News Column

Mich. Legislature Stays Late, Hurries Bills Through

Dec. 14, 2014

Paul Egan and Kathleen Gray

Michigan's lame-duck Legislature got darts and laurels this morning after a final-day session that lasted more than 18 hours in which they hastily passed laws related to taxes, abortion, elections, Detroit lighting, a regional transportation authority for southeast Michigan, and emergency managers for distressed cities and school districts, among other measures.

The House and Senate, which convened for the final day of a lame-duck session at about 10 a.m. Thursday, did not adjourn until about 4:30 a.m. today.

Gov. Rick Snyder, who will soon see a boatload of legislation land on his desk, congratulated lawmakers for "hard work and partnership" in a statement this morning. Earlier this week, Snyder signed legislation to make Michigan the nation's 24th right-to-work state

"Many significant reforms were enacted that will provide for a safer, healthier and more prosperous future for all residents and will be instrumental in continuing Michigan's comeback and creating more and better jobs," Snyder said in a news release.

But Democrats and others were highly critical of a process in which substitute legislation was introduced late for numerous bills and quickly passed without ever going through the legislative committee process and without opportunity for the public and news media to even read them.

"Do you know what your legislators are voting on right now?" House Minority Floor Leader Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek, tweeted late in the session.

"House Republicans hope not! Amendments and substitutes are flying!"

A flurry of late legislation is typical in lame-duck sessions, but some long-time Lansing observers said the Thursday-Friday session was extraordinary.

Measures sent to Snyder include:

-- A phased-out elimination of the personal property tax

-- Greater restrictions on abortion, including licensing of abortion facilities.

-- The final bills needed to create a Regional Transportation Authority for southeast Michigan.

-- An authority intended to improve streetlights in the city of Detroit.

-- Legislation to assist Mike Ilitch in his plans for a new arena and entertainment district in downtown Detroit.

-- Bills that make it tougher to recall state lawmakers.

-- A requirement -- already vetoed once by Snyder -- that voters declare in writing they are U.S. citizens.

-- A replacement emergency manager law, less than two months after voters rejected the former law, Public Act 4 of 2011.

-- Privatization of a prison in Baldwin.

-- Easing restrictions on where guns can be carried.

-- Changes to the state's medical marijuana laws.

Some bills that were in the lame duck pipeline failed to get approval. They include bills to expand and codify an Education Achievement Authority for failing schools, a bill that would allow health care providers and insurers to deny medical treatment or payment on moral objection grounds, and a bill that would allow buyers of new cars and boats to pay sales tax only on the difference in value between their trade-in and their purchase, rather than the entire purchase value.

As reported by the Free Press Thursday, officials were concerned about the potential impact of that bill on balancing future budgets.

Snyder said: "I look forward to joining with the 2013 Legislature on additional efforts to reinvent Michigan, getting it right and getting it done."



Source: (c)2012 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services


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