MIRS provides comprehensive news and analysis of state government delivered in written reports detailing the activities of the House, Senate, Judicial and Executive branches of Michigan state government.
Michigan News And Capitol Report, Week Ending Fri., April 13, 2018
Cash Assistance Cases In MI Hit 57-Year Low As Public Dole Dwindles
On top of that, in 2017, Michigan hit the lowest number of cases -- 20,380 -- of people on cash assistance since 1960, according to Peter RUARK, senior policy analyst for the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP). According to state data from February 2018, the number is even lower now -- 18,295 cases.
With decreased public assistance caseloads, there's also less federal money expected to be spent on such programs here. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2011, $61.7 million was spent on the Family Independence Program (FIP), which is the formal name of the cash assistance program.
In Gov. Rick SNYDER's recommended budget for FY 2019, he's proposing $59.4 million be spent on FIP. However, Snyder did only ask for the federal piece of the funding - as FIP is funded in part by the General Fund (GF) -- which may not tell the entire story of whether or not the caseloads increase or decrease, DHHS spokesperson Bob WHEATON said.
In FY 2011, there was more than $2.6 billion spent on the Food Assistance Program (FAP), which is Michigan's version of the food stamp program, according to numbers compiled by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
But in Snyder's proposed budget for FY 2019, he's proposing spending only $1.9 billion on FAP -- that's a $707 million drop, or a 26 percent reduction.
In a House Fiscal Agency (HFA) document of the DHHS budget from this week, the reduced spending on FAP is attributed to the decrease in caseload estimates, going from 854,072 cases to 683,950 cases.
Wheaton said the drop in public assistance caseloads can be attributed to improvements in the state's economy the past few years, as well as revised policies governing eligibility for such public assistance.
But Ruark said the food assistance program cases more closely track to how the economy is doing. When unemployment falls, so do food assistance cases, he said.
But when it comes to cash assistance, he said those cases can't necessarily be linked to an improving economy. He gave an example from his own data he collected from the state, which showed a dip in cash assistance cases between 2007 and 2008, right around the eve of the Great Recession.
Rather, Ruark attributed the decline to the eligibility changes for cash assistance. He said it's more difficult to get on cash assistance now, and there are also people who have timed off the program.
As the MLPP described the eligibility requirements in a report, there are now "stringent lifetime limits and aggressive sanction policies -- including a policy that can deny assistance to an entire family for the truancy of a single child."
In addition to the MLPP data, MIRS looked at monthly data kept by DHHS of some of the public assistance programs. On the list includes both the FIP and FAP programs. Also wrapped into the sum total of cases are the State Disability Assistance, Child Development and Care and State Emergency Relief programs.
Not all of those are completely federally funded or through the DHHS budget. MIRS compared the February 2011 data of these programs with the February 2018 data, the latest available data from the state.
In 2011, when the five programs listed above are added together, there were more than 1.002 million cases on the books. In 2018, that's now at 706,912, marking a 29 percent drop in cases over that time period.
Senate Adds $14.3M To U's For Campus Safety
Spurred by the sexual assault issues surrounding Michigan State University, the Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee increased the Governor's proposed 2 percent state funding increase to 3 percent. This moves Gov. Rick SNYDER's proposed $25.6 million increase to $42.9 million.
Subcommittee Chair Tonya SCHUITMAKER (R-Lawton) said the additional money is designed to "make sure that universities are placing the safety of students as a top priority."
The version of SB 0857 that moved to the full Senate Appropriations Committee also requires schools to prominently display on their campus websites how students can access special services in times of need.
"While recent events have cast a shadow over higher education, we also understand that it is important in educating future leaders of our state," Schuitmaker said.
The Senate panel adopted a Sen. Curtis HERTEL Jr. (D-East Lansing) amendment requiring every university's governing board be notified of Title IX complaints regarding sexual misconduct occurring on campus or as part of a university-sponsored event.
"Considering what's happened in this state, the idea that the government boards should have knowledge of what's going on . . . better reflects their ability to react," Hertel said.
As part of the budget, Oakland University received the largest percentage state funding increase at 4.1 percent and Western Michigan University the lowest at 2.6 percent.
Grand Valley State received a 3.7 percent increase; University of Michigan-Dearborn and Saginaw Valley State University got 3.5 percent more; Eastern Michigan and Ferris State got 3.4 percent hikes; University of Michigan-Flint 3.2 percent; Central Michigan and University of Michigan-Ann Arbor 3 percent; Michigan State University, Michigan Tech and Northern Michigan 2.8 percent; and Wayne State 2.7 percent.
Overall, the budget spends $15.2 million more from the General Fund than Snyder suggested.
Also of note in the panel's adopted Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget:
- Inclusion of the $120 million additional money the Governor proposed from the School Aid Fund, which frees up the General Fund by that amount. That means $385.6 million of the $1.68 billion Higher Education budget is now coming from the School Aid Fund.
- The Senate agreed with the Governor's suggested tuition restraint cap of 3.8 percent or $490 per student.
- The Tuition Incentive Program, designed to help lower-income students pay for tuition and fees, was increased $1.5 million to $59.8 million as Snyder recommended.
- The $6 million cut to the private school tuition grants the Governor recommended was not included in the Senate plan.
- Snyder's $6 million hike in competitive scholarships for those lower-income students collecting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families assistance was supported.
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Nessel Rides Progressive Enthusiasm To AG Nomination
MDP officials reported 3,300 new registrants to a convention featuring a record-number 6,704 delegates, propelling the blunt, unapologetic progressive to what would have been 55 to 45 percent victory if a gracious Miles hadn't asked a unanimous ballot be cast for Nessel, which he did.
The race highlighted the most anticipated MDP convention since the 2013 party chair race and punctuated the type of marked split in the growing Democratic Party that Republicans saw eight years ago, where the "establishment" is running crossways with a spirited ideological fringe.
It also marked organized labor's first convention loss since at least 1996 when Supreme Court candidate Marilyn KELLY won the party's nomination over fellow appellate court Judge Kathleen JENSEN. However, in that case, labor was split.
"The energy is real," said MDP Chair Brandon DILLON. "(People) are horrified with what's going on in Washington with Donald TRUMP. We've had eight years of Republican control and people recognize we have a real good opportunity to change the nature of the state from the top of the ticket all the way down."
In other action from the convention, voting rights attorney Jocelyn BENSON won the Secretary of State endorsement uncontested, although a former legislative candidate, Vanessa OLIVE, made a late attempt to garner support. National civil rights attorney Sam BAGENSTOS and Megan CAVANAGH won the party's backing for Michigan Supreme Court.
The MDP is legally required to nominate their general election slate at a late summer convention, but Sunday's action all but assures Nessel, Benson, Bagenstos and Cavanagh will get their respective slots.
Sunday's enthusiasm for Nessel was due, in part, to organization. Nessel's team says it registered 2,000 folks for the MDP, while Nessel allies were allegedly responsible for another 1,000.
Her visits to 69 of the state's 83 counties tapped into a general anti-Donald TRUMP, pro-woman theme activists called a "Blue wave" that's claimed 39 legislative-seat victories for Democrats across the country.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm for the party in a way that we haven't seen for a while and I'm very, very hopeful that these same people will get out and be excited and energized and engaged and sweep us to victory in November," Nessel said.
The new energy appeared to be universal. She was warmly embraced by the Progressive Caucus and given a warm welcome in the Labor Caucus and the 13th Congressional District caucus, where she was the attendees' less-than-unanimous choice.
But in places like the 6th Congressional District, Nessel was given a rock star welcome. Miles' enthusiasm seemed limited to his own supporters, said delegate Tim BECK, who watched it all happen.
"Nobody responded to Pat Miles. It was astounding. This is a mega change within the Democratic Party," Beck said.
After Convention Chair Nancy QUARLES announced Nessel the victor and officially adjourned the convention, hundreds of supporters crowded the stage and refused to leave until Nessel addressed them.
The enthusiasm for Nessel, however, isn't universal and there's concerns in the labor caucus that Republicans will filet Nessel in a general election with the type of clientele she's represented and defended over the years.
African-American delegates walked away from Sunday's convention dejected, seeing two Caucasian women winning nominations, a third -- U.S. Sen. Debbie STABENOW (D-Delta Twp.), head-lining the ticket and a fourth -- Gretchen WHITMER, the presumed front runner in the gubernatorial race.
"This is a disaster for the Democratic Party," said MDP Black Caucus Chair Keith WILLIAMS. "Black folks are not going to be enthusiastic about this ticket."
While Whitmer has moved her campaign offices to Detroit, polling still doesn't show the former Senate Minority Leader connecting in the Motor City, home to the city's highest concentration of Democratic voters.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny NAPOLEON, at one time the presumed frontrunner to be Whitmer's running mate, is telling people his enthusiasm in being on the ticket has waned, further limiting the possibility for Lieutenant Governor if some sort of geographical, gender and racial diversity on the ticket is a priority.
"Question: How do you get Detroit excited about a 100 percent White female ticket?" asked political consultant Steve HOOD. "Answer: You don't."
At least one Republican is enjoying watching the developing split in the Democratic Party. Former House Speaker Jase BOLGER said he's sick of hearing the "establishment v. Tea Party" split in the GOP when "the Berniecrats have clearly taken over the Democratic Party."
"In the battle of the UAW versus the Berniecrats, it's the Berniecrats by a Nessel," he quipped.
Who Lit The Fire Of Delegates In The 13th Congressional Caucus?
Few would argue that Patrick Miles was not a rousing speaker who lit the fire of African American delegates of the Michigan Democratic Party this weekend.
Who did? MIRS spent the early afternoon in the 13th Congressional District Caucus meeting, where former U.S. Rep. John CONYERS' departure has created a leadership vacuum that many are eager to fill.
Eight candidates vying for the Democratic nomination in this deep blue seat spoke to a half-full caucus room with varying levels of support expressed.
But the person who may have delivered the best-received speech is the one who got out of the race. Rep. Sherry GAY-DAGNOGO (D-Detroit) drove the caucus to its feet with a rousing indictment of Trump, Republican leadership and the perceived apathy with which the issues important to the African-American community are received in Lansing.
Former Rep. Rashida TLAIB of Detroit, Detroit City Council President Brenda JONES and Sen. Coleman YOUNG (D-Detroit) also generated some enthusiasm while John CONYERS III received light courtesy claps. Michael GILMORE and Kimberly Hill KNOTT struggled to get anyone's attention.
Westland Mayor Bill WILD -- the first to address the crowd -- had everyone's attention as the candidate Detroit and African American voters would least like to see win on the Democratic side.
He urged attendees to "Vote on the Wild side," but enthusiasm for his appearance came mostly from the Caucasians in the room.
LaVoy Filing For 17th
Former Democratic Rep. Bill LaVOY said he would file for the 17th Senate District race against incumbent Sen. Dale ZORN (R-Ida) on Monday, giving Democrats another notable recruit in a competitive district. The move gives both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate candidates in all of the competitive seats.
On the House side, Republicans still do not have an announced candidate in the 23rd District against Rep. Darrin CAMILLERI (D-Brownstown Twp.). Democrats don't have an announced candidate in the 57th House District against Rep. Bronna KAHLE (R-Clinton) or the newly opened 84th House District, where Sen. Mike GREEN's son, Phil GREEN, and county commissioner Matthew BIERLEIN have filed as Republicans.
Otherwise, both parties appear to have candidates in districts where they could realistically compete.
Right To Work Repeal Top On Ananich's List
If Democrats take control of the governor's office, the state House and state Senate in the fall Minority Leader Jim ANANICH (D-Flint) made it clear Sunday that the first bill he'll send to the governor's desk will be a repeal of the state's right to work law.
Speaking to the Democratic endorsement convention, Ananich also said initiatives that make water a basic human right, mandating paid sick leave and "fixing the damn roads" will also be high on his priority list.
Future Lapsed Funds Eyed For Infrastructure Projects
SB 0855 agrees with Gov. Rick SNYDER's recommendation to set aside 25 percent of any "lapse money" for the state government's rainy day fund. But the Senate General Government Appropriations Subcommittee voted Thursday to expand the plan to give counties and cities an additional 7.5 percent each for roads and 3.3 percent each for airports and harbor dredging.
To put the percentages in perspective, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget closed with a larger-than-usual $250 million in lapsed cash that wasn't flopped over into FY 2018. If this rule had been in effect, $37.5 million would have gone to the roads and $16.5 million would have gone to airports and harbor dredging.
The Sen. Jim STAMAS (R-Midland)-chaired subcommittee also bucked the Governor's Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 recommendation by setting aside another $10.3 million to local governments, a 1.6 percent increase.
Cities, villages and townships (CVTs) would see the same $5.8 million increase the Legislature put into the FY '18 budget under the Senate plan. Counties would get $2.5 million.
Also, about 50 more units of governments would get a piece of statutory revenue sharing. Previously, only municipalities that receive at least $4,500 from the state would get the extra money. Under SB 0855, that number moves down to $1,000.
Stamas made it clear the money going to the 50 new units of governments is not taking away from what the existing CVTs is receiving. They will continue to get what they did in FY '18.
Other highlights from the Senate General Government subcommittee recommendation includes:
- The Governor's $20 million broadband initiative was shrunk to a $100 placeholder with restrictions that any future broadband money goes to underserved areas. Also, the Senate stops the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED), Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSDHA) from issuing or refinancing any bonds for broadband construction, expansion, repairs or upgrades.
Stamas said he'd like to see "full cooperation and full coordination" among the various state departments before he's comfortable moving forward on state taxpayer investment into broadband.
- A combined $75 million from the Unemployment Insurance Agency's (UIA) penalty and interest (P&I) fund is being used to fill General Fund holes in the TED budget. Snyder had suggested about $50 million, but the Senate used $25 million more from P&I for the skilled trades promotion program called Going Pro. Snyder was fine with General Fund money.
The Senate did add $300,000 for an RFP for a pilot project that assists in reviewing the high volume of UIA fraudulent claims.
- No changes were made to how the Attorney General proposed spending money for the Flint investigation and various Flint-related defense suits. A Flint lawsuit settlement fund is getting $2.6 million under this plan.
"The Attorney General is following a set path and trying to influence that is not the right way to come across," Stamas said.
- The Auditor General would have the power to charge a non-complying state department for the costs of conducting follow-up audits. The Governor didn't want this provision in the budget.
- The Secretary of State is getting $1 million to hire 100 full-time employees to assist in reinstating driver licenses in the wake of the Oct. 1 repeal of the driver responsibility fees.
- Voting machines would need to be made available in a high school in each regional prosperity region so students can become familiar with voting through a simulated process.
- Another $1 million was added to the Pure Michigan advertising program for $36 million total.
- The Business Attraction and Community Revitalization program was cut another $10 million to $100 million.
- $1.6 million was added, presuming the passage of SB 0747, which provides state-paid retirement benefits to National Guard retirees.
- The Senate OKed the $107.6 million the Governor requested to pay debt service, or the interest on state-issued bonds.
SB 0855 moved out of subcommittee 3-0 with Sen. Coleman YOUNG II (D-Detroit) passing on the vote, but indicating that he's likely a "yes" vote on the floor.
MIRS Monday Podcast
Gubernatorial hopeful Shri Thanedar talks about the Popeye's chicken social media post and being denied access to address the convention's progressive caucus after being told beforehand he wouldn't be allowed. And MIRS Editor Kyle Melinn offers his observations from the weekend at Cobo Hall.