Michigan Legislature

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan voters could see a question on the November ballot this year asking them to make the state Legislature part-time.

The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature has turned in petition language to the state Bureau of Elections.

“This is about actually taking a Legislature that’s been pretty much dominated by lobbyists and getting them back into a citizen-driven ideology,” said the group’s chair, Norman Kammeraad, on the Michigan Public Television program “Off the Record.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There are dozens of bills before the Michigan Legislature dealing with human trafficking.  

Another 23 bills were unveiled today as part of a package dealing with forced labor and prostitution.

Kurt Heise is the chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee. He says the bills introduced this week not only go after the pimps and johns but also acknowledges the needs of the victims.

“We look at the young people and the vulnerable adults who are trafficked as victims and that they get the love and support that we can provide,” says Heise.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder says he won't reconsider a controversial tax on income of certain Michigan retirees.

Michigan has a large budget surplus, but Snyder tells The Detroit News that revisiting the 2012 tax is not on his radar. He calls it an issue of fairness, saying pensions shouldn't be treated differently for tax purposes than other retirement income.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state House Criminal Justice committee will consider a bill tomorrow morning that would effectively make ticket scalping legal in Michigan.

Currently, state law requires tickets to sporting events and other entertainment be resold at the face value of the ticket. The law has been on the books since 1931.  

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Legislature formally kicked off 2014 with no heavy lifting. But voting could occur this week, when lawmakers also gather to hear Governor Rick Snyder's annual State of the State speech.

Budget work will dominate the first half of the year. Legislators have nearly $1 billion more to work with than expected, and one priority is spending more on road upkeep without raising taxes.

Lawmakers also are talking up an election-year tax cut, perhaps in the state income tax.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

In Michigan, you can no longer invoke trespassing laws to avoid being served court papers at your door.

At the end of 2013, a new law took effect to exempt process servers from trespassing laws.

Michigan Sen. Rick Jones sponsored the legislation.    He says the goal is to increase safety for process servers who sometimes are confronted with threats of violence.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan legislative budget experts say state government is taking in hundreds of millions of dollars more than expected eight months ago.

A report released Tuesday from the House Fiscal Agency in Lansing estimates Michigan collected $433 million more than projected in the last budget year and will collect about $327 million more this year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder and legislators have enacted more than 200 new laws in 2013, with roughly 70 more awaiting the governor's signature after a final burst of voting.

The year's top laws include a landmark expansion of government-funded medical coverage to hundreds of thousands more low-income adults and restrictions on insurance coverage of abortions.

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Should Michigan revert to the kind of legislature originally called for when Michigan voters drafted the first constitution in 1835?  A part-time legislature? 

Norm Kammeraad says absoluetly, yes.

He is the Chairman of The Committee to Restore Michigan’s Part-Time Legislature. They’re hoping to gather nearly 400,000 voter signatures between January and June in order to put the question on the November 2014 ballot.

Yesterday, we spoke with Michigan columnist Dennis Lennox. He is against a part-time Michigan Legislature. You can find that interview here

Listen to the full interview above.

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It was certainly a fiery, emotional scene at the State Capitol a year ago this month.

That's when the lame-duck Legislature and Governor Snyder rammed through the right-to-work law, and Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state.

The laws took effect in March, making it illegal to force workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

So what do our local government leaders think about right to work?

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Incensed Democrats and abortion rights advocates are vowing that Republican lawmakers overreached so much with new restrictions on abortion coverage in Michigan's public and private health insurance plans that it'll cost them in next elections.

A ballot drive to override the law is being considered. If enough signatures are collected, the statewide vote would coincide with November elections and keep the issue fresh in voters' minds.

Aaron Olson

You might be asked to sign a petition next year to cut Michigan legislators’ pay and make their job part-time. The state constitution will have to be amended to accomplish that.

There could be some unintended consequences in doing that.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - When lawmakers vote to restrict insurance coverage of abortions in Michigan, it will affect a small number of abortions because the vast majority already are paid for out of pocket.

Health insurance covered fewer than 750, or 3 percent, of 23,000 abortions reported to the state last year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Some Michigan lawmakers are pushing to create a lasting fund for maintenance of the 135-year-old state Capitol.

Bills that could win approval in December would overhaul the building's oversight, make it a state historic site and create a permanent maintenance fund.

It's been 21 years since a major restoration of the Capitol was finished. Keeping the building in good shape, though, has been tougher than expected.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It could be a busy December for state lawmakers after they return from their Thanksgiving break.

Here are some of the issues that could come up for debate before the end of the year.

Paying for the Medicaid expansion delay – In a procedural vote earlier this year, state lawmakers delayed by about two months the implementation of Michigan’s Medicaid expansion law. In doing so, they created a hole in the budget of more than $70 million.

Legislative leaders say passing a bill to fill that hole is one of their top priorities in the coming weeks.

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Five years after Michigan voters legalized marijuana use for medical purposes, lawmakers say it's time patients can buy the drug at their corner pharmacy.

Legislation approved last week by a Senate committee would pave the way for the production and sale of "pharmaceutical-grade" cannabis. The measure would create a second medical pot system in Michigan that proponents say wouldn't interfere with the existing law under which patients can grow their own pot or obtain it from caregivers.

The change couldn't occur without federal approval.

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On this Election Day - Here's a question worth exploring: where are the women in Michigan politics?

The number of women in the State Legislature has now dropped to a 20 year low.  There are only four women serving in the Senate, and 24 in the House.

And that puts Michigan at 36th in the nation in terms of female State Senators and Representatives.

And when you look to Washington, the gender ratio in Congress isn't much better.

Barb Byrum joined us today. She’s the Ingham County Clerk, and she served in the State House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some state lawmakers want to limit when local governments can hold property tax elections.

Right now, People in Michigan can find themselves voting on millages in February, May, August or November each year.  

eversio.info

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Poker's rise in popularity has helped Michigan's charities and civic groups stay afloat at a time of dwindling donations from elsewhere.

And efforts to rein in a charitable gambling industry that has grown more than 20-fold in a decade are sparking backlash.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

State lawmakers will discuss making it more difficult to sue emergency room doctors, nurses and technicians for malpractice on Thursday.

Livonia state representative John Walsh is the sponsor of HB 4354.   He says emergency room staffers should not have to worry about malpractice lawsuits while they provide potentially lifesaving treatment.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Delaying Medicaid expansion in Michigan is having another side-effect besides forcing low-income adults to wait three months longer for health insurance under the federal health overhaul.

It also means there could be $73 million less for deteriorating roads at a time lawmakers are funneling more money there in part to avoid raising gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Abortion opponents have turned in more than 315,000 petition signatures calling on the Legislature to place new restrictions on health coverage.

The new law would require consumers to buy separate coverage for abortions.

Abortion opponents say they want to make sure that abortion coverage is not automatic when people buy insurance under the new federal healthcare law. The petition-initiated law would require consumers to buy a separate rider for abortion coverage.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Jobseekers who refuse or fail an employer drug test would put their unemployment benefits at risk under legislation that has cleared the state House.

The measure would create a one-year pilot project to try out the idea. Employers would not have to participate, but could choose to report to the state if a job applicant either refuses to take a drug test, or fails one.

State Representative Frank Foster (R-Petoskey) says this would help ensure jobless benefits go to people who are serious about looking for work.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state House has voted to reinstate funding for the Common Core state school standards.

More than 40 other states have chosen to adopt the standards, which set yearly expectations for what students should learn at every grade level in math and language arts.

But earlier this year, Michigan lawmakers temporarily barred the state from spending money to implement Common Core. A legislative panel was formed to study the issue over the summer, and its chair, Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw Twp.) crafted a resolution based on more than 17 hours of public testimony.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state House committee has approved legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to handle placements for religious reasons. Instead, under the legislation, an agency that has an objection would have to refer a qualified family to an adoption office that would handle the placement.

Almost all adoptions in Michigan are handled by private agencies that accept public funding. Faith-based adoption services are concerned future changes to adoption policies – such as allowing same-sex couples to adopt – could force them to violate their religious beliefs.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

State lawmakers have been debating the Common Core State Standards for months. The nationwide school standards lay out specific things that students should know after each grade level. The goal is to set expectations for students no matter where they live in the United States.

But opponents say Common Core would strip local control of school curriculum and could compromise the security of students’ personal information through data collection.

Now, the state House Education Committee is set to take up House Concurrent Resolution 11 Thursday morning.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan House has voted to make candidates pay more to request a recount of ballots cast in an election.

Legislation approved 95-9 Thursday would increase to $25 the per-precinct deposit required to initiate a recount of votes in state or local elections. It now costs $10 per precinct.

Candidates would have to pay $125 per precinct if the election winner and loser are separated by more than 50 votes or a half-percentage point of votes cast, whichever is greater.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There’s a new idea floating around the state Capitol about how to boost funding for roads. Supporters call the plan “pot for potholes.”

Lawmakers like state Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) would like to see the state legalize and tax marijuana and use that money to pay for road repairs.

“You can tax the heck out of marijuana,” Callton says, “put it into a separate fund for Michigan roads - because it doesn’t seem like that money is going to come from anywhere else at this point in time - and it’s a cute name, ‘pot for potholes.’”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Legislation to overhaul Michigan’s juvenile lifer law would not apply to inmates already sentenced as teenagers to life without parole.

The bills were adopted today by the state Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation is required because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down automatic life-without-parole sentences for juveniles.

James Sorenson lost his son in 2007 to a teenaged murderer.    He says any rewrite of the law should put the interests of the victims’ families ahead of teenagers who participated in a murder.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A legislative committee could vote next week to let faith-based agencies in Michigan refuse to participate in adoptions that violate their beliefs, despite accusations that the legislation would permit discrimination.

Advocates say the bills would codify existing practice into law and preemptively protect adoption agencies from repercussions if Michigan legalizes gay marriage or civil unions.

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