Legislative Update: Right-to-Work, Emergency Managers, Blues Overhaul | News
House, Senate approve right-to-work legislation
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate has passed right-to-work legislation, following earlier approval by the House.
The bills would prohibit unions from collecting fees from nonunion workers, which opponents say would weaken organized labor's ability to bargain for good wages while supporters say it would boost jobs.
A measure dealing with private-sector workers passed on a 22-16 vote Thursday after hours of impassioned debate. Four Republicans joined all 12 Democrats in opposition.
Moments after it passed, the Senate passed a bill with similar provisions for government employees. Democrats walked out before the bill was approved on a 22-4 vote.
Union activists repeatedly shouted protests from the gallery and cheered Democrats who denounced the measure.
Gov. Rick Snyder and GOP legislative leaders announced earlier Thursday they would put right-to-work on a fast track.
Protesters enter Mich. Capitol with court order
Hundreds of chanting and cheering protesters streamed back into the Michigan Capitol Thursday afternoon after receiving a court order saying that the building must reopen.
The pro-union crowd walked in as lawmakers were debating right-to-work legislation limiting union powers. The Republican-led House subsequently passed the bill with no Democratic support.
They rejoined other protesters who were in the building when police temporarily closed it hours earlier because of safety concerns.
State police Inspector Gene Adamczyk says a judge ordered the Capitol reopened and authorities did so despite safety concerns.
Many of the protesters chanted "Whose house? Our house!" and stomped as they ringed the Rotunda.
Police earlier arrested eight people who tried to run into the Senate while it was in session.
House approves legislation to overhaul Blue Cross
The Republican-led Michigan House has followed the Senate in approving a proposal to end Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan's tax-exempt status and transform it from a charitable trust to customer-owned nonprofit.
The legislation passed the Republican-controlled Senate in October.
Supporters say it modernizes the insurer and allows it to be taxed and regulated as its competitors. Critics counter it short-shrifts the elderly and reduces oversight of a company controlling 70 percent of the market.
If Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signs the measure, Michigan would join 12 other Blue Cross Blue Shield companies nationwide structured as mutual insurers. That means the organizations are owned by members.
Those companies operate in 14 states.
Proposed emergency manager replacement moves ahead
A proposed replacement for an emergency manager law rejected by Michigan voters has been approved by a state House panel.
The House Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee voted 9-5 Thursday along party lines with one "pass" vote on what's known as The Local Financial Stability and Choice Act. The legislation now goes to the full House for consideration.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders unveiled it on Wednesday. The plan gives four choices to communities and school districts found to be in a financial emergency: accept an emergency manager, bankruptcy, mediation or a consent agreement with the state like the one in Detroit.
Voters decisively rejected Proposal 1 in November. The state since has been operating under a previous law that gives managers fewer powers.
Mich. Senate OKs bill to help build Red Wings home
The Michigan Senate has approved legislation to help finance a downtown project that would include a new home for the Detroit Red Wings.
Team owner Mike Ilitch this week announced plans for a $650 million multiuse development, which would include an events center where NHL hockey could be played. He has said for years he'd like a new arena for the Red Wings, who now play at the aging Joe Louis Arena.
A bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday would allow use of tax dollars collected by the city's Downtown Development Authority for the project.
Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer criticizes the measure, saying it would take money away from Detroit schools to help pay for a billionaire's project. But Republican leader Randy Richardville says it would create jobs.
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