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Federal Court Orders New Maps For State's U.S. House Seats, Legislature

A three-judge federal panel unanimously awarded a total victory today to the Democratic plaintiffs who have challenged the 2011 reapportionment plan drawn by majority Republicans for the state's 14 U.S. House districts, 38 Michigan Senate districts and 110 Michigan House districts and deemed them unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

The court called for the Legislature to pass, and the governor to sign, remedial plans by August 1 with the court to evaluate the constitutionality of those maps. Further, in a blockbuster development, the court ordered that the new map for the Michigan Senate would be used in a special 2020 election for the upper chamber which is not scheduled to stand for election until 2022*.

The court said it would draw its own remedial maps if the Legislature and governor cannot agree on new plans by August 1 or if the court finds the remedial plans unconstitutional, it would draw new maps itself.

The ruling applies to all 34 challenged districts, but to remedy those districts will require altering others.

Gongwer News Service will have more on this story in Thursday's Michigan report.

Senate K-12 Budget: Bigger Per Pupil Increase, Less Overall

The Senate Republican K-12 School Aid budget proposes a larger per pupil increase to the basic foundation grant than Governor Gretchen Whitmer, but puts far less additional money into special education, at-risk students, pre-school for low-income children, career/technical education and early literacy coaches.

Ms. Whitmer's budget proposed a $180 per pupil increase for the districts at the lowest funding level and a $120 per pupil increase for those at the highest level. The budget approved today on a 4-1 party-line vote by the Senate Appropriations K-12 School Aid and Education Subcommittee proposes a $270 per pupil increase for those at the lowest end and a $135 per pupil increase for those at the highest end.

However, because the budget does not include Ms. Whitmer's substantial funding increases in what districts receive for at-risk students, special education, early literacy coaches and career and technical education, as well as the Great Start Readiness Program for preschool, it contains slightly less overall ($13.26 billion) than the governor's plan ($13.41 billion).

The Senate budget also restores a host of long-time legislative Republican priorities, most notably full funding for cyber charter schools, that the governor proposed cutting or eliminating. Ms. Whitmer, like former Governor Rick Snyder before her, had proposed a smaller per pupil foundation grant for cyber charter schools because they lack the operational costs schools with buildings contain.

And while Ms. Whitmer's budget relies on her proposed 45-cent per gallon gasoline tax increase to remove all General Fund money from the roads and thus allow the General Fund to again cover all of the costs for the higher education budget and then avoid using the School Aid Fund to pay for higher education, the Senate K-12 budget relies much more heavily on the General Fund. Ms. Whitmer's proposal uses just $45 million General Fund for K-12. The Senate Republican budget uses $268 million General Fund.

The use of so much General Fund in K-12 (it would be a $180.1 million increase from the current year) is showing up in other Senate GOP budgets seeing cuts or no increases or smaller increases compared to what Ms. Whitmer proposed.

Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City), the subcommittee chair, made a point of noting no one has even introduced a bill with Ms. Whitmer's proposed gasoline tax increase, so the subcommittee must use the revenues that are available.

Gongwer News Service will have more on this story in today's Michigan Report.

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