MASN Legislative Update--Flint Crisis
Below is an update from GONGWER ( Volume #55, Report #17, Article #2 – Wednesday, January 27,2016)
Senate Appropriations Sends Flint Supplemental To Floor
The Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday gave unanimous approval to a supplemental appropriations bill for $28 million to help recovery efforts of the Flint water crisis, but it changed how some of that money is divvied up and for what causes.
Two amendments presented by Democratic senators, who had worked with committee chair Sen. Dave Hildenbrand (R-Lowell), also saw adoption to the S-1 substitute version HB 5220.
The gross appropriation of the bill is still about $28 million ($22.6 million General Fund). But rather than spending as much money as the House had appropriated on purchasing water and water filtration systems, the Senate decided to move about $1.75 million from the Department of Health and Human Services' appropriations to go instead to the Department of Education, and specifically the line item on "Genesee ISD Early On testing/service coordinators/psychologist." That line also removed the House's specificity on three positions.
"We made some language changes to make it clear that all this funding goes to address the crisis in the city of Flint," Mr. Hildenbrand said of the changes prior to voting on the bill. "The other thing is ... because of the generosities of people all across this country, we have less of a need in direct purchase of water."
Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) won the amendment for the Early On program that will assure all kids in the affected Flint area between 0 and 3 years old will have an Early On assessment done and paid for by the state. There are about 4,500 children in Flint who fall within that age bracket, Mr. Hertel said.
"Exposure to lead can cause developmental delays, behavior issues, slow growth, hearing loss," he said. "We also know children that have reached that level of lead poisoning ... are less likely to graduate high school, more likely to end up in our prison system and more likely to end up in our social services programs."
The early-on assessment, he said, involved a coordinator that tracks each child, how they are learning, how they are developing, and if they are not properly developing provides a "more intensive evaluation and an individualized plan" for the child.
Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) also won an amendment that allow for additional nursing services within DHHS boilerplate language (which specifies the allocations for each department receiving funding) to qualify for the funding the state is providing, which comes in addition to the nine school nurses paid for by the bill.
Overall, $2.887 million (all General Fund) was removed from the appropriation for DHHS, the majority of that shift going to Education. The other dollar figure changes from the House-passed version of the bill is another $100,000 within DHHS' allocation for child/adolescent health centers (specifically health care access programs) and another roughly $1 million gross (about $1.037 million General Fund) toward a Genesee County nutrition line item, which now includes food banks.
Mr. Hertel complimented the bill changes. "It's much better than the supplemental that passed out of the House," he told reporters after the meeting.
The final numbers show Education, with its increase, getting $2.685 million (General Fund), the Department of Environmental Quality still getting $5.786 million (General Fund), DHHS' reduced amount coming to $15.457 million ($10 million General Fund), the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs receiving $2 million (General Fund), the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs receiving $2 million (General Fund), and the State Police $100,000 (General Fund).
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said passage of the supplemental and its redirected funds was a good first step in a long process.
"The next challenge is to make sure we hold people accountable to use these funds in the way local experts and people on the ground recommend," he said in a statement. "We also must make sure people live up to their word about future budgets demonstrating a long-term commitment to righting this horrible wrong. That includes the financial relief our citizens so desperately need and the infrastructure changes that have to happen."