Michigan Education Association


Legislative roundup - March 24, 2011

Governor expected to sign jobless measure -- and cut unemployment benefits for thousands

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign legislation that will reduce the number of weeks of state-paid unemployment benefits and give corporations a $1 billion tax break, a measure tacked on to another bill dealing with extended unemployment benefits.

The bill was needed to qualify Michigan workers for a 20-week federal unemployment extension. Lawmakers didn't have to include the cut to state benefits, but chose to do so. No other state in the country has reduced from 26 to 20 the number of weeks the unemployed receive state benefits. The measure will take effect beginning in January 2012.
As a result, businesses will pay 23 percent less in unemployment taxes.

"Gov. Snyder should intervene to prevent this reckless piece of legislation by whatever means, including a veto if necessary," said U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, a Democrat, in a press release. " . . . Republicans are hijacking the effort to undercut basic protections for hundreds of thousands of unemployed workers in Michigan."

Media reports indicate Snyder will sign the legislation. Lawmakers had to pass the extension bill this week to make an April 1 deadline because lawmakers plan a two-week recess next week. For workers, it would have been better to do nothing than to pass this bill.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and House Minority Leader Rep. Richard Hammel, D-Mount Morris Township, joined Levin at a press conference today. Whitmer suggested lawmakers skip their break, if needed, to redo the bill.

In a release, Hammel said: "This is one more example of Republicans going out of their way to provide corporate tax breaks at the expense of our working families."

Legislature on break for two weeks

Lawmakers recessed today for two weeks without voting on measures that would infringe on collective bargaining and local control. The Legislature returns to session April 12.
At that time, the Senate could vote on House Bill 4152, a bill to freeze wages and benefits when a collective bargaining agreement expires until a new contract takes effect. This would effectively eliminate step raises between contracts and require employees to pay any increased costs of maintaining health insurance and other benefits. The legislation would also prohibit any retroactive increase in wages or benefits after a new contract is signed. MEA opposes this bill -- please contact your state senator NOW and urge him/her to vote NO on House Bill 4152.

And in the House, House Bill 4059, which would prohibit public employers from paying union officials for time conducting union business, is still pending. MEA opposes this bill, too. Please contact your state representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 4059.

While lawmakers are back home, it's a good time to set up meetings with them or to attend constituent events they have planned in the district. Take time to reach out to your elected leaders -- it's important that they hear from you!

Updated: March 23, 2011