One of the fun parts of my job is, when warranted, I get to provide testimony before legislative committees at the State Capitol.  Usually my comments are about a bill that the Michigan Bankers Association supports, or something we oppose.  Sometimes it’s to ask for an amendment to some pending legislation.  Other times it’s just on an issue that state legislators want some education on.

Very rarely do I get to take off my banking lobbyist hat and put on my “I’m An Almost Exhausted Jaycee” hat.  But today I got the opportunity to share my Jaycee expertise with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).  JCAR is a group of 5 state representatives and 5 state senators who review proposed administrative rules that are promulgated by the various Michigan state departments.  Recently, the Michigan Gaming Control Board offered some rules that would seriously damage the ability of Jaycee chapters and the ability of other charitable organizations (Kiwanis, Lions, VFW, et al) to raise funds through charity poker rooms.  Needless to say, there is a lot of interest in how this turns out.

JCAR took about 80 minutes of testimony from the Gaming Control Board staff and from representatives of the Michigan Charitable Gaming Association (a group opposed to the rules) and then they opened it up to public comment.  That’s where I get a chance to do my thing, one the last things I get to do as an active member of the Jaycees.

Here’s what I said:

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.  I am David Worthams and I usually speak to you about issues facing Michigan financial institutions, but today I come to you wearing my hat as the 87th Past President of the Michigan Junior Chamber.  The Jaycees are a leadership organization designed to help young people ages 21 – 40 become active citizens in the communities that they live in.  We have over 1,600 members in chapters located throughout the state.

And it is those chapters in Northern Michigan that I want to talk to you about, in part, today.  If these rules are to be enacted, the young leaders in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula will be negative impacted.  Specifically I’m talking about those in Escanaba (known as the Delta County Jaycees), Petoskey, Cadillac, Ludington, and Marquette … plus those in the areas we are looking to expand our membership and our impact.  They won’t be able to use these poker rooms because there is not a permanent room in those counties or adjacent to those counties.

In addition, and this is something I think Senator Pappageorge will appreciate because you spoke about it at the last JCAR hearing on this topic, I think the committee should be concerns about the proper balance between the Executive and the Legislative branches when it comes to these rules in particular.  We’ve heard a couple different of times today from the Gaming Director that if he doesn’t get these rules, he will stop granting licenses.  He has the ability and he’ll do it.  He expressed concern about the charities suffering from extortion with some suppliers or poker rooms.  But I got to tell you, if there’s an example of legislative extortion, that’s it.

Now it’ll beg the question, and Rep. McMillen has touched upon this today, what do we do in the meantime?  Perhaps this is where the charities will need to roll the dice and put our trust in the legislative process and in the balance that should exist here.  Repeal the rules, go back to current operations and policies.  But you can also run with some other solutions that I’ve identified.  You could act on a bill to address the rules, in fact you already have one that is in play.  HB 5186, introduced in the House by Rep. Schor, is one vehicle that you can use.  In addition, you will have an bill that is pending introduction from Sen. Jones that he mentioned in MIRS News a couple of days ago.

The other option you have is to amend the rules (I know that JCAR can’t amend, but you are in the position to force people to the table to amend these things and get this done right).  Those are options at your disposal to address this.

Lastly, I would remind the committee that there is a standard these rules must meet.  Initiated Law 1 of 1996, the law that created the position of the Gaming Board Executive Director, allows for the Board to promulgate rules to address gaming in the state.  But these rules shall not be arbitrary or capricious to the Act.  I suggest to you that, based on how the Director has framed his arguments today, these proposed rules do not meet the standard of not being arbitrary or capricious.

Thank you for the time to provide testimony today and thank you for the work that you’re doing on this issue.  I am happy to answer any questions you may have.  Thank you Mr. Chairman.

If you interested in finding out more about these rules, check out a couple of websites:

Most importantly … if you interested in how this is going to negative impact charities throughout Michigan (not just my Jaycee peeps) … GET INVOLVED & MAKE AN IMPACT!!!