Bills on PFAS, pension tax, election changes hit Senate

Photo by Jay Phagan, Wikipedia Commons

The Michigan Senate on this week targeted reform of the state’s “no-fault” auto insurance law as its top priority for the new legislative session.

Senators also unveiled a bevy of other bills. There’s legislation to accompany the House’s push for reform of civil asset forfeiture and bills repealing the “pension tax,” a cornerstone of former Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2011 tax reform.

Rick Snyder and Brian Calley at their year-end press conference, Dec. 11, 2018 | Ken Coleman

Senators also sponsored bills to improve drinking water standards in light of PFAS contamination and require a warranty for the state’s highway construction projects.

And there’s legislation from an Upper Peninsula senator, Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), that seems reminiscent of bills from the fiery Lame Duck session last year. He has a bill that would require state Board of Education members to be nominated by region.

The state board has a 6-2 split in favor of Democrats and Republicans have sought to dilute the board’s power. Last year, Republicans dropped part of the A-F grading bill for schools that would have created a new education panel not accountable to the state board or Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

On the regional representation front, Republicans have long supported measures they say will give power to rural areas, like plans in sessions past to divide Michigan’s electoral votes by congressional district.

In one of his most-watched moves, Snyder signed a bill last year capping the amount of signatures collected for ballot initiatives by congressional district. Critics have argued these measures are meant to water-down the power of Detroit and population centers that vote Democratic.

Below is a roundup of some of the first bills introduced in the Senate during the 100th legislative session:

Pete Lucido
  • Senate Bill 2, sponsored by state Sen. Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.), amends the state’s law for seizing property in suspected crimes, requiring a conviction or plea deal for law enforcement officials to do so. The issue was highlighted last week by a bipartisan coalition was the first bill introduced in the House of Representatives.
  • Senate Bill 12, sponsored by Sen. Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway), would allow for third-party licensing for horse racing establishments.
  • Senate Bill 13, sponsored by Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), and Senate Bill 17, sponsored by Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Potterville), would eliminate the state’s so-called “pension tax”, a key component of former Gov. Rick Snyder’s 2011 tax overhaul. Similar legislation was also introduced in the House last week.
  • Barrett also introduced legislation allowing for disabled veterans to deduct student loan debt from their income tax.
  • Wojno also introduced a bill requiring a warranty for the state’s pavement construction projects.  
  • Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) introduced Senate Bill 14, which as the Advance noted yesterday, would set maximum contaminant levels for PFAS-related chemicals in drinking water to no more than five parts per trillion.
  • McBroom introduced Senate Bill 25 which would require that members of the state’s Board of Education still be elected and serve statewide, but be nominated from regions around the state. The bill states that doing so would “better promote a diversity of perspectives” on the board. Nominees would come from eight defined regions around the state.
Nick Manes
Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.

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