The Michigan Legislature adjourned for 2019 and is scheduled to reconvene on Jan. 8, 2020. In their final two weeks of session, the House and Senate finalized supplemental appropriations to restore some – but not all – line items within the agriculture budget that were originally vetoed by Governor Whitmer. Legislation related to horse racing, career and technical education flexibility, and feeding and baiting also advanced through process.
The House and Senate restored $573.5
million to the state budget through two supplemental funding bills, coupled
with an agreement by Gov. Whitmer to scale back her State Administrative Board
authority. Recall that Whitmer utilized
the board in October, after implementing her line-item vetoes, to reshuffle
funds within the state budget.
“For the agriculture budget, the supplemental funding restored $500,000 for MSU’s farm stress program,” said MFB legislative counsel Rebecca Park. “Additionally, the State Administrative Board transfers were largely reversed.
“The board had defunded the $4 million Food and Agriculture Investment Grant Program and transferred it into various program areas. The legislature has now reversed most of the transfers, through their supplemental bills, back into the grant program.”
The funds were transferred from the following program areas:
“Unfortunately, funding for the Michigan Alliance for Animal Agriculture, county fair capital improvement grants, and the conservation district resources needs assessment have not yet been restored,” Park added.
As part of a larger bill package dealing with gaming, legislation to allow advanced deposit wagering (ADW) on horse races overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate. Supported by MFB and sponsored by Rep. Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville), House Bill 4310 now awaits the Governor’s approval.
Park explained that ADW is a technology allowing betting on horse races online or via cell phones through third-party facilitators that contract with licensed track owners.
She also said that MFB’s Equine Advisory Committee has been supportive of changes to the state’s horse racing law to “help ensure the industry’s long-term viability.”
Still in early stages of consideration, Senate Bill 171, sponsored by Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland), passed the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee. Supported by MFB, the bill amends the Revised School Code to retain the foreign language flex credit and make it permanent by removing the expiration (sunset) originally included in the law.
“Our members certainly hope to see this bill receive more attention after the New Year, because it will ensure students continue to receive greater opportunity to participate in career and technical education programs like agriscience,” Park said.
House Bill 4687, legislation sponsored by Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton) to repeal the state’s feeding and baiting ban, remains on the Governor’s desk. Whitmer has two weeks after the bill was presented on Dec. 9 to approve or veto the bill. If she doesn’t act, the amendments become law by default.
According to MFB Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch, the organization remains opposed to the bill.
“We remain opposed based on our members’ wildlife management policy which opposes deer feeding,” Vermeesch said. “The Department of Natural Resources also opposes the legislation and we believe it’s likely the Governor will veto the bill.”