State house passes overhaul of Michigan's public defense system

Nov 8, 2012

A proposed overhaul to Michigan’s public defense system is on its way to the state Senate.

Lawmakers in the House passed the bill today with bipartisan support. The bill passed with 71 “yes”votes.

Most of the 36 votes against it came from Republicans.

The state’s system for appointing attorneys to those who can’t afford one is ranked among the worst in the country.

Republican Representative Tom McMillin sponsored the bill. He said he hopes conservatives will be on board in the Senate.

“We’re not talking about pot holes, we’re not talking about speed limits, we’re not talking about, even, third grade math. What we’re talking about is taking somebody’s liberty away. It’s a big deal,” McMillin said.

Opponents say the bill would be another burden on cash-strapped counties, and it doesn’t lay out specific standards for them to follow.

Representative Ken Horn was among a group of Republicans who voted against the bill.

“If you’re going to lock this part into law, and say that you must pay this amount if you don’t meet these standards – that we have no idea what they are yet, this commission hasn’t ruled – in my opinion, that’s precisely putting the cart in front of the horse,” he said.