Sen. Jones receives AG opinion on state employee benefits

LANSING — Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, has received an opinion from the attorney general that the Legislature can overturn a Civil Service Commission ruling by a two-thirds vote in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Jones had requested an opinion from the attorney general regarding recent activity by the Civil Service Commission, which ruled that live-in unmarried boyfriends and girlfriends of state employees could receive taxpayer funded health insurance. Any dependents of the boyfriend or girlfriend would also be covered.

The ruling was requested by Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration and a hearing was held late last year. Jones spoke at that hearing and asked the commission to not allow the benefit. The Granholm administration estimated it would cost taxpayers approximately $6 million. Jones said it could go much higher.

“I think it is outrageous that Civil Service commissioners appointed by Governor Granholm would try to force an additional burden on the taxpayers of Michigan when the state is in a crisis,” Jones said. “I believe this was a purely political decision by the commission, and I will be working with Senator Mark Jansen to bring this to a vote. We have a $1.8 billion budget problem and this only adds to it.”

The opinion concludes: “In summary, the Civil Service Commission’s decision to allow current classified employees to enroll an additional adult and dependents into the State Health Plan constitutes an increase in the rate of compensation, and as such requires notice to the governor, inclusion in his proposed budget transmitted to the Legislature, and may be rejected or reduced within 60 days of transmission of the budget by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to and serving in each house of the Legislature.”