Tuesday, September 29, 2009

News of the Day

House and Senate canceled Sunday sessions

When the House and Senate convene tomorrow morning, they will have less than 48 hours to pass a budget or force the state to shut down.

House speaker Andy Dillon (D-Redford Twp.) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) announced Saturday that they had canceled sessions scheduled for Sunday afternoon. However, the three scheduled conference meetings were convened. They included committees on the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Education.

Session was not held today (Monday) because of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Over the weekend Mr. Bishop expressed confidence that a deal might at last be close. He said negotiators had resolved one of the five troublesome budgets although he declined to say which one. He remained confident that the logjam might finally break and the House would pass the 2009-10 budget based on all-cuts, no tax increases model to which he and Mr. Dillon agreed.

Just the Facts – Powers and Duties given to State Government by HB 5345
Speaker Dillon’s proposed mandatory government-run health plan

Each day we will provide some of the powers and duties that this legislation gives to state government that normally is provided at the local level by local school board members, city councils, county commissioners, etc.

- The Michigan health benefits program board is created as an autonomous entity in the department of management and budget. Sec. 3(1)

- The board shall exercise its powers independent of the director of the department of management and budget. Sec. 3(1)

- The state employer shall serve as chairperson. Sec. 5(1)

- After the first meeting, the board shall meet at least monthly. Sec. 5(1)

State health scheme vs. federal health reform

Would all public employees have exactly the same health insurance?

State Plan
No. Public employees would lose the plans they have today and would be forced to choose from a limited menu of plans mandated and designed by the state-run program.

Federal Health Reform Plan
No. National health care reform would preserve choice for people who have insurance today and extend coverage to provide affordable choices to people who are presently uninsured.

School Reform
House Bills 4787, 4788, 4789 – School Reform/Takeover

These bills allow so-called “failing schools” to be targeted for special help. Schools with chronically low student achievement would be placed under the oversight of a state reform/design officer and operated as a “redesigned school” with modified staffing rules that could be negotiated with employees.

The district could authorize special charter schools, or “turnaround schools.” That would provide students with an alternative education option.

These bills have passed the House and have been referred to the Senate.

The reform measures in these bills are as follows:

- Provide for improving the education of children and working conditions of employees.

- Control over the school is given to someone with experience and the authority to reform the school.

- Protects the rights of employees to bargain changes in working conditions. It also expands bargaining rights to include the ability to bargain over the privatization of support services, the terms of a leave of absence to teach in a charter school and the first day of school.

- Creation of a turnaround charter school is the last resort, not the automatic first option. Extensive oversight of the charter schools is provided.

- Establishes alternative routes to certification.