<![CDATA[Rep. Tim Greimels' Site Feed]]> http://029.housedems.com <![CDATA[Statement from House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel on the Supreme Court decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby:]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/statement-from-house-democratic-leader-tim-greimel-on-the-supreme-court-decision-in-burwell-v-hobby-lobby <p>“I’m extremely disappointed in the ruling from the Supreme Court today effectively saying that the religious beliefs of wealthy CEOs trump the health care needs of their female employees. It’s unthinkable that in 2014, we are still arguing about whether women should have access to birth control. Medical decisions should be made between a patient, her doctor and her family without interference from employers or politicians.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dem Leader Greimel: Road Grant Opens Door to Economic Development]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-dem-leader-greimel-road-grant-opens-door-to-economic-development <p>LANSING – House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) welcomed news that the Michigan Department of Transportation has awarded a $2 million grant toward the replacement of an Interstate 75 overpass and an adjoining interchange in Auburn Hills. The replacement of the University Drive overpass and interchange project will foster the ongoing development in that area, which has seen several major manufacturers open nearby offices.</p> <p>“The Michigan Department of Transportation grant of $2 million helps assure that this project will get underway and be completed soon,” Greimel said. “Numerous growing companies have identified the University Drive area as a great place to expand and create jobs, and we must replace this aging and crumbling bridge if we want to see that growth continue. Improving our infrastructure goes hand-in-hand with improving our state’s economy.”</p> <p>The $17 million project is also receiving $10.3 million in funding from MDOT’s Metro Region fund, $4 million from the city of Auburn Hills and $750,000 from Oakland University.</p> <p>“The developer of the Oakland Technology Park has said that the decaying infrastructure in the area has made prospective tenants think twice before locating here,” Greimel said. “Once this project is completed, it will help Auburn Hills and surrounding areas attract more good-paying jobs, which benefits everyone in our community.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Invite Republicans Back to Lansing to Find Road Fix Solution]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-invite-republicans-back-to-lansing-to-find-road-fix-solution <p>LANSING – After walking off the job to take a three-month vacation last week, House Republicans are being invited to return to the state Capitol to finish the task of finding a road funding solution that will fix Michigan’s dangerous roads and bridges.</p> <p>“Michiganders are angry that they have to drive on some of the worst roads in the country just to get to work each morning while their elected leaders take an extended, paid summer vacation,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “For Republican legislators to vote to adjourn for the summer without a road funding solution wasn’t just irresponsible, it was unacceptable. I invite legislative Republicans to correct their mistake and join us in Lansing until we find a way to fund road repairs, because Michigan’s leaders should work as hard as the people who voted them into office.”</p> <p>Even though Republicans hold the governor’s office, a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate, they were unable to devise a plan to fund Michigan’s past-due road repairs. Instead of staying to find a solution, House Republicans voted to adjourn last week over the objections of House Democrats, who are ready to come back to the state Capitol at any time to finish the task.</p> <p>“Michigan’s infrastructure is in a state of crisis, and when a crisis arises, real leaders don’t turn and walk away,” Rep. <strong>Jim Townsend</strong> (D-Royal Oak) said. “I’m ready to dodge potholes every day on my way into Lansing until we find a way to fund these road repairs. I urge legislative Republicans to do the same, so that we can roll up our sleeves, get to work and get the job done.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems: Legislative Republicans’ Spectacular Road Funding Failure Betrays Michigan Voters]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-legislative-republicans-spectacular-road-funding-failure-betrays-michigan-voters <p>LANSING – Legislative Republicans’ stunning decision to leave for summer vacation rather than stay in Lansing to find a solution for Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges is nothing short of a betrayal of Michigan citizens, House Democrats said Thursday night.</p> <p>“Despite naming infrastructure repair as a top priority for three consecutive years – and despite holding the governor’s office, a House majority and a supermajority in the Senate – Republicans proved themselves to be unfit for the task of leading our state,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “Democrats in the House worked hard on a bipartisan road funding package last month that would have kickstarted repairs to our dangerous roads, but Republicans couldn’t agree to pass the bills and get the job done. This is a stunning lack of leadership, a dereliction of duty, and an absolute betrayal of the public trust.”</p> <p>The Republicans’ failure means Michigan drivers and businesses won’t get the road repairs they demand anytime soon. House Democrats were willing to stay into the night, return tomorrow and next week to get the job done, but Republicans instead opted to end negotiations and leave town for a two-month summer vacation.</p> <p>“Hardworking Michiganders know you don’t just get up and leave when there’s still work to be done,” said Greimel. “It’s been said that voters get the government they deserve, but nobody deserves what we’ve seen here today. The failed leadership displayed by the governor and legislative Republicans is staggering. I know that voters deserve better than this from those they elect – and voters know it, too.”</p> <p>House Democrats objected to the premature adjournment of the legislative session Thursday, but Republicans opted to leave their job undone. It’s not clear when, or if, they will return to solve the problem of funding Michigan’s past due infrastructure repairs.</p> <p>Rep. <strong>Marilyn Lane</strong> (D-Fraser), the Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee, introduced House Bills 5143 and 5456 as a way to, at the very least, protect the roads from overweight trucks, and to ensure that motorists aren’t hit with higher insurance costs because of car repairs from pothole damage. House Bill 5143 would halve certain truck weight limits from 164,000 pounds to the federal standard of 80,000 pounds. House Bill 5456 would prevent insurance companies from raising auto insurance rates when a driver submits a claim from pothole damage to their vehicle. Those bills were referred to committees and haven’t yet come up for a vote.</p> <p>“My bills are not answers to our road problems, but they will give motorists some relief from problems created by the majority’s inability to pass a long-term fix for our roads,” said Lane. “By passing my bills, we can at least prevent damage to our roads from overweight trucks going forward, and prevent our constituents from having to foot the bill for the majority’s negligence. We shouldn’t let insurance companies profit from the fact that they couldn’t agree on a plan to fix the roads.”</p> <![CDATA[Michigan House Dems Support Pay Raise for Minimum Wage Workers]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/michigan-house-dems-support-pay-raise-for-minimum-wage-workers <p>LANSING — House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said a bill passed by the Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday will bring self-sufficiency to many hardworking Michigan families. Senate Bill 934 will increase the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour by 2018, a 25 percent increase over the current minimum wage of $7.40 an hour. Beginning in 2019, the minimum wage will then increase with the rate of inflation up to 3.5 percent per year.</p> <p>“Michigan families are working harder than ever, and they deserve a raise,” Greimel said. “I’m thankful for the groundswell of grassroots support for a minimum raise increase, which spurred the Legislature into action. This will go a long way to bringing relief to families who have been struggling for years to make ends meet. This bill moves us closer toward making economic security a reality for Michigan families.”</p> <p>The minimum wage increase will have a major effect on households headed by women, who disproportionately make up minimum-wage earners. According to the Michigan League for Public Policy, women make up 53 percent of the state’s low-wage workers, even though they comprise just 48 percent of Michigan’s workforce.</p> <p>“Passing an increase to the minimum wage will give a financial boost to Michigan’s working women and their families,” Rep. <strong>Rashida H. Tlaib</strong> (D-Detroit) said. “While I had introduced a proposal to lift the minimum wage to $10 an hour, I see this increase as a good first step. Now, we must work even harder to bring even more relief to Michigan families.”</p> <p>House Democrats have introduced additional bills that would benefit working families, including a tax relief package that would restore the Homestead Property Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit to previous levels, bring back the $600 per-child deduction and get rid of the new retirement tax that seniors have been struggling to pay. Those bills – introduced more than a year ago – have yet to receive any committee hearings.</p> <p>“I’m proud to have helped give Michigan’s working families a pay raise, but our work here is not yet done,” said Rep. <strong>Jon M. Switalski</strong> (D-Warren), who had previously introduced a bill to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour. “We need to deliver tax fairness to Michigan families, so that fewer of their hard-earned dollars will go to pay for those increases levied on them over the past three years.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems: Republican Policies Stunt Michigan’s Economic Recovery]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-republican-policies-stunt-michigan-s-economic-recovery <p>LANSING &#8212; Michigan House Democrats said today that the latest numbers from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Committee show that even though hardworking Michigan families are paying more in taxes, it still isn’t enough to make up for a massive corporate handout, putting critical state spending in peril. The CREC estimated today that state revenues are down about two-thirds from the surplus of $971 million estimated in January. This opened a $400 million hole in the House-proposed budget passed last week.</p> <p>“Three years ago, legislative Republicans rewrote the tax code and placed a heavy burden on middle-class families and seniors, making them pay 32 percent more in taxes while major corporations were given a huge tax break and now pay 83 percent less,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “As a result of those republican tax increases, Michigan families and seniors have less money to spend in their local communities. Local small businesses continue to struggle, and Michigan is still among the highest in the country when it comes to unemployment.&#8221;</p> <p>The state Legislature is in the middle of its annual budget-making process, and lawmakers had relied on a surplus of $971 million to help fund items such as road repair, school funding and revenue sharing for local communities, which funds things such as emergency services. Without that sizable surplus, legislators will now have to decide where in the already-proposed budget to make cuts.</p> <p>Meanwhile, after Republicans promised the state that the corporate tax break would result in jobs, new figures also show that job growth in Michigan is slowing. There were 47,900 jobs created in Michigan in 2013, down from 76,800 jobs created the year before. Also this week, the state said its unemployment rate nudged down a tenth of a percentage to 7.4 percent, still far above the national rate of 6.3 percent.</p> <p>“Republicans sold the idea that giving tax breaks to major corporations would lead to job growth and prosperity,” said <strong>Rashida H. Tlaib</strong> (D-Detroit), Democratic vice chairwoman for the House Appropriations Committee. “Instead, we’re seeing state revenues coming in lower than expected and job growth sputter. We can’t wait for Republicans to grind our state’s economy to a standstill – we need a better vision for our future, and we need it now.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Decry Excessive EAA Expenditures, Call for Investigation]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-decry-excessive-eaa-expenditures-call-for-investigation <p>LANSING – Following a Detroit News investigation that found that the failed Education Achievement Authority has charged nearly $240,000 on credit cards for staff travel to places such as Orlando and Las Vegas, gasoline for a chauffeured car and massive amounts of IKEA furniture, House Democrats are calling for an immediate investigation into the troubled district and demand that the EAA be shut down, not expanded, as legislative Republicans are contemplating.</p> <p>“The EAA had to borrow $12 million through the Detroit Public Schools to stay afloat, and then needed an advance from the state when they couldn’t pay it back. At the same time, EAA fat cats, such as Chancellor John Covington, were taking trips around the country to places such as Orlando, Las Vegas, Myrtle Beach and Los Angeles, spending $25,000 on IKEA furniture and putting $10,000 in gasoline into Covington’s chauffeur-driven car,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “Meanwhile, the EAA’s teachers were told that if they wanted books in their classrooms, they’d have to buy it themselves. There can be no excuse for this selfish behavior and utter disregard for our kids. There must be an investigation into these abuses, and those responsible must be held accountable.”</p> <p>Information about the EAA’s questionable expenses comes as the Legislature considers expanding the EAA across the state. Currently operating 15 schools in Detroit, the most recent proposal would allow the EAA to take over the bottom 5 percent of schools statewide in terms of academic achievement.</p> <p>“The EAA has demonstrated once again that it exists to serve its own administrators and not our kids,” said <strong>Ellen Cogen Lipton</strong> (D-Huntington Woods), Democratic vice chairwoman for the House Education Committee. “To consider expanding the EAA in light of these most recent abuses would be inexcusable. We don’t need to enlarge the EAA, we need to end it and replace it with real reforms that work.”</p> <p>House Democrats have proposed House Bills 5268 and 5269, which would establish a locally determined transformation processes to improve Michigan’s struggling schools, and require a study to determine what it actually costs to educate a student in a Michigan classroom. Both bills have stalled in the Republican-led House.</p> <p>Instead, Republicans are considering expanding the EAA. Touted as a fix to Michigan’s most challenged schools, the EAA has instead become a rolling disaster since it first took over 15 Detroit schools in 2012-13 school year. Besides requiring a multi-million dollar cash infusion to stay afloat, the district has also seen enrollment fall by more than 25 percent and most of its students’ Michigan Education Assessment Program scores showed minimal improvement or even worsened. Many students, teachers and parents have criticized the EAA’s computer-based learning model, and some have highlighted security concerns at the schools.</p> <p>“We’ve gotten used to the EAA failing our kids at every opportunity, but to see that the district squandered almost $240,000 on junkets for administrators, trendy and foreign furniture and other frivolities is even worse than I could have expected from them,” said <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids), vice chairman of the House School Aid Fund Appropriations Subcommittee. “Teachers were being told there was no money for books while adults were traveling to vacation destinations and charging the bill to taxpayers. Legislative Republicans must do the right thing and immediately investigate this outrageous squandering of taxpayer money and disregard of the public’s trust.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Say Budget is an Improvement Over Past Budgets]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-say-budget-is-an-improvement-over-past-budgets <p>LANSING – House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) and state Representatives <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids) and <strong>Rashida H. Tlaib</strong> (D-Detroit) said that the omnibus budget bills passed this week with Democratic support are substantially better than previous budgets, but still doesn’t go far enough to support schools, middle-class families and our communities.</p> <p>“While this budget does take care of some issues facing our state, it still fails to do enough to educate our students, to relieve the tax burden on middle-class families and senior citizens, and to keep our communities safe,” said Greimel. “The slight increase in state funding for schools doesn’t come close to covering the cuts forced on them over the last three years. Michigan residents are still finding it hard to pay the tax bill and make ends meet. Republicans are refusing to address safety issues in communities with state prisons by failing to include funding for more perimeter patrols and guard towers. Michigan residents deserve better but this is a step in the right direction.”</p> <p>The omnibus school budget, House Bill 5314, does include increases in the foundation allowance the state gives schools of $56 and $112. But there is still less money going into classrooms because of the administration’s practice of counting money that goes into the teacher retirement program as “school funding.” In the general omnibus budget, HB 5313, Republicans turned down Democratic corrections budget amendments that would have funded perimeter patrols and guard towers, and that would have allowed the state to cancel contracts that privatized prison food services. The budget also does nothing to ease the tax burden on families who lost important deductions and credits, and seniors who are paying the retirement tax while trying to live on a fixed income.</p> <p>“I am glad that there is at least a small increase in school funding, but we must do better,” said Dillon, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “We could have a better idea of what the proper school funding levels are, but Republicans refuse to pass my bill, HB 5269, requiring a study to determine what educating a student in a Michigan public school actually costs. If we worked together on school funding, then we could make sure our schools have the resources they need so kids are successful in school and the workforce and Michigan’s economy can continue to grow.”</p> <p>The House did increase funding for roads in the Michigan Department of Transportation budget, although more still needs to be done to repair and maintain Michigan roads that have been ignored for too long. The Department of Community Health budget expands the Healthy Kids Dental program to more counties, but fails to expand it to Wayne, Oakland or Kent counties, where the need for children’s dental services is also great.</p> <p>“This budget gets us closer to the Budget Priority Proposal we created last year that most accurately reflects the needs of our children and families.” said Tlaib, Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “It is still disappointing that House Republicans insist on an omnibus process that lacks a tremendous amount of transparency making it harder for the public to be engaged in the budget process. As we move forward to fully restore the detrimental elimination of tax credits and cuts to education funding, I hope it is done with consideration of the priorities of Michigan families, not big corporations.”</p> <![CDATA[House Democrats Call for Action on Pay Equity Package]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-democrats-call-for-action-on-pay-equity-package <p>LANSING — House Democrats demanded today that Rep. Pete Lund (R-Shelby Township), the chairman of the House Government Operations Committee, hold a hearing on a package of legislation that would address the wage gap between men and women in Michigan. Introduced more than a year ago, the legislation has yet to receive any testimony before the committee.</p> <p>“Making sure that people with the same experience, skills and qualifications get the same pay for the same work is a matter of fairness and simple common sense,” House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong> (D-Auburn Hills) said. “But rather than support economic security for Michigan families, House Republicans stalled these bills. Michigan women and their families deserve better than this.”</p> <p>The legislation takes aim at a persistent pay gap that exists between men and women in Michigan. Michigan ranked 43rd in the nation in pay equity in 2013, according to National Partnership for Women and Families. The average full-time working woman makes about $36,772, while the average man makes about $49,897. The pay gap for women of color is even greater, with African-American women earning an average of 64 cents to a dollar earned by men, while Latinas earn an average of 54 cents on the dollar.</p> <p>“Women can’t afford to take a pay cut simply because they are women,” said Rep. <strong>Marcia Hovey-Wright</strong> (D-Muskegon), who heads the Democratic Women’s Caucus. “The gap in pay makes it harder to feed children, pay utility bills and save up for a college education. Michigan families need pay equity.”</p> <p>The House Democrats’ pay equity package includes legislation to:</p> <p>• Prohibit an employer from failing to provide equal compensation for work of comparable value for several reasons, including sex (House Bill 4518 - Rep. Gretchen Driskell)<br /> • Create penalties for employers who pay different wages to men and women who are &#8220;similarly situated&#8221; – employees with similar qualifications, experience, etc. (HB 4519 - Hovey-Wright)<br /> • Create a state commission on pay equity (HB 4517 – Rep. Dian Slavens)<br /> • Require an employer to provide, at an employee&#8217;s request, wage information for “similarly situated employees” (HB 4516 – Rep. Collene Lamonte)</p> <p>“These bills simply assure women that they will get an equal deal in the workplace,” Rep. <strong>Gretchen Driskell</strong> (D-Saline) said. “Making sure our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters get equal pay for their hard work shouldn’t be a partisan issue. No one wants to see the people they love treated unfairly.”</p> <p>House Republicans have already joined with Democrats to declare April 8, 2014 Pay Equity Day in the state of Michigan through House Resolution 337, sponsored by Rep. <strong>Theresa Abed</strong> (D-Grand Ledge). Abed hopes House Republicans will now take further action to make pay equity a reality in Michigan. “I urge my colleagues across the aisle to give their support to these bills and urge Rep. Lund to hold a hearing on them,” Abed said. “Ensuring everyone in Michigan gets a fair shake in the workplace is something everyone can get behind. It’s time for pay equity in Michigan.”</p> <![CDATA[House Dems Propose Bills to Add Disclosure to State Contracts]]> http://029.housedems.com/news/article/house-dems-propose-bills-to-add-disclosure-to-state-contracts <p>House Democratic Leader <strong>Tim Greimel</strong>(D-Auburn Hills) and state Representatives <strong>Brandon Dillon</strong> (D-Grand Rapids) and <strong>Rashida Tlaib</strong> (D-Detroit) unveiled plans today to transfer $22 million from a controversial state furniture contract to local schools and place a $1 million cap on bloated state office furniture spending. The proposals are part of a reform package aimed at reining in contract and ethical abuses by the Snyder administration and House Republican lawmakers.</p> <p>“The Snyder administration and legislative Republicans&#8217; decision to prioritize government furniture spending over local school funding is wrong,” said Greimel. “Our kids’ education, not brand-new office furniture from the governor’s cousin, should be our top priority. These reforms will undo politically motivated expenditures by the governor for his family members and instead put those dollars into our classrooms where they belong.”</p> <p>The Democratic proposals come in response to revelations that Snyder administration officials and his controversial NERD fund intervened in the midst of the state’s fiscal year 2012 budget crisis to protect the governor’s cousin, George Snyder, and major financial contributor Haworth Inc. from what could have been a multimillion-dollar cut connected to the state furniture contract. A year later, after House Republicans helped administration officials kill a state Senate budget bill provision to cap furniture purchases for the year at $1 million, the Snyder administration increased a state contract with Haworth by more than $22 million to $41 million. While refusing to scale back new state office furniture purchases that benefited the governor’s cousin and major Republican campaign contributors, the Snyder administration and legislative Republicans proceeded to cut over $1 billion from education funding, and police and fire protection while raising $1.42 billion in taxes on retirees and middle-class families.</p> <p>“Gov. Rick Snyder told Michigan’s parents, seniors and struggling communities that while they needed to do some heavy lifting to pay for his budget priorities, there would be shared sacrifice. Instead, Michigan’s middle-class families did all the lifting, the governor’s family and political friends were protected, and they unloaded more new, un-needed furniture onto the taxpayers,” said Dillon, Democratic vice chairman of the House Appropriations School Aid Subcommittee. “The legislation we are proposing today will restore some fairness and integrity to our state contracting system and support the priorities of Michigan’s families instead of the governor’s.”</p> <p>The reform package announced today would:</p> <p>• Amend the 2015 budget to transfer $22 million from the General Fund to the School Aid Fund. This reflects the difference between the 2011 Haworth contract and its current authorization level of $41 million.</p> <p>• Amend Michigan’s 2015 budget to include a $1 million limit on purchases of office furniture.</p> <p>• Require all high-level state employees, including the governor and his staff, to report their income, assets, liabilities and any asset changes affecting them or their immediate family.</p> <p>• Require all state contractors and bidders to disclose any family relationships that exist between corporate officers, owners and directors and senior officials in the Executive Branch of state government.</p> <p>• Amend the Michigan Lobby Registration Act to include &#8220;an individual conducting business under the auspices of the executive offices of the governor or lieutenant governor.” This will require reporting the lobbying of those individuals and also subject them to current lobby limits for public officials.</p> <p>“Secret slush funds, questionable lobbying and back-door deals should not be the Michigan way of doing the public’s business,” said Tlaib, Democratic vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee. “We as elected officials are held to a higher standard and individuals in the executive office should be no different.”</p>