There are some high-rollers out there who are being asked to kick in some big bucks to bankroll what could be a $4-$5 million ad campaign to defeat legalized pot on the statewide ballot in November.

At an unannounced and closed door meeting during the week of June 11, the Senate Majority Leader asked the lobby shops in town that have a piece of this pot issue to meet to discuss the anti-pot strategy.

The unanswered question on the table was simple: Are these interests willing to shell out the money to run an effective vote no campaign?

No one around the table had the answer, but the pledge was made to make the contacts with the various entities to get an answer. Everyone agreed to meet in another week or so.

Recall that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Holland) was unable to pass the pot petition drive language with the hopes of regulating the smaller “microbrew”-type shops that come away with weakened state regulation under this proposal. He also wanted to address amounts and dosages, among other things.

Hence, when the lobbyists discuss this issue, a critical question will likely be why would these major donors wanted to fund the no vote campaign and toward what end?

If they were successful in killing the plan, theoretically they then could come back with their own legislation and try to push that through during lame duck.

Scott Greenlee, who is running one of the two coalitions against pot, is expected to kick in $1 million to $2 million to the no vote campaign in the fall following some research on which voting blocks should be targeted to defeat the pot plan.

The yet-to-be-answered question is, “Will that cash be it or will others decide to kick in another couple of million or so?” The lobbyists will report back with the answer to Meekhof soon.

Budget Signed; Planned Parenthood Language Unenforceable

The $39.9 billion piece of Michigan’s state budget was signed into law June 21, but Gov. Rick Snyder said a few pieces of the spending plan were found to be unenforceable, including a provision that would have stopped Planned Parenthood from receiving federal money for non-abortion services.

SB 0848 sinks $330 million more than expected into the roads, $60 million to upgrade Social Security and enough money to pad the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund to $1 billion. A second state prison is being shut down while prison food service is going back to being taken care of in-house.

Chronic wasting disease research and response efforts got $7.9 million for this year and next. Flint is receiving another $20 million to help with its water pipe replacement. The anti-bullying OK2Say program is up to $1.4 million in funding. The Secretary of State is getting $11.2 million in election security.

The School Aid Fund piece of the budget was slated to be signed in late June, the governor said.

Snyder signing the budget, however, was never in question. What was in question was whether the governor would find that the Legislature overstepped its authority when it banned Planned Parenthood from receiving as much as $4 million in federal money for the family planning services they provide 45,000 low-income women in about 10 counties, including Wayne and Macomb.

He did. If the Legislature wants to go down this road, they need to pass a law.

“We applaud Gov. Snyder for doing the right thing by standing with women and families,” said Dr. Anne Davis, consulting medical director at Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Snyder also found the following provisions unenforceable:

– Banning the interim state superintendent from promulgating new administrative rules until a permanent state superintendent is picked by the state Board of Education

– Banning the Department of Talent and Economic Development, the Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority from issuing or refinancing any bonds for broadband-related projects

– Creating a two-year timeline by which the Department of Transportation submits a final cost-sharing bill to a county road commission, city or village as part of a joint construction agreement.

– A provision requiring able-bodied adults without dependents be subject to the time-limited food assistance and work requirements regardless of county or federal waiver status starting Oct. 1. However, the governor said the state “Is on track to comply with the spirit of that language.”

Judge Says No Guardian For Frozen Embryos

An Oakland County family division judge declined June 12 to appoint a guardian for frozen embryos, according to court records.

Meanwhile, Judge Lisa Langton heard arguments June 13 on whether the court has jurisdiction over the contract dispute between the parties. It was unclear from the court record if she also would consider a motion to dismiss the case.

Gloria Kato Karungi, of Farmington Hills, wants access to the embryos she made with her then partner, Ronald Lee Ejalu, so she can implant them.

She wants to bear a second, healthy child to use the stem cells from that child’s umbilical cord to treat the Ugandan emigres’ 7-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia in 2015.

Ejalu, of Novi, opposes implanting an embryo and he wants the case dismissed.

Dr. El Sayed Never Got MD License

Crain’s Detroit Business reported that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed is telling campaign audiences he is a doctor, but the publication contends “El Sayed is not licensed to practice medicine in Michigan.” The article contends he leaves that information off his resume although he uses the term physician in his professional title and appears in white coat in campaign literature.

The candidate did graduate from Columbia University in 2014 with a Medical Doctorate degree. He also has a doctorate in public health from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Crain’s reported he worked as a “sub-intern” during med school at New York Presbyterian’s Allen Hospital near the Bronx and was a professor of public health at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health, having written a text book on the subject.

“My job was, in effect, to be the junior doctor who took care of patients,” he said.

However, the head of the Michigan Medical Society explained that as a student “you don’t do diagnosis . . . You can’t do patient management,” and Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala asserted, “If you are not practicing medicine, I don’t think you should call yourself one. If you don’t have a license, how are you going to call yourself a doctor?”

“I’m a doctor,” the candidate told Crain’s reporter Chad Livangood. “I’m a physician because I have an MD, but I’m also a physician because of the work that I’ve dedicated by career to.”

When he was hired by the city of Detroit as public health director, he was not a licensed physician, which is why the city hired one as its chief medical officer. The El-Sayed camp says the candidate has been forthcoming about having not done a residency and has done so “several times” in speeches, interviews and the like.

El-Sayed observed, “People are going to try and chip away, they always do. That’s the nature of politics.”

Dems Accuse Republicans Of Trying To Kill Chemotherapy Bill With Re-referral

Democrats accused Republicans of trying to kill a bill, that would require insurance companies to cover oral chemotherapy medication the same way they cover intravenous chemotherapy treatment, by sending it to a new committee.

“The majority Republicans, in an effort to kill the bill, have referred the bill to the Health Policy committee where it is very unlikely to see the light of day,” Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) said after the vote in House Insurance Committee June 7.

Republicans say just the opposite is true.

“I support this bill. I want to get it passed,” said Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), who voted to reassign the legislation. “If there is no pathway forward in one committee, let’s get it to another one.”

Health Policy Chair Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville), who also sits on Insurance, said he’ll “do a deep dive” into the bills this summer and intends to give them “a very, very fair assessment.”

“It certainly isn’t coming to my committee to be killed,” he said.

The difference of opinion led to a testy exchange as soon as Insurance Committee Chair Rep. Lana Theis (R-Brighton) called the meeting to order. Both Greimel and Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Twp.) tried to make motions at the same time. Greimel moved that the bill be sent to the House floor. Glenn’s motion was to re-refer. Theis accepted Glenn’s motion and the committee voted 11-4 on party lines to send the bill over.

At issue is SB 0492, sponsored by Sen. Goeff Hansen (R-Hart). Health insurance policies tend to cover intravenous chemotherapy as a medical treatment and the oral alternatives as prescription drugs. As a result, the out-of-pocket costs for the oral treatments are higher than the costs for intravenous treatments. The Senate passed the bill 36-1 last October.

Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City) has similar legislation, HB 5367, which was also sent to Health Policy in a party-line vote.

“This is a bill that would insure that oral chemotherapy is as affordable to patients as intravenous chemotherapy,” Greimel explained. “Oral chemotherapy is more effective in many instances for treating cancer, typically, and it has far fewer side effects than intravenous chemotherapy. So the bill makes a lot of sense and it is obvious that the Republicans and their insurance company allies want to kill this bill.”

“Lying and making shit up is basically a platform of the Democratic party the last couple weeks here,” LaFave countered, “so I’m not surprised.”

Theis said her committee members did not want a mandate for payment to result in runaway drug prices. She said Vaupel already has a bill in his committee requiring transparency for the pharmaceutical industry, so it makes sense for the bills to be considered together.

“There are concerns about the implications of mandated payment for unlimited profits that extend far beyond the insurance industry, as those who stand to profit from this bill are the drug manufacturing companies. These are some of the concerns I share, as we all should.  Drug costs and insurance premiums have been skyrocketing, and the legislature should not be adding to that problem,” Theis said.

House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) said he did not want to see a repeat of situations, like with the Epipen, in which mandates in other states led to a price spike.

“If we are going to put a government mandate on this particular issue, I would like there to be transparency. I believe the pharmaceuticals, they need to be fair. They need to open and transparent about what they are going to make off of this,” Leonard said.

“If we can work out something where there is transparency, certainly, I will support this,” he said.

Lansing Lines is a cooperative feature presented by MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service and Healthcare Michigan.