Meekhof comments on DPS indictments

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, today issued the following statement regarding news of indictments for former and current Detroit Public School administrators:

“The alleged actions of former and current principals in Detroit Public Schools are unacceptable.  This is further evidence of the need for reform and oversight of the schools in Detroit.  I’ll be working with my colleagues in the House to strengthen the DPS legislation passed by the Senate in light of this development.  If proven true, adults are literally robbing children of an education. It is criminal and immoral.”

Senate passes comprehensive plan for Detroit students

LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, today issued the following statement upon the passage of a plan for Detroit Public Schools.

“Today, the Senate passed a comprehensive, bipartisan plan for the students and parents of Detroit Public Schools.  The students and parents of DPS have gone too long without a reliable education system.  Without action, we risk a generation of students who will enter adulthood without an adequate education.

There are roughly 47,000 students in Detroit Public Schools and these children have spent too much time in an education system that is failing them.  The debt load of DPS requires intervention.

The legislation passed today addresses the debt load, provides opportunity for a revitalized community school district, returns the district to a locally elected school board, requires financial and budgetary oversight of tax dollars and relies on an independent board of education and community stakeholders to follow a rational system for opening and closing schools.

Furthermore, this legislation upholds education choice. Many Detroit parents have already demonstrated an interest in education choice by electing to send their kids to schools outside DPS.  Parents and students in Detroit deserve access to quality education choices.

Resolving the debt crisis in Detroit Public Schools now ensures that no student in Michigan will see a reduction in funding because of an insolvent DPS.  Bankruptcy would be an expensive and lengthy process that deals with the problems created by adults, but neglects the education needs of the kids.

Legislation on this grand a scale comes down to compromise.  Give and take from both parties was necessary in order to craft a comprehensive solution.  Republicans and Democrats came together to find a solution for 47,000 students and to prevent the rest of our schools from experiencing financial strain as a result of inaction,” said Meekhof.

Under the Senate-passed plan, the school district will be divided into the old DPS and a new community district. Governance of the district will be vested in a fully elected local school board in August 2016.  The current transition manager will oversee the district until the elected board takes office.  The elected board will appoint the first district superintendent.

The Senate plan provides approximately $200 million in transition funds to form the new community district.  An additional $515 million will be appropriated to fund the education needs and operation of the new community district.

The existing financial review commission which already oversees the finances of the City of Detroit, will also have oversight of the finances of the community district.  Two additional members will be added to the financial review commission to have input on the school district only.  Those two members will be the superintendent and school board president.

The legislation also includes an education commission, appointed by the mayor, which will be responsible for providing recommendations for siting and opening schools.

Schools within the community district will be assigned a grade of A, B, C, D, E or F.  High performing schools can replicate without approval of the education commission.  Those schools graded in the middle will seek approval from the commission.  Failing schools may be closed or subject to intervention.

The package is comprised on Senate Bills 710, 711, 819, 820, 821 and 822.

More information on the legislation can be found via the Michigan legislature’s website at www.legislature.mi.gov.

 

Meekhof releases statement on Snyder Administration emails

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, released a brief statement regarding the release of emails from the Governor’s office:

“These emails provide some insight into how individuals in the Administration were responding to the problems in Flint.

The primary goal of the Senate remains finding solutions so that nothing like this happens again.  It is clear that there is more information that should be considered in our plans to help the residents of Flint and protect communities throughout Michigan.  The Joint Committee on Flint will be meeting in the coming weeks to begin a review of this situation.”

New joint committee to review Flint water crisis

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter today announced the creation of the Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency to review the findings surrounding the Flint water crisis, take testimony on the mistakes at all levels of government that led to this situation and explore potential policy solutions to prevent a similar disaster in the future.

The committee is made up of three members from each chamber of the Legislature, with Sen. Jim Stamas as Chair and Rep. Ed McBroom and Sen. Jim Ananich as co-vice chairs.  Majority Leader Meekhof and Speaker Cotter both accepted the recommendations for Democratic representation from their Democratic counterparts.

“No Michigan citizen should be concerned about contaminated water,” said Majority Leader Meekhof, R-West Olive.  “The families and children of Flint deserve better from government—all government.  This committee will provide the opportunity and the forum to review the causes of the crisis in Flint, ensure effective use of resources to help residents and use what we learn to prevent a similar experience in any other community.

“Senator Ananich and I have had many conversations about how the Senate can work to address the concerns of the families in Flint.  I look forward to our continued dialogue and to the work of this committee in offering solutions for the citizens and families of Flint and families across Michigan.”

“What happened in Flint is a tragedy, and the people who are affected deserve answers,” said Speaker Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant.  “People were hurt by widespread government failures, and changes need to be made as soon as possible.  I am committed to doing everything I can to provide answers and prevent future disasters.

“This new committee will allow us to work together to review the investigative findings from this crisis and build solutions that help this community move forward.  The Auditor General and others are doing important work investigating what went wrong, and I look forward to taking their work and doing what we can to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”

The new committee will include the following members:

The Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency:

House
Senate
  • Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan – Vice Chair
  • Rep. Ed Canfield, R-Sebewaing
  • Rep. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor
  • Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland – Chair
  • Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg
  • Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint – Vice Chair

Meekhof comments on FY 2017 budget presentation

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

LANSING— Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, issued the following statement today regarding Gov. Snyder’s fiscal year 2017 budget presentation:

“The Governor’s budget plan reflects many Senate Republican priorities.  Over the course of the past several years, we have made progress in Michigan by adopting policies and laws that fostered economic turnaround and prosperity for Michigan families.

Unfortunately, recent failures at all levels of government have resulted in the spotlight once again being turned on our state.  In the coming months, the Senate Republicans pledge to work with the Governor, leadership in the House and our colleagues on the other side of the aisle through the budget process to bring additional aide to Flint.  The Senate has already worked to pass more than $60 million in relief for Flint residents, but there is more work to be done.  The crisis in Flint points to the need for a statewide dialogue about maintaining and improving infrastructure so that our citizens have confidence in all levels of government to help deliver basic needs like safe water.  I am currently reviewing options for a statewide infrastructure plan for all communities.

The Senate Government Operations Committee will continue to hold hearings on the education and financial crisis in Detroit Public Schools.  In order for 47,000 children to receive a basic education, the state will work to resolve more than $500 million in debt.  I am encouraged by the Governor’s proposed solution for how to deal with the balance sheet and I am eager to continue to work on how to best reform the district so that the students of DPS have a reliable and sound education plan.

Over the course of the past few years, the Senate Republicans have supported more than $1 billion in increased funding for all students and we will continue to build upon our commitment to education in the next budget year.  Increases to the foundation allowance are necessary to ensure more dollars enter the classroom to improve every child’s education experience.  I am encouraged by the Governor’s commitment to continue to pay down retirement and benefit costs so that dollars are not siphoned out of the classroom, but instead are available for learning tools and classroom supplies.

My colleagues and I in the Senate have made commonsense career paths a priority.  The Governor’s desire to increase funding for universities and community colleges as well as money for technical and vocational training supports the Senate Republicans belief that education should be a pathway for each student to achieve his or her personal career goals.

The Governor’s plan echoes the Senate Republicans’ commitment to Michigan families by increasing funding for Healthy Kids Dental and providing additional resources for clothing allowances to better meet the needs of our most vulnerable children and families. Additional resources to increase public safety through the hiring of additional troopers and funds to deliver prescription medicines are in keeping with the Senate Republicans desire to keep our citizens safe and healthy.

The budget presentation begins a collaborative process between the legislature and the Governor.  The Senate will take time to review the specifics of this plan, communicate with our constituents, and begin the deliberative process of working through the budget and working with the House and the Governor to deliver a comprehensive plan for Michigan well in advance of our October 1st deadline.”

 

Senate approves $30 million for Flint residents

LANSING—The Senate took action today on legislation to provide $30 million to credit the residents of Flint for payment of their water bills since April 2014.

“Multiple levels of government have failed the people of Flint and the result is our citizens being exposed to contaminated water.  It simply does not make sense that we would expect the people of this community to pay for water they cannot drink.  I believe that swift action today is reasonable and necessary,” said Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive.

“The Senate has repeatedly responded to the outcry of the citizens of Flint.  First to reconnect to Detroit Water, then to provide resources for emergency action and relief and now to credit those people who have been responsible citizens and paid their water bills even when their drinking water was at risk.  I will continue to work with my colleagues through the budget process to pursue a long-term solution to the crisis in Flint.

Again, this was a failure at multiple levels of government and I expect those governments to join with the Michigan Senate in the pursuit of solutions,” said Meekhof.

Senate Bill 136 appropriates $30 million in the current fiscal year to the Department of Treasury to provide relief for water bills for residents in the city of Flint.  The bill requires the Department of Treasury to make quarterly reports to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees on distribution of the funds.

The bill next goes to the Michigan House of Representatives for consideration.

Text of the legislation is available via the Michigan Legislature website at www.legislature.mi.gov.

 

Meekhof issues statement following State of the State address

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, tonight issued the statement below following Governor Snyder’s State of the State address:

“I commend Governor Snyder for his attention to the public health crisis in Flint.  As a father and a grandfather, I am dismayed by the failures that resulted in this crisis and the risk it poses to the children of this community.  The families of Flint deserve our full attention and the Senate is ready to assist the Governor to address these concerns.

The crisis in Flint demonstrates a need for greater accountability and reforms to our state government systems.  Bloated, unresponsive bureaucracy does not meet the needs of our citizens.  Over the past few years the Senate Republicans have worked to improve state government, but clearly there is more work to be done.  The citizens of Michigan deserve a responsive, competent team of employees and administrators that value accountability, safety and customer service above red tape.

The job of government at all levels is to respond to constituents.  As the customer complaint window for state government, legislative offices hear from citizens day-in and day-out who need help navigating bureaucracy.  The Senate Republicans are eager to pursue ways to improve state government and ensure safety and accountability for our citizens. Like many people throughout our state and the country, I look forward to hearing more about a solution for the people of Flint.

This year, the Senate is poised to tackle reform of our state’s largest school district.  The children of Detroit have spent too much time in an education system that does not give them the tools necessary to be successful adults and citizens.  The bottom line is, the families in Detroit and across Michigan deserve access to quality education choices.

The Senate, House, Governor, city leadership, elected officials, education professionals, community stakeholders, and parents must all share in the responsibility of reforming Detroit Public Schools.  While the legislature can work to resolve the balance sheet, the active participation of the citizens and leaders of Detroit is critical to the long-term success of the students and the vitality of the city’s neighborhoods.

Detroit’s turnaround will be for not if the children of that great city do not graduate high school, are not prepared for learning at our universities and are not competitive in today’s job market.

The challenges in Detroit Public Schools are not entirely unique to that district.  Many school districts are burdened by financial stress and a changing educational environment.  My colleagues and I in the Senate will look more closely at potential reforms related to legacy costs.  No student should be short-changed of dollars entering the classroom because of an unsustainable retirement system and mounting debt.

These major issues bring about larger questions about system failures.  The Governor has not shied away from tackling the tough issues facing our state and his remarks tonight demonstrate accountability and forward action to help the citizens of Flint and Michigan.

The Senate Republicans are prepared for another year of working with the Governor, our colleagues in the House and members on the other side of the aisle to continue to improve Michigan and reform state government.”

Meekhof comments on changes at DEQ

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, this afternoon issued the following statement regarding changes at the Department of Environmental Quality.

“When it comes to state government, legislators are the customer service center for our constituents. We hear directly from our citizens when government fails to meet their expectations.

Changes at the Department of Environmental Quality represent an opportunity to strike a balance between preserving and protecting Michigan’s natural resources and upholding the rights of citizens and property owners.  Competent directors are essential for state government to function properly. Ultimately, the responsibility of every department is to meet the needs of constituents.

The Senate looks forward to welcoming a strong director who will improve the functions and operations of the Department of Environmental Quality and be responsive to our citizens.  As majority leader, I will use the Advice and Consent process to thoroughly review a prospective director candidate.”

Senate passes comprehensive road funding plan

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, issued the following statement upon the passage of a plan to fund Michigan’s roads.

“Today, the Senate Republicans passed a commonsense, responsible plan to repair our roads and in doing so renewed our commitment to making government more accountable and efficient.  The core principles of the plan remain the same.  Existing resources are redirected to reflect roads as a priority in the state budget, new revenue is generated for a long-term solution and taxpayer dollars are returned to our hardworking taxpayers.

Road funding and the condition of our roads have been growing concerns over the past several years.  We have seen different iterations of a road funding solution, but none that garnered enough support to begin the process of repairing and adequately funding our roads.  It has taken years to come up with a road funding plan and in that time the cost of bringing our roads up to better standards has increased.  No one likes to pay more for services, but the people who drive the roads and cause wear and tear on the roads should contribute to road maintenance.  Additionally, as technology improves and driving habits change we know we need to diversify how we pay for roads and a responsible increase in registration fees brings added stability to road funding.

State government has a responsibility to maintain safe roads and bridges and the people of Michigan expect the legislature to address this issue and meet basic infrastructure needs.   I had hoped that the legislature could pass a plan with strong bipartisan support, but unfortunately few Democrats were able to put politics aside and be part of a solution.  I am grateful for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who joined with my caucus to vote for a commonsense road funding plan and I am disappointed by Democrat leaders who chose to sit out their responsibilities in favor of throwing political punches.

I have been realistic in my expectations that ultimately a road funding plan would include compromise in order for all parties to agree. For me, long-term tax relief had to be a component of the plan.  I firmly believe that we can always find ways to make state government more accountable and responsible.  We are asking for more from our taxpayers in order to improve our state and it only makes sense that we return available dollars to our hardworking families.

My Senate colleagues and I have demonstrated that we are committed to improving our roads and reforming transportation funding. The bottom line is the citizens of Michigan made it clear that road funding should be a priority of state government.  The priorities of the taxpayers are the priorities of the Michigan Senate.  I look forward to passage by the House and support from the Governor,” said Meekhof.

Under the Senate-passed plan, beginning in Fiscal Year 2019, $150 million in General Fund revenue would be redirected and dedicated to a newly created section of the Michigan Transportation Fund.  In Fiscal Year 2020, the redirected revenue would grow to $325 million and then to $600 million in Fiscal Year 2021 and beyond making roads a priority for state spending.

Additional revenue would be raised through an increase in the state gas tax and diesel tax to 26.3 cents on January 1, 2017.  The gas and diesel tax rates would then be indexed to the rate of inflation beginning January 1, 2022 in order to keep pace with the increasing costs of maintaining roads and bridges.  This change in fuel tax rates is expected to generate $400 million when fully implemented.

In addition to an increase in fuel taxes, another $200 million would be generated from a 20 percent increase in registration fees for passenger vehicles and trucks effective January 1, 2017.

When fully implemented, the combination of redirected funds and new revenue would result in approximately $1.2 billion for Michigan roads and bridges.

The Senate plan also presents an opportunity to control the growth of government.  Senate Bill 414 creates an automatic rollback of the state income tax rate each year that General Fund revenues exceed inflation.

Each fiscal year, General Fund expenditure growth would be limited to the rate of inflation times 1.425 with the initial rollback scheduled to begin on January 1, 2023.  Economic growth over and above the designated rate would be returned to the taxpayers in the form of an income tax rate reduction.

Beginning in Fiscal Year 2018, changes to the Homestead Property Tax Credit will result in $200 million in tax relief for families.

Additional bills in the package also require road construction warranties.  MDOT and local agencies would be required to competitively bid for most projects that exceed $100,000 and townships would be encouraged to issue Requests For Proposal for projects of a certain amount that include at least 50 percent township resources. The plan also creates the Roads Innovation Fund to hold the state accountable for road quality.

To keep pace with changes in technology, the package institutes a process and fee schedule for taxing alternative fuels and imposes an additional registration fee for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The package is comprised of Senate Bill 414 and House Bills 4730, 4376, 4737 and 4738.

For more information please visit, www.fixingmiroads.com.

 

Meekhof calls on House to convene conference committee

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof

LANSING—Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, today issued the following statement on the status of road funding:

“Our citizens demand results and our state needs better roads.  Rather than place blame and assign fault, I want to see the House take action in conference committee.  The House is in the position to move this process forward and I encourage leadership to convene the committee as soon as possible.

The senate passed a road funding plan this summer.  The senate plan prioritizes state spending, generates new revenue for a long-term solution and returns tax dollars to hardworking taxpayers. We are asking for more from our taxpayers in order to adequately fund our roads and it makes good sense to hold the state accountable by constraining the size of government.

Since that time, I have been working with Senator Ananich and our counterparts in the House to reach a consensus on how we can fund roads and maintain the priorities of our constituents.  The leaders reached an agreement and met to finalize the details last week, but progress stalled.  At this point we are too close to a resolution to leave this deal on the table.”