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Campus Speech Bills Get Hearing: On May 16, the Senate Judiciary Committee took up three bills that would be potentially problematic for community colleges in Michigan. Senate Bill 349 (Colbeck) would create the Campus Free Speech Act, creating strict limitations on speech-related policies at public colleges and universities. Senate Bill 350 (Colbeck) would require any community college accepting state funds to submit to a number of policies regarding free expression, as well as a Higher Education Committee on Free Expression in the Department of Education. The Committee did not vote on SB's 349 & 350 and they are not on the Committee agenda for this coming week.

 

Overall Revenues as Expected: On May 17, officials from the Department of Treasury and both House and Senate Fiscal Agencies held the annual May Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference to determine official budget forecasts. Officials forecast a combined increase of $47.4 million over the January estimate for the current and coming fiscal years with all funds tallied. For both years, estimates for the state's General Fund were lowered while estimates for the School Aid Fund improved.

What are the implications? It remains to be seen how the changing forecast will affect budget negotiations moving forward. Reports from after the revenue conference indicate that legislative leaders have informed Governor Snyder they would like to close the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) as part of this year's budget negotiations. The Governor seems to be maintaining his position that closing the system is far too costly in the short run, and that the 2012 reforms are working. Targets for individual budgets are being postponed while these larger negotiations take place.

 

Energy Financing Option Proposed: On May 17, the House Local Government Committee held a hearing on House Bill 4457 (Iden), which would allow community colleges to use tax-exempt lease purchases to finance energy improvement projects. Similar bills have passed in recent months granting that authority to municipalities and K-12 school districts. The hearing was very brief with only support expressed, and the Committee did not vote on HB 4457 this week.

 

Data Bills Pass House: On May 18, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to support House Bills 4545 (Ellison) and 4546 (Howell). Together, HB's 4545 & 4546 would clarify that community colleges may access wage data for certain research purposes, and would require the Unemployment Agency to develop a process that entities such as colleges and universities could use to request such data. The bills would also clarify responsibility for misuse of wage data, allowing that liability to be assigned to the employee who actually handles the information, rather than a public official. The bills now go to the Senate for consideration.

 
 

 

HELPFUL LINKS

Michigan Legislature’s website (bill tracking and committee meetings)

Michigan House of Representatives

Michigan Senate

Community College Legal Authority (Michigan Constitution)

Community College Act of 1966

 

For the map of the community college districts, click here.

 

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