POSTED: 6:50 P.M. DEC. 18, 2009 | UPDATED: 4:29 A.M. TODAY
Legislature works past midnight, but no decision
BY DAWSON BELL
FREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU
FREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU
The Michigan Legislation departed the Capitol after midnight for the second straight day early Saturday, unable to complete work on school reforms aimed at qualifying Michigan for up to $400 million in federal stimulus funds.
Leaders from both the House and
Senatepledged to be back at their desks this morning. But tempers flared near the end of Friday's session as Senate leaders accused House negotiators of trying to insert last minute changes into an agreement reached 24 hours earlier.
"They're starting to ask for changes," saidSenate Majority
Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, "We're not going to re-negotiate the whole deal."
Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, denied those charges, describing modifications being made to the legislation as "tweaks."
"We still have a deal," he said.
Lawmakers arrived at the Capitol Friday evening, after having departed about 1 a.m., ostensibly to begin voting on so-called Race to the Top bills. Instead, they spent their time listlessly waiting, chatting and sleeping, in part because the actual legislation had yet to be printed.
The content of the bills - to expand charter schools, address chronically struggling schools and inject greater accountability for teachers and staff - had been agreed to in concept by House and Senate negotiators early Friday.
In theory, it would allow for the creation of about 30 new charters in areas where existing schools have under-performed, tie teacher evaluations, pay and job security to student performance and create the framework for state-appointed officials to takeover management of failing schools.
Granholm said Friday afternoon that she endorsed the conceptual agreement and would sign it if it reached her desk.
That remained an open question early Saturday.
The complexity of the legislation, coupled with a myriad of side issues (such as raising the high school dropout age to 18 from 16 without parental consent), kept a small army of lobbyists at work along with the lawmakers and their staffs.
Bishop said Democratic House leaders "just got to tell us. Do you want to do it or not? We don't want to blow it up."
Melton, who said he had had three hours of sleep in the last 48, said not to worry. "We're going to get it done. This is about 20 years of reform packed into one year. But we're going to get there."
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