Michigan Legislature

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state House panel kicked off debate Tuesday about easing restrictions on Michigan’s craft brewers. It’s considering legislation that would double the amount of beer micro-breweries could produce each year.

The plan would also loosen regulations on brew pubs and larger producers such as Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo.

But Bell’s founder Larry Bell says some of the measures would hurt his company’s ability to compete with smaller brewers in Michigan. For example, they would let more restaurants brew their own beer, instead of buying it from others.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers attempting to respond to a ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles are unconstitutional have hit a stalemate that threatens to derail any progress.

They can't agree on whether last year's Supreme Court decision last year applies retroactively to the roughly 360 Michigan inmates who were under 18 when they committed crimes.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Labor Day weekend signals an end to summer, and this week the Legislature returns to a full-time schedule.

The first order of business is final votes on expanding Medicaid.

Legislative leaders hope to wrap up the controversial question of expanding Medicaid to thousands of working poor people. The Senate has to vote on whether the coverage will begin January first, and a House vote is needed to send the bill to Governor Rick Snyder.

  There’s a bumper sticker I occasionally see that says: Unions: The People Who Brought You the Weekend. For most Americans, that is certainly true. Unions created not only the weekend, but the modern middle class, something we tend to forget these days.

Yes, unions became complacent and some became corrupt. Some did not do enough for women or minorities. But all in all, they did far more good for America and the American worker than harm.

Unions are, however, widely unpopular with a sizable section of the public these days, and an even larger percentage of politicians.

The Republican majority in the Michigan legislature seems to have essentially declared war on unions, especially public sector unions. Unions have been in a long membership decline, something that may accelerate as the effects of becoming a Right-to-Work state kick in.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A plan to improve Michigan’s roads and infrastructure will probably not be on the November ballot. That’s according to leaders of both parties in the state Senate.

Governor Rick Snyder wants the state Legislature to boost road funding by more than a billion dollars a year. But lawmakers have not embraced his plan to raise registration fees and the state’s gas tax to pay for it.

Instead, multiple plans have surfaced that would include asking voters to increase the state’s sales tax.

Snyder officials to meet with Michigan residents

May 20, 2013
michigan.gov

Officials from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's administration are planning to travel across the state this week to take suggestions and answer questions from Michigan residents.

Representatives from the Office of Constituent Services will visit locations in Washtenaw, Livingston, Ingham, Shiawassee, Clinton and Ionia counties on May 23 and 24.

Snyder's office says topics that are open for discussion include the state budget and opportunities for getting involved in state government.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - High-level talks over fixing Michigan's deteriorating roads are at a standstill.

Republican and Democratic leaders can't agree much on how to even proceed.

Feeling burned by passage of a right-to-work law, Democrats won't consider tax increases without public assurances that Gov. Rick Snyder will veto other legislation. Democrats want a repeal of a law guaranteeing better wages on government construction projects taken off the table, along with talk of dividing the state's electoral votes proportionally.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The State Senate Judiciary Committee takes up bills today that would greatly change Michigan’s indigent defense system.   

James Samuels is the president of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.    He says the current system Michigan uses to provide attorneys for poor defendants is “broken”.

Samuels likes the proposed changes, including the way attorneys get contracts to represent indigent defendants.

Flickr user "Steve and Sara"

Antifreeze often looks like a sports-drink or Kool-Aid and it can have a sweet smell that attracts animals and kids. A bill in the Michigan legislature would require that a bittering agent be added to antifreeze so humans and animals don’t want to drink it.

psmag.com

Michigan lawmakers are looking at how to get online retailers to collect state sales taxes.

Currently, shoppers are supposed to report any sales taxes they owe on online purchases, and pay them with their income tax.

But most people don’t.

State Representative Eileen Kowall’s bill would put the responsibility on the online retailer.   She’s quick to say this is not a tax increase, just making sure that the taxes that are owed are being paid.

Kowall says the current system puts Michigan’s ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers at an unfair disadvantage.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Last week, we saw a flurry of voting at the State Capitol as lawmakers put together the next state budget, which is expected to total about $48 billion.

The Republican controlled State House approved spending for schools and colleges as well as a budget to fund the rest of state government.

The State Senate, also controlled by Republicans, approved about half of its budget plan with more votes scheduled this week.

The votes set the stage for negotiations between the two chambers in May.

Michigan's sex offenders could face annual fees

Mar 24, 2013
Flickr user borman818

A bill to require the more than 40,000 people on Michigan's sex offender registry to pay an annual fee is igniting a debate over who should bear the costs for operating the system that tracks offenders.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There’s a bill making its way through the state legislature that would require Michigan hospitals to reveal when they will withhold treatment from severely ill patients.

Many hospitals have ‘futility’ policies.   The policies outline when the hospitals will withhold treatment from a patient on the grounds that further care would be futile and would simply waste hospital resources.

The policies are mainly for internal use and not widely disclosed.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state Senate committee took testimony Thursday on a bill that would allow doctors, nurses and other health care providers to opt out of providing medical care if they feel it violates their personal or religious beliefs.

The legislation could affect patients seeking a variety of treatments, including approval for medical marijuana or a prescription for the ‘morning after’ pill.

Tim Schultz is the legislative policy director of the group, American Religious Freedom. He says the legislation respects an individual’s ‘conscience’.

gov.cbia.com

A state House committee this week will discuss whether to prevent local cities and towns in Michigan from passing laws requiring businesses to offer paid sick leave to their employees.

San Francisco, Seattle and several other major cities have passed ‘paid sick leave’ ordinances in recent years.  The intent is to protect people in low paying jobs, who stand to lose their job, if they try to take a sick day.

State lawmakers will discuss legislation tomorrow inspired by the disappearance and death of a Florida toddler.

Two year old Caylee Anthony was missing for a month before her mother informed the police. The mother, Casey Anthony, was later acquitted of the child’s 2008 murder, though she was convicted of providing police with false information. 

State Representative Tom Hooker says his bill would require parents or guardians to report missing children to law enforcement agencies after 24 hours.  If they don’t, they could face up to four years in prison.

Blue Cross Blue Shield would undergo major changes under proposed legislation.
Wikipedia

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A state House committee has approved bills to overhaul Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, leaving out anti-abortion provisions that torpedoed an earlier effort to change the status of the state's largest insurer.

Bills headed to the House don't include language to prevent insurers and businesses from providing elective abortion coverage in employee health plans.

Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill less than two months ago over last-minute abortion provisions.

Some lawmakers discussed restoring abortion restrictions.

The proposed overhaul seeks to modernize but not sell Blue Cross, which is governed by a separate law from other insurers and waits longer for its rate changes to be reviewed.

Before Thursday's 11-0 vote, senior advocates testified about concerns that costs will rise because of the legislation. Three Democrats abstained from voting.

Michigan State Police

People convicted of crimes such as possessing child pornography and indecent exposure might soon be added to the state’s public sex offender registry.

Lawmakers in the state House today voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation.

Democratic state Representative Jeff Irwin was one of only three votes against it. He admits it’s not a popular position to take.

david_shane / flickr

Several labor unions and the Michigan ACLU have filed a lawsuit in Ingham County Court to overturn Michigan's right-to-work legislation.

This is several days after Gov. Rick Snyder requested that the Michigan Supreme Court review the constitutionality of the law.

The lawsuit argues that the closure of the Capitol to the public during the  passage of  the right-to-work legislation was in violation of  the First Amendment and the Michigan Constitution.

It specifically cites the violation of the Open Meetings Act, which states that meetings of a governing body are open to the public unless the meeting is held in a "closed session."

The lawsuit is amended from an earlier complaint filed Dec. 6 2012 after state police blocked off entry to the Capitol.

Police said the closure was a safety precaution, but opponents argue it prevented public input during the session.

Here is what members of the ACLU said in their press release:

“Rushing controversial bills through a lame duck session is a bad way to make public policy under the best of circumstances; doing so on such important issues while the public is shut out of the debate every step of the way is illegal and shameful,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “We have a sacred right to peacefully assemble and petition our government. When there is dissent and emotions are running high, our elected leaders should encourage more open debate, not close the doors to concerned voters.”

The lawsuit does not address the actual content of the right-to-work law rather the manner in which the law was passed.

The court brief currently sits in front of County Circuit Judge William Collette for review.

- Marlon Phillips, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Ifmuth / Flickr

One day into their new session, state lawmakers already have an influx of bills to consider.

One resolution in the state Senate seeks to effectively end so-called “lame duck” sessions. On even-numbered years, Lawmakers would be barred from holding regular sessions between November elections and the end of the year.  

Democratic state Senator Glenn Anderson said lawmakers would only be able to act if there’s an emergency.

gophouse.com

State legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle say they hope to put partisan wrangling aside in 2013.

State lawmakers began their new session Wednesday.     

All but two Democrats voted to re-elect Republican state Representative Jase Bolger speaker of the House. Traditionally, the speaker receives bi-partisan, unanimous votes during opening ceremonies.

Democratic House leader Tim Greimel followed another tradition by seconding Bolger’s nomination for the position.

Jake Neher / MPRN

More than 200 people showed up at the state Capitol Wednesday to protest on the first day of the new legislative session.

The union-backed group criticized state lawmakers for making Michigan a “right-to-work” state, and quickly passing a number of other contentious bills during their “lame duck” session.     

Kim Dennison is a unionized nurse in Lansing.

“It’s important that legislators know that we did recognize what they did in December as a wrong move, and that we haven’t gone away, and that we expect better from them in the coming year,” Dennison said.

Calling their protest a “walk of shame,” demonstrators lined walkways leading to entrances to the Capitol. They booed Republicans and cheered Democrats as they entered the building.

The protests were organized by the same group behind the “right to work” protests last month that drew thousands of people.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley
Brian Calley / Facebook.com

It will soon be illegal in Michigan to discover a dead body and not report it.

It’s one of more than 50 bills signed this week by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley.

Failing to report a corpse will be a misdemeanor, which can come with up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. It will be a felony to fail to report the body if the intention is to hide the death or its cause.

Republican state Senator Tonya Schuitmaker sponsored the bill.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio Network

Governor Rick Snyder will have the final say on a measure to add restrictions for abortion providers.

State lawmakers approved the legislation Thursday.         

Among other things, it requires physicians to screen women to make sure they’re not being forced or coerced to have an abortion.      

Opponents of the bill like state Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield) say it’s designed to restrict access to abortions.

“I guess I can hope that the governor will veto it and make a stance to say, ‘this isn’t what I want to do, we need to work on jobs, we need to work on quality education for our kids, protect our natural resources,’ things like that,” Brown said.

Lawmakers did not take up a measure that would let doctors, healthcare facilities, and insurers deny care based on moral objections.

That bill could be reintroduced in the new legislative session that begins next month.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

This lame duck session of the Michigan legislature has been moving at very face pace.

In addition to the passage and signing of so-called right-to work legislation, the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate have a number of other bills on the agenda. They include a package of abortion related bills, a bill that would give health care providers the right to deny service due to religious or ethical objections, and a new emergency manager bill that would replace the one overturned by Michigan voters last month.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Steve Rhodes / Flickr

The Michigan Senate has passed legislation that would add restrictions for abortion providers.

Any facility that provides abortions would have to meet new licensing and insurance requirements. The legislation also mandates a screening process to make sure women aren’t forced to have an abortion.        

Renee Chelian is with Northland Family Planning Clinics. She said the bills are a backhanded attempt to limit access to abortions.

“This is a way to make abortions more expensive by causing clinics to do all kinds of construction that’s not necessary. If you raise the cost of abortion, you make it inaccessible to women, and that’s really what they’re whole point is,” Chelian said.       

Supporters of the measure say it’s meant to protect women. Republican state Senator Rick Jones is one of the most outspoken advocates of the measures.

“This bill provides that abortion clinics will be safe, they will be inspected, they will be licensed. This is so important to the safety of women in the state of Michigan,” Jones said.

The state House passed the legislation in June. It will have to approve changes made by the Senate.

Kevin H. / flickr

Right-to-work may have been the star of the legislative circus that took place at the Capitol yesterday, but it was just one of many passed by the House and Senate.

Here is a recap of some other bills that you might have missed:

The Religious Liberty and Conscience Protection Act

The bill, passed by the state Senate yesterday, would allow health care providers, facilities, or insurers to deny care base on religious, moral, or ethical objections.

user clarita / morguefile

A bill in the state Legislature would let health care providers, facilities, or insurers deny service based on religious, moral or ethical objections. The state Senate passed the bill Thursday.

Republican state Senator John Moolenaar is sponsoring the bill.   

“This legislation before you today will establish a solid, yet workable framework for protecting the fundamental rights for all Michigan citizens,” Moolenaar said.

Critics of the bill say it would let entire health systems deny care.

screenshot / YouTube

After an onslaught of TV and radio ads this election season, Michigan residents could be forgiven for hoping they had seen the last of political spots for a while.

But the ads are back.

A group calling itself the Michigan Freedom Fund is now running television and radio ads in support of rumored "right-to-work" legislation.

The nonprofit advocacy group is being run by Greg McNeilly, an employee of Dick DeVos’ investment firm Windquest Group, MLive reports.

McNeilly was campaign manager for Devos during his gubernatorial campaign and served as executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.

The Free Press reports that one of the first TV spots aired last night in the Detroit area.

Here is a look at the ad:

dannybirchall / flickr

The question hanging over the state Capitol is whether the Legislature will take up a so-called “right-to-work” bill during its lame duck session.

Activists on both sides of the issue showed up in force to lobby lawmakers.      

A growing chorus of conservatives says this is the moment for Michigan to join 23 other states that have enacted laws to end the closed shop and allow workers to opt out of paying union dues.

Scott Hagerstrom is with the group Americans for Prosperity, one of the champions of right-to-work.

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