Politics & Government
5:06 pm
Tue December 11, 2012

The bills we're not talking about: Right-to-work overshadows abortion, guns, and healthcare

These are some wild days in Michigan.

With thousands of protestors at the capitol, Right to Work has become the 1200 lb gorilla in Lansing: it makes the 600 lb gorillas look small.

In other words, with time still left in this lame duck session,  Michiganders could wind up with a whole slew of controversial new laws next year.

Here’s a short list:

-          Blue Cross: The legislature has passed an overhaul of Blue Cross Blue Shield, the state’s largest insurer. Some 70% of Michiganders have a Blue Cross plan, and some senior advocates say the new policies don’t provide enough coverage for older adults.

-          Abortion: there’s a package of abortion bills pending that would make it dramatically tougher for a woman to get and pay for an abortion. Insurance companies could no longer cover abortions under their regular plans, unless the woman’s life is on the line. So women would have to buy additional abortion insurance ahead of time, just to cover the one procedure.  

-          Religious exemptions: the legislature is considering language that would let doctors, nurses, and even employers opt of providing any medical care that doesn’t fit with their personal moral or religious beliefs – such as birth control or abortions.

What else? Drug testing for welfare recipients, an expansion of the statewide school district’s powers, and new handgun policies:  the state would expand its concealed carry areas for those who are willing to get extra training, and it would transfer handgun licensing from the state to county sheriffs.

So let’s say even a few of these get done in the legislature’s waning days. It’s still the most ambitious lame duck session in memory. Political analyst Craig Ruff served as a special assistant to Governor Milliken and then as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. James Brickley. “I’ve never seen the likes of it,” says Ruff.

“Interest groups always see these lame duck session as golden opportunities to get their agendas passed. And yet rare is it that you have a lame duck session that has as much on its plate as the current one.

What’s particularly interesting is, in some lame duck sessions, you get stuff done because there’s gonna be a big turnover in the legislature that meets in January.

But that’s not true this year. We’re only having a change of five seats our of our 110-member house. So this is extremely rare, and nothing the likes of which I can remember.”

There’ve been rumors floating around the Lansing press that the legislature could call it quits earlier than planned. Their last day is still scheduled for Thursday, but after passing Right to Work today, it’s possible that leading lawmakers could tell everybody to go home sooner than that.

Even if that happens, many of these issues could be reintroduced in January.