House rejects Public Safety and Violence Prevention Fund bill
Michigan House lawmakers voted down part of legislation Thursday that would have put a portion of sales tax revenue toward violence prevention.
The two-bill package aimed to create a new Public Safety and Violence Prevention Fund to award grants to local governments.
The first bill in the package, which would have outlined how sales tax revenue found its way into the fund, failed 52-51, with seven lawmakers not voting.
State Rep. Alabas Farhat (D-Dearborn) co-sponsors the package. He says the vote should have been a message to law enforcement that the state had its back.
“And instead of it being a bipartisan moment, a moment when we come together as a chamber and we say, ‘You know what? A neighbor shouldn’t be scared to walk their streets at night at the risk of getting shot.’ And say, ‘You know what? An officer shouldn’t be worried about leaving their partner out there,’ we voted it down,” Farhat told reporters after the vote.
Despite failing, the legislation still has hope of passing the House.
The House approved a motion to reconsider and postponed a future vote to a later date.
The seven lawmakers who didn’t vote either way on the measure broke down into four Democrats and three Republicans.
The bills themselves would put 1.5 percent of sales-tax revenue collected at a rate of 4 percent into the Public Safety and Violence Prevention Fund. They would then set aside biannual deposits from the fund into a grant program for local governments.
Those localities could then use that money for “public safety and violence prevention” purposes, with some exceptions.
State Rep. Mike Harris (R-Waterford) said the bills would provide too much leeway to local governments.
“If they wanted to divert 100 percent of that money that their community would have to a social program versus a law enforcement staffing issue or an equipment issue, the police department might not get a dime,” Harris said.
Earlier versions of the legislation would have left out townships from receiving grant money from the fund.
Farhat said they were added back in as part of a compromise he said made sense to him. He said he expected Republican votes.
But Harris, a former law enforcement officer, said he still had concerns over whether the money would be directed through law enforcement. He added restricting how those grants would be spent could change his vote to a yes.
Farhat argued local governments knew best how to spend that money, instead of lawmakers.
“The people doing the work, the people who are putting on that uniform and going outside on these calls should be the ones deciding how and where these dollars should go," Farhat said. "Not us here.”