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Clock Strikes Midnight On Electoral College, Community Benefits Bills

December 15, 2014

Some of the most divisive bills before the Legislature, like changing the Electoral College and limiting the requirements local governments can put on businesses, shriveled and died Thursday as a key procedural deadline passed.

Under the Michigan Constitution, a bill cannot be approved by one chamber unless it’s been in that chamber’s possession for five days.

So if lawmakers indeed leave town Thursday, Dec. 18, as is planned, the last scheduled session day for the Senate or the House to approve a bill to send to the other chamber was Thursday.

However, the day came and went without the House voting on the bill to change the state’s Electoral College setup to a proportional system or on the bill that would prevent local governments from adopting community benefits ordinances.

The Senate didn’t approve the bill that would move the Oakland County executive election or the bill on car title loans.

“If they didn’t pass today,” Bolger said of some of the bills stalled in the House, “they can’t pass.”

There are possibilities, however, for some of the ideas in the stalled bills to be amended into other bills that have made it out of one of the two chambers, the Speaker cautioned.

When asked specifically about the proposal to change the state’s winner-take-all Electoral College system, Bolger responded, “That was one that didn’t make it out of the chamber.”

The following is a run down of 10 bills or bill packages that didn’t make it out of a legislative chamber by the end of Thursday night:

1. Proportional Electoral College HB 5974

Rep. Pete LUND‘s (R-Shelby Twp.) proposal to change Michigan’s Electoral College system from a winner-take-all distribution to a proportional distribution got a lot of attention this session, but it effectively died Thursday without a single vote from a committee or a chamber.

The House Elections and Ethics Committee held two hearings on HB 5974, and opponents lined up to testify against the bill.

Concerns that the bill would give Republican presidential candidates an unfair advantage to pick up some votes in a Democratic state and that the change may make Michigan less relevant in the process helped kill the bill.

Some Republicans were hesitant to change a structure that’s been around in Michigan for a century.

Rep. Lisa Posthumus LYONS (R-Alto), the chair of the House Elections and Ethics Committee, didn’t seem ready to label the bill dead tonight.

“It’s lame duck,” she said.

Where it ended up: The bill stalled in the House Elections and Ethics Committee

2. Community Benefits Ordinance Ban

The bill that would have banned local governments from adopting community benefits ordinances that require certain developers to meet special pay and hiring standards didn’t make it out of the House.

HB 5977 met tough opposition from Democratic House members and officials from Detroit, where the city has been considering a community benefits ordinance to boost neighborhoods where projects could took place.

“As a practical matter, there’s not much more to be done,” Rep. Earl POLESKI  (R-Jackson), the bill’s sponsor, said of the proposal at the end of the night.

When asked if he would pursue it next year, “Oh, yeah,” Poleski said.

Where it ended up: The bill stalled on the House floor.

3. A-F Grading For Schools (HB 5112) and 3rd-Grade Reading (HB 5111)

Two major education reforms that advanced out of a House committee in December 2013 never got the support they needed to move out of the chamber. Despite some late work, that was still the case Thursday.

HB 5111 sponsored by Rep. Amanda PRICE (R-Holland), would generally require third-graders to be proficient in reading before advancing to the fourth grade. HB 5112, sponsored by Rep. Lisa Posthumus LYONS (R-Alto), would have set up an A-F grade letter system for evaluating the performance of schools.

“We have a lot of people who worked on this who are coming back that feel very passionately about it,” Lyons said. “We’re going to continue working to help our kids.”

Many in the education community had problems with both bills.

With a large chunk of the state’s third-graders not proficient in reading, opponents worried that HB 5111 would lead to mass retention of students. On the A-F grading bill, opponents quibbled with how the grades would be determined and the state’s overall process for evaluating schools.

In the last months, lawmakers began looking at combining a series of education reforms together to try to advance them all together, but that never emerged.

Rep. Tom STALLWORTH (D-Detroit), who had a companion bill for the third-grade reading proposal, said he hopes lawmakers regroup on the bills next session.

“Next year, we’ll regroup, put some workgroups together, and see if we can get it done,” Stallworth said.

Where they ended up: The bills stalled on the House floor.

4. Oakland County Executive (SB 1155 and HB 5953)

Proposals that would move county executive elections in Bay and Oakland counties from presidential election years to gubernatorial years couldn’t get a vote of support from either chamber before tonight.

Sen. Dave ROBERTSON’s (R-Grand Blanc) SB 1155 made it through a Senate committee and Rep. Klint KESTO‘s (R-Commerce Twp.) HB 5953 never got a hearing in the House.

Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE (R-Monroe) chalked SB 1155 up to a “timing thing.”

“You gotta give the guys coming back something to do,” he said.

Democrats have slammed the bills as being inspired by politics because they could give Republicans a foot-up in the executive races. They’ve also suggested that if those bills advanced, it could impact their willingness to compromise on roads.

Where they ended up: SB 1155 stalled on the Senate floor; HB 5933 stalled in House committee.

5. No-Fault (HB 4612 And SB 1148) and Assigned Claims (HB 5854)

Some major insurance reforms were left hanging this week.

Rep. Pete LUND‘s (R-Shelby Twp.) plan to bring big changes the state’s no-fault auto insurance system, HB 4612, moved out of the Insurance Committee in May 2013, but it could never overcome fierce opposition from Democrats and Republicans of Oakland County who effectively stonewalled the changes.

Then, in September 2014, Lund introduced another auto insurance reform, HB 5854. This one would impact the assigned claims program and would set standards for individuals without no-fault auto insurance to receive no-fault medical benefits from the Michigan assigned claims program.

The bill made it out of committee, but met similar resistance to the no-fault proposal.

In the Senate, Sen. Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive) developed a new no-fault reform proposal, SB 1148, but timing limitations kept that bill from moving.

Where they ended up: Both House bills stalled on the House floor. SB 1148 stalled in committee.

6. Car Title Loans (SB 1138)

Senate Majority Leader Randy RICHARDVILLE‘s (R-Monroe) bill to allow businesses to offer short-term loans to those who are willing to surrender their car titles for no more than 90 days also stalled Thursday.

Richardville said the title loan proposal came up so quickly that the caucus wasn’t comfortable voting on it without more information. The leader said that as a former chair of the Senate Banking Committee, he believes there is a market for the product. 

Michigan isn’t regulated when it comes to this type of service and he believes “it’s a mistake” that it is not. If he were coming back next session, he would make it a point to educate more lawmakers on this issue.

“I’ve said all along that we’re not going to push things through this lame duck just to push them through,” he said.

Where it ended up: The bill stalled on the Senate floor.

7. Uber Proposal (HB 5951)

A few votes kept the House bill that would provide a regulatory structure for cutting-edge transportation network companies like Uber and Lyft from advancing to the Senate.

On Wednesday, the House voted on HB 5951 but the bill got about 53 yes votes — three short of what was needed — and the board was cleared. The bill didn’t come back up Thursday as opponents, the wide majority of the Democratic caucus, stayed firm in their opposition.

Concerns about insurance regulations and state overreach helped keep the bill parked.

Where it ended up: The bill got a vote in the House, but couldn’t make it to the Senate.

8. Speed Limit Changes (HB 5962, HB 5963, HB 5964 And HB 5965)

House members made a push at the end of session to accelerate a series of bills that would have allowed some speed limits to go up to 80 mph and to keep speeding tickets for driving less than 5 mph over the limit off driving records.

The bills got a committee hearing this month, but they faced a laundry list of technical concerns.

Law enforcement worried that the bills would move speed limits too far upward. The insurance industry opposed keeping some tickets off records. Local governments felt the bills took too much decision-making away from them.

The bills never made it out of committee, but Rep. Brad JACOBSEN (R-Oxford), a champion of the package, said he plans to keep working on the matter next year and he believes there is bipartisan support in the Legislature for the changes.

“I’m hoping to be very active with it,” Jacobsen said, “first thing in January.”

Where they ended up: The bills stalled in the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee.

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