New Lame Duck laws that you haven’t heard about

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

With almost 400 bills making their way to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder over the course of four weeks, plenty of Lame Duck legislation doesn’t get attention.

Gov. Rick Snyder at his year-end press conference, Dec. 11, 2018 | Ken Coleman

The biggest story was probably the term-limited Republican vetoing a bill stripping power from Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel. And there have been plenty of headlines about Snyder signing legislation restricting ballot initiatives, establishing A-F grades for schools and spending a whopping $1.3 billion in a budget supplemental.

But there are plenty of important — if less flashy — bills sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans that Snyder signed into law during his final week in office that haven’t been covered much, if at all.

Here is our roundup of interesting and undercovered new laws:

  • Allow concealed pistols on military premises

House Bill 4474, sponsored by Rep. Gary Glenn (R-Williams Twp.), permits licensed individuals to carry a concealed pistol on military premises.

Armories and any other buildings under the control of the adjutant general are subject to the updated law.

  • Place fees on radioactive waste dropped at landfills

Senate Bill 1195, sponsored by Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), is designed to cut down on the amount of radioactive waste in Michigan landfills by placing fees on those accepting the disposed materials.

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Under the law, landfill operators would be required to pay the Department of Environmental Quality a fee of $5 per ton of certain radioactive waste in the landfill.

According to Senate fiscal analysis, only one landfill in Michigan currently accepts the radioactive waste that would cause them to be subject to the new fees. That landfill accepts around 50,000 tons of radioactive waste per year, meaning the fee could bring around $250,000 to the DEQ annually.

  • Allow zoos to breed large carnivores

HB 5778, sponsored by Rep. Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), allows zoos to apply for a license to breed large carnivores, such as tigers.

Licenses would only be granted to organizations that: display animals to the public for educational or exhibition purposes; do not allow patrons to come into contact with the animals; and do not sell the animals to anybody that does not meet the eligibility requirements.

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Applications would have to be accompanied by a $2,500 fee. No more than 10 licenses would be granted in a single year. Licensees would have to maintain certain housing conditions designed to keep the animals, their breeders and members of the public safe and comfortable.

Breeders would have to provide 24 hour security at the facility and ensure that animals were kept in an area comfortable to them, as determined by their need for space, control over social interactions, protection from injuries and diseases, and climate control.  Licenses expire after two years but could be revoked earlier.

A new committee — the Large Carnivore Breeding Advisory Committee — will be created in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development with the purpose of advising the department on license applications.

That committee will consist of the state veterinarian, one public zoo member appointed by the governor, and one private zoo member appointed by the governor.

  • Allow police dogs to be transported to vet in ambulances
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Under SB 1234, sponsored by Sen. Dave Knezak (D-Dearborn), police dogs injured in the line of duty could be taken to a veterinarian in an ambulance.

Ambulances would only be allowed to transport the police dog if no humans were in need of first responders at the time.

  • Increased sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty

HB 4332, sponsored by Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming) would establish first, second, and third degrees of killing or torturing animals. Under the previous law, punishments for animal cruelty were spelled out up to violations including 10 or more animals.

The punishment for animal cruelty involving 10 or more animals remains the same in the new law — a prison sentence of not more than four years, a fine of not more than $5,000, or community service for not more than 500 hours — but is now capped at 25 animals.

Violations involving more than 25 animals can now be punished with up to seven years in prison, a fine of up to $10,000, and up to 500 hours of community service.

  • Enter Michigan into the national Driver’s License Compact

Under current law, if a resident of another state is caught speeding in Michigan (or vice versa), they will be asked to pay their ticket in cash.

HB 5542, sponsored by Rep. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake); HB 6011, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Noble (R-Plymouth); and HB 6012, sponsored by Rep. Steve Johnson (R-Wayland), authorize the Michigan governor to enter the state into the Driver’s License Compact and the Nonresident Violator Compact — which would end the practice for residents of Michigan and other states that have joined the compacts.

  • Exempt school bus purchases from sales tax
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SB 906 and SB 907, both sponsored by Sen. Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison Twp.), exempt public schools from paying sales tax when purchasing or leasing a school bus to transport students to and from school and school events.

  • Designate the Michigan Compiled Laws database an official source of law

Anybody with a computer and an internet connection can find an entire database of Michigan’s laws.

But until HB 4779, sponsored by Rep. Robert Kosowski (D-Westland) and HB 4780, sponsored by Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Twp.), were signed into law, the Michigan Compiled Laws database was not considered an official source of law.

Under the new law, the electronic records are required to be certified as official and made available to the general public.

  • Dissolve the Michigan Capitol Committee

Members of the Michigan Capitol Committee make recommendations to the Michigan Capitol Commission regarding the preservation of Michigan’s Capitol and grounds.

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Twelve members sit on the committee: four appointed by the governor, four appointed by the Senate majority leader and four appointed by the speaker of the House.

Both legislative leaders are required to appoint at least one member of the minority party.

But under HB 6006 and HB 6007, both sponsored by Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake), the committee is dissolved, leaving the Michigan Capitol Commission to make decisions without the committee’s recommendations on the preservation of the historic site.

  • Consolidate three Lansing-area courts into one countywide court

Three Lansing-area courts could become one under HB 6344, sponsored by outgoing House Minority Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing), Districts 54-A of Lansing and 54-B of East Lansing would be absorbed into District 55 of Mason.

The bill authorizes the consolidation, but the move still needs approval from the Ingham County Board of Commissioners and the cities of Lansing and East Lansing. Those local governments have until Nov. 1, 2019 to approve the change.

All full-time employees of the two courts being absorbed would be transferred to the consolidated 55th District.

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