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Bezotte: Why things are slow lately at the Capitol
RELEASE|March 10, 2024
Contact: Bob Bezotte

It was another slow week at the Capitol as Democrats who control the Michigan House of Representatives continue to run out the clock. The chamber is currently split 54 votes to 54 votes due to a couple of vacancies that won’t get filled until there’s a special election in April, but it takes 55 votes to get anything passed.

If you’re wondering why Democrats control the House when things are evenly split, it’s because they had a 56-54 majority (there are 110 members of the House) at the start of the term, so they were able to elect the speaker and therefore continue to hold the gavel unless or until they drop into minority. But with only 54 members, they are one vote shy of being able to get bills passed without at least some Republican support. Republicans, likewise, don’t have enough votes to take control. We’re deadlocked.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly offered to work together in a bipartisan fashion on areas where we can find common ground, but so far those offers have mostly been rebuffed. Democrats have basically decided to take a knee, because they expect to regain majority after the special election, at which time they will be able to pass whatever they want without needing to compromise.

It’s disappointing, but that is the situation.

However, there was one significant piece of legislation that that was approved by the House recently that I’d like to tell you about because it affects small family farms.

Right now, any workplace death must get reported to MIOSHA within eight hours. Failure to alert MIOSHA within that eight-hour window results in big penalties.

That makes sense when it’s something like a factory line at a big corporation, but not when it’s a family farm. If your family member dies in an accident, you’re going to be in shock. You’re not going to be thinking about properly filing the required paperwork in those first eight hours.

So this piece of legislation would substantially reduce fines for family farms in that kind of tragic situation.

This is something that lawmakers began working on following a 2019 incident in Blissfield (far southeast Michigan, near Toledo) in which the owner of a family farm fell through a roof while repairing a barn on his property and he died from his injuries. The family failed to alert MIOSHA, and the state hit them with $12,000 in fines.

MIOSHA had discretion in how to handle the situation, but they chose to strictly follow the letter of the law instead of recognizing the unique circumstances involved. That was the wrong move. The state should have showed compassion.

Similar legislation to reduce penalties got approved by the Legislature last term, but Gov. Whitmer vetoed it, supposedly due to a technical issue. This new bill fixes that technical issue by better defining what counts as a family farm, and making it clear this only applies to immediate family members.

The bill passed by a wide bipartisan margin; the vote was 93 in favor, 13 against (with a few members not voting)

I’d like to say that I’m confident that the bill will get signed into law this time around, but that remains to be seen. There are already signs that the governor doesn’t want it on her desk, and that the bill will get quietly killed by Democrats who control the Senate.

I’d like to close this week by saying something about former Fowlerville Police Chief Bob Krichke, who passed away recently at 83.

The sheriff’s department worked with Chief Krichke when he was the chief of the Fowlerville P.D. As young deputies, Bob helped mentor us into better law enforcement officers. His leadership and experience made a huge impact on all of law enforcement throughout Livingston County. God Bless Bob, and may he rest in peace.

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