12 state issues to watch in '12
|By Kyle Melinn|
Thank God, 2011 is over. That's the mindset of Michigan's unions and progressives, anyway.
Act Two is coming here in 2012 with the state's Republican-led government attacking many of the same issues, but not with the fervor of the last 12 months.
If Gov. Rick Snyder is going to have a Republican-led state House in 2013, the GOP will need to slow down its pro-business charge in favor of feel-good, populist puff that voters can attach to their local state representative.
(After all, "Our state rep is pretty good, but the rest of them? Well ... .")
The R´s still have a couple of months to jam through some leftovers before completely shifting into campaign mode. In keeping with last week´s list-making theme, here the Top 12 items in ´12, in no particular order.
1. "Obamacare" — Logic plays no role for Tea Partiers seeking to slam the breaks on creation of a Michigan-run Website for people needing to buy health insurance. If the U.S. Supreme Court allows these "exchanges" to continue, Michigan needs its Website ready to go or else Uncle Sam gets to run its version. Which one is more likely to include Michigan-run insurance companies in its menu of options?
2. No Fault Auto Insurance — What started as sweeping changes to our no-fault auto insurance system has boiled down to whether the state can afford keeping its unlimited lifetime benefit for car accident victims. Drivers pay $145 a year for this benefit, but Insurance Commissioner Kevin Clinton says the system will “implode" unless some caps are put in. Advancements in medicine and the ability to keep people alive longer come at a cost.
3. Cyber Schools — Schools run mostly online claim positive results with students who struggle in the traditional school setting. Not everybody is sold, which is why the House hesitated in throwing open the barn door on them.
4. Medical Marijuana Guidelines — At some point, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Walsh, R-Livonia, needs to make good on his commitment to establish a sensible distribution policy for medical marijuana. Will Sen. Rick Jones ,R-Grand Ledge, sign off?
5. Personal Property Tax Repeal — Business groups need something to keep themselves busy in 2012, and this will be it. This isn´t 1A on Snyder´s wish list because some local government will go bankrupt if this isn´t done right. And "doing right" has been evasive.
6. Public School Funding — Unless the state´s economy suddenly falls off a cliff, Republicans will put more money into education. Whatever that amount is, Democrats will claim it´s not enough. In other predictable news, snow will fall in February.
7. Federal Budget Picture — At some point Congress will stop kicking the can and real cuts will happen. Medicaid isn´t supposed to be touched, but less money for roads and welfare, among other programs are expected. It´s going to hurt and there´s little Michigan´s comparatively small budget can do to make up the loss.
8. Emergency Manager Law — With help from AFSCME, Detroit-based Michigan Forward is getting the signatures to put a repeal of the state´s juiced-up emergency manager law on the November ballot. Once that happens, PA 4 is suspended until Election Day … unless the Legislature passes a new law that gives EMs the same powers in the interim, which is being talked about.
9. Autism Insurance — Health insurance companies don´t have to include autism coverage in its policies, which many parents don´t realize until their child is diagnosed with it. Brian Calley was hot about this issue when he was a lowly state rep in the minority. Now he´s the lieutenant governor.
10. The Bridge — As long as he´s governor, Snyder will be pushing to build a second span across the Detroit River. Will he do it without the help of a skeptical legislature? Will Snyder & Co. find money to run TV ads? The commercials from the Ambassador Bridge folks were misleading, to put it nicely.
11. Road Funding — At some point, Snyder will have no choice but to raise money for roads, be it through a higher registration fee or a re-jiggered gas tax. Michigan will probably see less federal money for its roads in ´12 anyway. It can´t afford to lose more. Political courage on this issue has proven evasive.
12. Road Commission Elimination — Democrats turned a bill allowing county commissions to eliminate their road commissions into a political issue, causing it to stall on the last day of session in 2011. House Speaker Jase Bolger doesn´t like to lose, which makes it hard to see him giving up.
(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)