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Senator Patrick Colbeck’s Newsletter
 

STATE BUDGET UPDATE

Michigan's Capitol

In this edition:

- State Budget Update
- Campus Free Speech Legislation introduced
- Making "Female Genital Mutilation" (FGM) a state felony
- Fireworks bill would give more control to local government
- ALS Awareness Month
- Senate Memorial Day Ceremony
- New Website Available

STATE BUDGET UPDATE

In order to give local governments and schools more time to plan their own budget, for the past several years the state legislature has made it a point to try to pass its state budget by June 1st . The final stages of this process neared the finish line this week, with the House reporting out budgets on Tuesday and the Senate taking them up on Wednesday.

The Senate Budget proposal is $56B in gross appropriations, which is $300 million less than the Governor’s recommendation. This still represents a $915M increase from the previous year, $400M of which is due to federal funds. This increase is due primarily to increased funding for Healthy Michigan ($536M), roads ($207M), and schools ($125M). In addition to all of the department-specific appropriations that were made, $540M in general fund revenue was set aside in support of current deliberations regarding tax cuts and pension reform.

Of particular concern in this year’s budget is the escalating cost of the Healthy Michigan program (aka Medicaid Expansion which is Section 2001 of the Affordable Care Act). The Senator has opposed Healthy Michigan since its inception because of its fiscal unsustainability and relatively low quality of care. As a result of lower than projected savings for the program, the program should be automatically discontinued in 2020 due to repeal provisions within the current law. Federal legislation related to Medicaid merely reinforce what is already a foregone conclusion regarding the viability of the program. The Senator continues his efforts to offer Medicaid enrollees better care with less of a burden upon taxpayers via his promotion of Direct Primary Care Service based alternatives to Healthy Michigan.

Voting on budget bills can be a frustrating task, in that a legislator is not able to use a “line item veto” to vote against single programs without voting against the entire budget. It is inevitable in many budgets that a legislator will end up voting yes on a budget that contains things they do not agree with, or end up voting no on a budget that does contain some things they support.

This year, Senator Colbeck voted “yes” on all state budgets, with the exception of the Higher Education and Community College budgets. The Senator voted against these budgets because overall he does not see enough evidence of fiscal restraint at most universities, resulting in unnecessarily high tuition as we spend money on the wrong things. Senator Colbeck has also consistently opposed the unconstitutional diversion of School Aid Fund dollars to community colleges.

The Senator also feels strongly in “campus free speech”, and that not enough is being done to ensure that students can freely express themselves during their time at school. While this is important irrespective of money, it is especially important given the public dollars that the universities receive (see related story).

As a member of the budget committees for the State Police and Military Affairs, the Senator was focused upon the provisions of those budgets, but he was active in other budget areas as well. Examples of specific items in the budget for which the Senator advocated are:

(1) A Direct Primary Care Medicaid Pilot Program in the Department of Health & Humans Services Budget. This pilot will open the door to over $3.7 B in future savings if it successfully demonstrates over 20% savings through improved quality of care over the course of the three year project.

(2) Long Life Road Testing in the Transportation Budget. This will require MDOT to conduct scientific tests to verify the projected extension of pavement design life, as well as the effectiveness of sealants that will make our roads last longer and lower long-run life-cycle costs.

(3) Increasing Statutory Revenue Sharing for our municipalities in the General Government Budget. The 1% increase in revenue sharing over standard figures will make sure our local units receive more money for local services.

(4) Drone Law Enforcement Study in the Michigan State Police Budget. This will require the state police to define best practices for enforcing drone flight restrictions so that they can be evaluated and shared with local agencies.

(5) Increasing the Veteran Service Organization line item by adding additional funding for the proper administration of the program

CAMPUS FREE SPEECH LEGISLATION INTRODUCED

Sen. Colbeck recently introduced SB 349 & SB 350 as a result of actions that have occurred at our universities and community colleges that have flown in the face of free speech. The legislation received attention from both the National Review (HERE) and at the Mackinac Center (HERE).

Especially as the country becomes more polarized and the need for finding things in common with our neighbors grows, the Senator’s editorial on the issue highlights why the stifling of free speech and divergent opinions is the antithesis to what we want to see on our college campuses. The Senator delivered the following speech on the Senate Floor related to this issue:

Campus free speech
Senator Patrick Colbeck

How many of you have read “1984” by George Orwell? If you haven’t, I strongly recommend you do. The first time I read this masterpiece was only a few months ago. I was riveted. In fact, I would submit that it was one of the best works of fiction I have ever read.

Sadly, this work of fiction has gradually become a work of non-fiction in our society.

Increasingly, instead of actual sources of truth that can only be found through free discourse that allows multiple world views, our college campuses are becoming more and more like the Ministry of Truth found in the book “1984.” As a result, what the book refers to as “Newspeak” is becoming the language not only of our universities but our communities at large. We need to reverse this trend and restore an appreciation for our First Amendment freedom of speech.

The concept of free speech under the First Amendment is one of our core values as Americans. The right to free speech at our schools is a particularly important piece of the fabric of our country. It is at this time that many of our younger citizens first start to realize the true importance of both their individual voice and the ability to learn from the differences of others.

In the interest of preserving our core value of the freedom of speech, I have introduced Senate Bills 349 and 350 to protect freedom of speech at our colleges and universities.

The legislation calls for the adoption of university and college policies that prioritize both the dissemination of knowledge and the importance of peaceful free expression. While illegal speech such as defamation, sexual harassment, and true threats of violence would still not be allowed, clear policies would also need to be put in place to ensure free intellectual debate, the ability to voice divergent opinions and the right to peaceful spontaneous assembly.

The legislation requires policies that ensure campuses do not bar or ban any speaker whom students, student groups, or faculty members have invited and who can otherwise legally be allowed on campus. All public areas on the campuses would also be considered as areas for potential public forums that would be equally open on the same terms to any speaker.

Constitutional experts agree that the litmus test for when free speech should be barred has little to do with whether others believe it is objectionable. In fact, that is why we need the First Amendment. We do not need a First Amendment to protect against speech that we like.

Groupthink is the last thing we want to see on our campuses. Our colleges and universities need to be areas where intellectual freedom is pervasive, and not limited by campus policies that effectively dictate which views or values are better than others. If campus leaders believe some speech creates a safety concern because of unruly audience members wishing to use violence, they must police those who would break the law in order to stifle free speech, and not punish speakers by taking away their voice. Intellectual freedom on our campuses must not be bullied into silence.

STOPPING THE BUTCHERY OF YOUNG GIRLS

Last month everyone in Michigan experienced shock and anger as the news of young girls being subjected to horrific practices within our state was brought to our attention.

While this unconscionable procedure has federal laws against it, Michigan is one of the states that currently does not have a specific state law on the books to both discourage its practice and punish the guilty. For that reason, the state would have to rely either solely on federal action, or see local prosecutors attempt to press charges under broader state laws that prosecutors have told us don’t best fit the crime and may increase the likelihood of a perpetrator going free.

As a result Senator Colbeck has introduced SB 347 and is working with his colleagues on related legislation. As said from his statement: “When you see people coming in from other states to have their young girls subjected to this barbaric procedure, it begs the question as to why Michigan would be an attractive place to have these unconscionable practices done. In order to increase the chance of successful prosecution, to ensure that we don’t have to rely solely on federal attorneys, and to make sure perceived leniency doesn’t encourage others to come here, justice requires that we pass a state law as quickly as possible.”

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) as defined in the bill would include procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the genitals of minor-aged females for non-medical reasons. The procedures can lead to problems urinating, can complicate childbirth later in life, and are often designed to make sexual intercourse unpleasant.

The Senator is committed to moving legislation through the process as quickly as possible so that they can be signed into law. While any new laws may not apply retroactively to this recent case, new state level punishments to discourage this from ever happening again should be put onto the books immediately.

FIREWORKS LEGISLATION INTRODUCED

Memorial Day will soon be with us (see related story regarding the upcoming Senate Memorial Day Ceremony), but it also won’t be long before we are able to celebrate the 4th of July as well. Fireworks displays are part of an important historic tradition that help us to celebrate the independence of our nation and other important events.

Beyond the tradition and fun, if not handled properly some fireworks can also represent safety hazards, and can vary widely as to their size and level of noise. For that reason some involvement of government regulation for certain fireworks is warranted, but Sen. Colbeck believes much of this regulation is best left closer to home at the local level as opposed to being controlled by the state. Senator Colbeck recently introduced SB 351 to restore some of the control local government used to have in this area so communities can make more of these decisions for themselves.

While the residents of certain communities may wish to allow the use of large scale fireworks all year long, the residents of other communities may also wish to restrict some of the days and hours that some of the largest ones can be used. Noise related ordinances for things like fireworks can be effectively handled at the local level, and state involvement should clearly be kept to certain bare minimums that give local government more flexibility in how they choose to deal with these issues.

ALS AWARNESS MONTH

ALS Awareness Month

ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a horrible and devastating affliction. The ALS Association has designated May as ALS Awareness Month. You can learn more about hope for a cure and their well-regarded research programs by visiting their website. While there is no cure now, cutting edge clinical trials are underway, and information on how to sign up for them can be found HERE.

SENATE MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE

For the past several years Senator Colbeck has been organizing the annual Senate Memorial Day Service in honor of our fallen heroes. We will be sending more information in our next e-newsletter. In the meantime, please find the date and time for this year’s ceremony at the following video link:

Click to view video

REMINDER - NEW WEBSITE

As we announced last month, we’re pleased to share the news that we’ve revamped the Senator Colbeck webpage. The site now features a new look that makes information easier to find, and adds more constituent material, such as senior resources, veteran resources, and more. Many useful publications, including the informative “Peace of Mind” guide for preparing wills and other legal matters, is also available. To view these handy resources visit SenatorPatrickColbeck.com.

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OUR DISTRICT

Michigan’s 7th Senate District
 

The 7th Senate District includes Canton Township, Livonia city, Northville city, Northville Township, Plymouth city, Plymouth Township, and Wayne city.

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Senator Patrick Colbeck

201 Townsend St., Suite #3400
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Phone: (517) 373-7350

Email: SenPColbeck@senate.michigan.gov
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Visit my website at: www.SenatorPatrickColbeck.com
 
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