Monday, December 25th, 2023Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Governor Whitmer Sets Special Election Dates
In response to State Representatives Lori Stone and Kevin Coleman each winning their local mayoral races, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has officially called for a special election to fill the two House vacancies. The Governor emphasized the importance of swiftly establishing representation for the 13th and 25th districts through a special primary election slated for January 30, 2024 and the general election on April 16, 2024.The dates of these elections indicate that the House will have an even split of 54-54 seats until at least mid-April. Whitmer expressed enthusiasm about collaborating with the future Representatives in the upcoming 2024 legislative session.
MDHHS Announces 2024 Changes to the Healthy Michigan Plan
Beginning January 1st, 2024, MDHHS will be implementing changes to the Healthy Michigan Plan (HMP) that affect cost-sharing and healthy behaviors for beneficiaries.
Enrolled individuals will not face care disruptions or benefit reductions due to these updates. Alterations to the plan include revised copayment obligations for beneficiaries aged 21 and older, where copayments may now be required at the point of service instead of through the MI Health Account. Exceptions for copayments related to chronic conditions and exemptions for medically frail individuals will be discontinued.
While encouraging healthy behaviors remains a focus, requirements for annual Health Risk Assessments and specific activities via the MI Health Account will no longer be mandatory or incentivized. MDHHS plans to collaborate with Medicaid Health Plans to introduce financial incentives for enrollees displaying improved health outcomes, adopting healthy behaviors, or completing screenings or procedures that contribute to better health.
Pugh Withdraws from U.S. Senate Race in Pursuit of U.S. House Seat
State Board of Education President Pamela Pugh has shifted her political aspirations by withdrawing from the U.S. Senate race to pursue the soon-to-be vacant seat left by retiring U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee in Michigan’s 8th U.S. House District. Pugh’s decision to shift gears removes her from the Senate race and positions her as the inaugural Democrat to officially vie for the 8th District seat.
Simultaneously, Matthew Felan, president and CEO of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance and incumbent president of the Bay City school board, has signaled contemplation of a potential run for the same congressional seat.
Governor Signs Clean Energy Legislation into Law
Governor Whitmer recently signed groundbreaking clean energy legislation that positions the state as a national frontrunner in combating climate change. These bills, part of the MI Healthy Climate Plan, promise to slash household utility costs by an average of $145 annually, generate 160,000 well-paying jobs, and bring in nearly $8 billion in federal funds for clean energy initiatives. The package boasts a 100% clean energy standard by 2040 (SB 271), driving Michigan toward renewable energy sources while fostering economic growth and elevating labor standards.
The comprehensive package also includes measures to improve energy efficiency and reduce waste (SB 273), the formation of the Office of Worker and Community Economic Transition (SB 519), and streamlined processes for clean energy projects (HB 5120). The legislation places special attention on protecting local communities (SB 502) and farmers’ rights to engage in solar projects on their own land (SB 277).
New Consumer Protections and Licensing Rules for Pharmacy Benefit Managers
Governor Whitmer and the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) are introducing new licensing rules for pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to alleviate prescription drug costs for Michiganders. These changes, outlined on a newly launched DIFS website, stem from a set of prescription drug bills enacted last year. Governor Whitmer has stressed the importance of ensuring affordable access to necessary medications without forcing tough choices between health and other expenses.
Director Anita Fox highlighted the role of PBMs in managing drug benefits and the significance of DIFS’ licensing authority in safeguarding Michiganders from soaring drug expenses. The legislation, born from recommendations by the Prescription Drug Task Force, imposed crucial consumer safeguards, including oversight on PBM licenses, bans on “gag clauses” and “spread pricing,” and requirements for PBMs to furnish transparency reports to DIFS. These measures aim to provide clarity, reduce costs, and enhance access to crucial drug cost information for Michigan residents.
Line 5 Pipeline Order Approved by MPSC
The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) has green-lit Enbridge’s proposal to replace the Line 5 pipeline section under the Straits of Mackinac with a tunnel. Despite strong opposition during the public comment phase, the majority of commissioners voted in favor, eliciting protests and criticism from dissenters.
While MPSC engineers admitted that suggested alternatives might have more significant environmental impacts on the Great Lakes, the approved plan comes with stringent conditions, including maintaining the replacement segment’s route, prohibiting third-party utilities in the tunnel, and mandating risk management plans. Chair Dan Scripps believes the move is a step toward eliminating the current pipeline’s threat to the Great Lakes, but vocal disagreement and calls to “shut it down” from attendees marked the decision. Commissioner Alessandra Carreon abstained, citing her recent appointment and limited exposure to testimony.
Senate Fiscal Agency Issues November Monthly Revenue Report
The recent November Revenue Report released by the Senate Fiscal Agency (SFA), revealed that Michigan’s General Fund and School Aid Fund tax collections fell short of the projections outlined in the May 2023 Consensus Revenue Estimating Conference (CREC). The General Fund taxes were reportedly $25.9 million below the estimated figures, while the School Aid Fund collections lagged by $41.6 million compared to the forecasts.
This shortfall was attributed to lower-than-expected sales tax collections and individual income tax withholding. Despite this, the report noted higher revenues in lottery revenue, use tax collections, and net Michigan Business Tax collections. Overall, the data shows a deficit in revenues for November compared to previously forecasted levels.