Senator Mike Shirkey
 
 
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Senator Mike Shirkey

 

Michigan Legislative Update

16th Senate District: Serving Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson Counties.

 
 
 

STATE BUDGET UPDATE

The state budget for Michigan's next fiscal year has been completed and is on its way to the Governor for signature. As has been the case for the past several years it was an important goal to have this completed in June so that local governments and schools would have time to know how much money they were receiving so that they could set their own budgets. We are also pleased to report that Michigan's 2015-2016 budget is fully balanced.

Several budgeting challenges did present themselves this fiscal year, but just as Michigan families need to make necessary cuts in their own budgets, the legislature was guided by prioritization and the need to balance both short and long term goals. In particular, over $400 million in one-time funding goes to roads under the new budget. It is important to note this is a temporary allocation, and was achieved through a variety of one time cuts in other areas. Specifically, the film industry credit is being phased out, and changes are taking place with other economic development programs. This does not by itself reach the over $1 billion in continual road funds that will be needed, and the $400 million is not guaranteed for next year. It was however an important step as the legislature continues to work on a new long term road funding solution after the defeat of Proposal 1 and also takes continued steps to ensure we can match federal road funding dollars and work on the roads and bridges that need it most.

Other areas included continued commitment to education (see chart below), monies made available to address estimated pension shortfalls, elimination of wasteful spending, funds for the development of skilled trades, and $94 million going into Michigan's budget stabilization fund for a state safety net that also continues to assure taxpayers low interest rates on state debt payments.

 
 
 
 

Bill to Increase Local Education Opportunities

Important legislation has been reintroduced in the Senate that would allow for our local community colleges to grant four-year bachelor's degrees in new fields including information technology, allied health, ski area management, manufacturing technology and nursing.

Community colleges are currently only able to grant bachelor-level degrees in energy management and production, culinary arts, maritime technology and concrete technology. If the proposed legislation passes it would increase the range of more affordable and local education opportunities for students closer to home.

Senate Bill 98 is designed to also help address the "skills gap," an employment catch-22 situation where employers can't find qualified hires while at the same time unemployed people are looking for work.

Supporters of the legislation include prominent health organizations that view this bill as an opportunity to increase the supply of these degrees when the demand for them is at such a high level. The increasing demand for registered nurses who must now hold a bachelor of science degree in nursing is particularly important.
 
 
 
 

Forum Highlights Civil Asset Forfeiture Discussions

A recent forum hosted by Senator Shirkey at the Lansing Capitol featured a panel of speakers focused on the topic of civil asset forfeiture. This is a police tool that allows law enforcement to seize cash and property that was used in conjunction with a crime. Dedicated law enforcement individuals who make daily sacrifices to protect and serve agree that while this can be an important tool, especially in combatting organized crime, any inappropriate use is a justifiable cause for concern.

The panel discussed the question: "What protections should be in place to prevent law enforcement from seizing peoples' property who haven't been charged with a crime, and how can it be returned to them if they are never convicted?" The legislature recently introduced a package of bills that would more closely monitor and regulate the forfeiture process. These bills increase transparency and raise the standard for seizure so that evidence must be "clear and convincing" before action is taken. The bills are HB 4499, HB 4500, HB 4503, HB 4504, HB 4505, HB 4506, HB 4507 and HB 4508.
 
 
 
 

Constituent Corner

Linda P. asks: "Since the road funding proposal was voted down, what is the next step towards a solution?"

Answer: One of the main issues still to solve is that not all of the money you pay at the pump goes to roads under the current tax system. This can be difficult to fix without changing the Constitution, but is important because about one third of the taxes collected on traditional fuel does not end up contributing to transportation related repairs. Importantly, alternative fuels such as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for commercial trucks and electric cars are not taxed for roads at all. The recent town halls in Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson Counties were a large part of the effort to raise awareness of the fuel-to-taxation connection, and to give voters the best information available about funding our roads. The next step, which has already begun, is for legislators to draft new legislation that leads to permanent, ongoing funding. A large package of new bills is expected to be voted out of the House in the near future, and efforts are also underway in the Senate.
 
 
 
 

SEN. SHIRKEY IN THE NEWS

 
 
 
 
 

YOUR DISTRICT

 
Senate District 16 Map
The 16th State Senate District consists of Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson Counties.
 
 
 
 
Serving with and for you,
Mike Shirkey
Michigan Senate
16th District


Sen. Mike Shirkey
 
 
 
 

Senator Mike Shirkey

320 Farnum Bldg. P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Visit my website at: www.senatormikeshirkey.com