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What’s for leftovers in last week of lame duck?

December 13, 2016

Courtesy of MIRS News Service

With some major proposals all but falling off (save perhaps energy reform), what does next week’s three days of lame duck legislation action look like?

Here’s a roundup of some of A and B list items that could see action in the final three days of the 98th Michigan Legislature.

Note: The list is far from exhaustive, with dozens and dozens of bills expected to be sent on to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk by week’s end.

Energy Reform

Are the lights flickering on the possibility that the state’s major utilities will get the reform legislation they are seeking? Backed by Senate Republicans, key business groups and the utilities, the future of SB 0437 and SB 0438 is still far from being bright.

The fate of the legislation is compromised by a couple of factors. First, the election of Donald Trump promises to bring a vastly different federal energy policy to bear on the scene.

Second, many members of the House Republican caucus are uneasy with the legislation and how it treats choice.

Utilities will be pushing this legislation hard, rather than face the prospect of dealing with Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Larkin Twp.), who is expected to be chair of the House Energy Policy Committee next term.

Hunting Wolves

The Senate on Thursday passed SB 1187, sponsored by Sen. Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), that would allow the state’s Natural Resources Commission the option of establishing a wolf-hunting season if the federal government removes gray wolves from the endangered species list.

The bill fixes a flaw in a 2014 legislative initiative that the Michigan Court of Appeals struck down.

Unemployment Insurance Reform

An issue that’s lingered throughout much of the term is concerns over the Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) and its benefits approval process.

Under HB 4982, sponsored by Rep. Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville), the UIA would be stopped from accusing claimants of fraud based on computer-identified discrepancies and requires the department to “examine the facts and determine independently” if someone is cheating the system.

HB 4982 passed the House Thursday.

Fetal Tissue Sale Prohibition

Legislation to make it a felony to sell fetal body parts, SB 0564 and SB 0565, sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), are in response to controversy surrounding assertions about Planned Parenthood.

The bills have passed the Senate and were reported to the floor of the House by the Health Policy Committee Tuesday.

Citizens United Codification

This legislation to create Super PACs within state law was sponsored by Senate Elections and Government Reform Chair, Sen. David Robertson (R-Grand Blanc).

The question is, what will the language of the bill provide for at the end of the day? The measure is widely expected to see action before the end of session.

Voting ID Requirement

Under HB 6066, HB 6067 and HB 6068, the ballot of a voter lacking identification would be placed in an envelope and not counted unless the voter returned to the clerk’s office with his or her ID.

The package of bills, which also aimed at making it easier for residents to obtain birth certificates and free IDs, passed the House Wednesday. The bills, sponsored by House Elections Chair Rep. Lisa Lyons (R-Alto), have been dubbed by Democrats as voter suppression efforts.

Freedom Of Information Act Reform

Following the lead contamination crisis in Flint, it seemed reforms to the state’s Freedom of Information Act were in the offing. Now, in the final days of session, it will come down to the Senate, where action on the proposals remains doubtful.

The House in September passed a 10-bill package that would open up legislative offices and the Governor’s office to open records laws. That package (HB 5469, HB 5470, HB 5471, HB 5472, HB 5473, HB 5474, HB 5475, HB 5476, HB 5477 and HB 5478) remain lodged in the Government Operations Committee, chaired by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive).

Meekhof has not expressed much interest in moving the package.

Snyder’s Public-Private Partnership Legislation

SB 0627, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake), has been called a top priority by the Snyder administration.

The measure, which would have Michigan join 33 other states in creating a statutory mechanism for companies to bid on transportation and limited capital improvement projects, passed the Senate on Dec 1.

Despite assurances from the administration, some conservatives fear the bill will open the door for privately run toll roads in the state. The question remains whether that concern will stall the bill in the House.

Mass Protest Fine Bill

Sponsored by Glenn, the bill would allow entities that have been picketed to collect the $1,000 civil fine against illegal picketers and a $10,000 fine from the entity, like a labor union, that sponsored the protest.

The bill passed the House and is now residing in the Senate Commerce Committee.

Union Paid Leave Time

SB 0279 and SB 0280, sponsored by Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) would bar schools and local government units from bargaining to provide paid leave time for workers who are union officials to conduct union business.

The bills are pending on the floor of the Michigan House.

HICA Alternative Salvation Bill

SB 1172, sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), is a Health Insurance Claims Assessment work-around vetoed earlier this year by Snyder that would be resurrected. The governor had vetoed the package over concerns he had that the federal government wouldn’t approve of the scheme.

Well, then came along President-elect Trump.

Under SB 1172, the plan Snyder rejected would be put in place until the federal government disallowed it in writing.

Higher Speed Limits

On Wednesday, the Senate approved HB 4423 sponsored by Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford), that would increase the speed limit to 75 on 1,500 miles of rural highways.

The bill, which was changed by the Senate, needs to be concurred in by the House before it goes to the governor’s desk for approval.

Veterans Home Package

SB 1097, SB 1098, SB 1099 and SB 1100 would implement the recommendations of Snyder’s veterans’ homes workgroup.

Concerns have been raised by Democrats that the new veterans care facilities provided for in the package aren’t required to be run by state workers. The package of bills is pending on the House floor for final approval.

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