Sen. Marty Knollenberg
Sen. Marty Knollenberg

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Committee on Appropriations Wednesday approved the budget for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), which includes an additional $3 million to assist with cancer treatment for firefighters.

Senate Bill 793, LARA’s Fiscal Year 2016-2017 budget, would add $3 million to the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund, an account administered by LARA that is responsible for the care of the state’s firefighters. This comes shortly after the Senate’s recent passage of SB 802, which approved the appropriation of $1 million from the state’s General Fund to the same account.

“This fund was set up for very good reason,” said Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy. “The problem is that LARA cannot implement use of the fund until dollars have been appropriated by the Legislature.”

When entering a burning building, firefighters come in direct contact with a number of carcinogens and as a result, numerous types of cancer have been shown to affect firefighters at greater rates. In response, the Legislature created the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund to assist firefighters dealing with cancers that can reasonably be linked to their job. Gov. Snyder signed the fund into state law in 2015.

While there are still some concerns as to how care for firefighters would be funded in the long-term, Knollenberg was quick to point out that this is a great start.

“Now that funds have been appropriated in two separate budget cycles, not only can LARA begin to utilize the fund for its original purpose, but it gets the conversation started as to how we can continue to fund this account in the future,” Knollenberg said. “Firefighters face danger on a daily basis keeping our communities safe, and when their days as a firefighter come to an end, I believe we should be there to help.”

Knollenberg also noted several other changes within the department for Fiscal Year 2016-2017, including no fee increases for any licensure or certification that LARA is responsible for.

“I was very pleased to announce that the department will maintain its current fee structure and there will be no new increases in 2017,” Knollenberg said. “This allows Michigan’s professionals to either receive or maintain their licensure at no additional cost to what they are currently paying.”

Additional changes aimed at increasing transparency within the department include:

  • Requiring doctors to check the Michigan Automated Prescription System, or MAPS, before prescribing medications to new patients. MAPS is used to identify and prevent drug diversion at all levels, from the doctor, to the prescribing agency, to the patient;
  • Addressing the growing issue of delayed permits being issued by the Liquor Control Commission. The Senate included a requirement mandating the Commission to utilize funds to invest in software upgrades to reduce delays in issuing certain liquor licenses; and
  • Tracking how much LARA spends on travel reimbursements and what the purposes of trips are. Problems have surfaced in recent years regarding the capacity in which state workers utilized state-owned vehicles and the costs they claimed for doing so. This reform would require the department to track what traveling employees do on taxpayer dollars.

“I’ve always made it a priority to spend taxpayer dollars wisely,” Knollenberg said. “I believe that we should budget responsibly and when we can save the taxpayers money, we should do so. I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee, in the Senate, and in the House to once again pass a balanced, fiscally responsible budget ahead of schedule.”