local control and give it to unelected bureaucrats,” Daley said. “Who are these bureaucrats to decide what’s good for our local communities and who are we at the Legislature to tell folks back home we don’t matter.”
Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) said the bills, along with other renewable energy policies moved this session, would help lead to more affordable energy and improved grid reliability.
“This is a critical component of achieving our bold, clean energy goals in a smart and responsible way that moves Michigan forward,” Brinks said.
Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber, in a statement, praised the passage of the energy packages as well as SB 519, which would work to help communities and stakeholders during the renewable energy transition.
“Michigan’s union workers will be on the front lines in the fight to combat climate change, and our Democratic majorities in the Legislature are making sure that the transition away from fossil fuels doesn’t leave union workers and their communities behind,” Bieber said.
Bills Limiting Nurse-to-Patient Ratio, Mandatory OT Debated By Panel
The Michigan Nurses Association and hospital organizations were at odds over bills that would prohibit mandatory overtime for registered nurses during a House committee hearing Thursday.
HB 4550, HB 4551, and HB 4552, heard by the House Health Policy Committee on Thursday, would require a reduction in mandatory overtime for registered nurses and set a cap for the nurse-to-patient ratio. The bills have drawn mixed responses, with some nurses saying the limited hours would bring many nurses back into the field and health care associations saying the requirements are impossible given staff levels. Rep. Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), the sponsor of HB 4550, said her bill was an important part of the solution and was something bedside nurses have been telling the state they need to provide quality care for their patients. Rep. Carrie Rheingans (D-Ann Arbor) said her bill HB 4552 would require hospitals to disclose the actual, registered nurse-to-patient ratios that were used in prior shifts.
Rep. Betsy Coffia (D-Traverse City), sponsor of HB 4551, said she underwent a severe illness during COVID-19 and credited her nurses for her care.
“It was the nurses at my bedside more than anyone else that I felt like helped carry me through that frankly, terrifying moment,” Coffia said.
Nurses work 12-hour shifts, but if they are needed, they can work 16 or even 18-hour shifts, Coffia said.
There were several nurses in the committee room and in the overflow in support of the bills. Jamie Brown, president of the Michigan Nurses Association, said this issue is urgent to registered nurses in and outside the unions as well as patients and their families. She said 93% of Michigan registered nurses polled support the passing of the Safe Patient Care Act.
Nurses and family members also shared emotional stories of how staffing shortages affected them. Carolyn Clemons, a registered nurse in Grand Blanc, said she lost 52 people in 30 days during the pandemic in the Intensive Care Unit.
“That was my breaking point,” Clemons said, saying she was crying in her car because she felt she was not supported by her administration.
Tim Lillard became emotional while talking about his wife dying in the hospital from COVID. He said he observed how the nurses worked, saying he saw how understaffed they were.
“My belief had there been nurses adequately staffed, the subtle changes in her health would have been caught and she’d still be alive,” Lillard said.
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association, the Michigan Association of Health Plans, the Health Care Association of Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and the Business Leaders for Michigan were among the many advocacy organizations co-signing a letter sent Tuesday to legislators opposing the bill.
On Thursday, several came to testify in opposition as well, including Brian Peters, Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. Peters said there is a national nursing shortage, and members of their organization have been “desperately” trying to hire 8,400 more nurses for several months.
Doug Dascenzo, president and Chief Executive Officer of Trinity Health Michigan, said the bills would remove collaborative decisions made around staffing and replace them with a one-size-fits-all mandate.
“I can unequivocally assure you that our hospital in Grand Haven is distinctly different from Grand Rapids as our hospital in Livonia is different from Ann Arbor,” Dascenzo said. “And the nursing teams and patients in those communities are unique as well.”
Committee members, in their brief comments and questions, voiced sentiments aligned with the opposition and the support of the bills. Rep. Graham Filler (R-Duplain Township) said he was concerned this mandate would close many hospitals in rural areas because they could not fill shifts due to limited mandatory overtime. Rep. Jim Haadsma (D-Battle Creek) said the American Nurses Association released a statement in support of the minimum nurse staffing standards nationwide.
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