State Representative Margaret O’Brien of Portage is beginning her second term in the Legislature. She spoke with WMUK’s Gordon Evans about end of the last session, and looked ahead to the next two years in office.
You can listen to Gov. Rick Snyder's "State of the State" address live here.
Many critics claimed that Republicans rushed through a long list of controversial bills during the “lame duck” session of the Legislature. O’Brien says the number of bills is actually less than the last two lame duck sessions. She says there were bills dealing with issues such as inventory taxes on new construction and juvenile competency. But she was those were overshadowed by the so-called “right to work” bill.
While there has been criticism of the “right to work” legislation for the substance of the bills, questions have also been raised about the process. An appropriation was added to the bill which shields it from referendum. O’Brien says few pieces of legislation have had an appropriation. She says the money is meant to address concerns about laws being passed without the money to pay for them. In the case of Right to Work, the governor is hiring someone to help with compliance. O’Brien says if the appropriation is a token dollar amount, it can be challenged in court, and opponents of the law can still pursue an amendment to the state Constitution. O’Brien says it’s rare to include an appropriation in legislation, she says it should only be done if an appropriation is truly needed to implement the law.
State of State Address
When Governor Snyder gives his “State of the State” address Wednesday night, O’Brien says she’d like the governor to lay out a plan for the future. She says that should include a plan for road funding. O’Brien says Michigan’s current system is too reliant on gas taxes as more fuel efficient and hybrid vehicles are using less gas and generating fewer dollars from the gas tax. She says the state needs a system that will be fair and also not penalize communities such as Portage which levies a millage for road improvements.
Snyder proposed increasing vehicle registration fees last year, but found little support in the Legislature from either party. O’Brien says an increase in those fees would hurt low-income families. She also questions if that is a good long term solution to the problem of road funding.
O’Brien sponsored one of the few bills vetoed in the last session. She proposed legislation that would expedite the process for a landlord to remove the property of a deceased tenant. Snyder exercised his “pocket veto” option, and did not sign it into law within 14 days after it was presented to him. O’Brien calls the issue and isolated one, but important to people who rent out property. She says if a family of a tenant doesn’t take control, the landlord has to open up an estate and pay all the fees. O’Brien says she is working with the governor’s office to resolve issues such as giving families sufficient time to gather their relatives’ belongings and assets.