‘Sanctuary cities,’ lobbyist ‘revolving door’ among 400+ new bills in Michigan Legislature

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Just two months into their term, members of the 100th Michigan Legislature have already introduced more than 400 bills, including those that seek to end the legislator-to-lobbyist “revolving door” and ban “sanctuary cities.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Feb. 12, 2019 | Casey Hull

Almost 400 bills passed during last year’s Lame Duck action after the 2018 election — which is why it’s no surprise that legislation has been introduced taking aim at end-of-the-year sessions.

Some of the Legislature’s first actions have had a partisan flavor in checking the power of new Democratic executives: overturning Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order restructuring the Department of Environmental Quality; intervening in Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s proposed gerrymandering lawsuit settlement; and urging Attorney General Dana Nessel to drop a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.

But many legislative efforts this session are bipartisan, including big-ticket packages reforming auto insurance and civil asset forfeiture laws.

Here’s a roundup of some other notable bills so far:

Board of Education election alteration

Every two years, Michigan’s political parties nominate candidates for the State Board of Education, who go on to face voters in a statewide general election.

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Under Senate Bill 25, sponsored by state Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), political parties would have to account for geographic considerations when nominating candidates, as the Advance has reported.

While candidates would still be elected statewide in November, political parties would have to nominate candidates from one of eight geographic regions.

Regions are drawn by divvying up the state’s counties, and parties would be assigned two regions to nominate from for each of their state conventions.

In 2020 and every eight years thereafter, parties would nominate from regions one and five; in 2022 and every eight years thereafter, candidates would be selected from regions three and seven; in 2024 and every eight years thereafter, parties would nominate from regions two and six; and in 2026 and every eight years thereafter, candidates would be chosen from regions four and eight.

Incumbent members would be allowed to be nominated for another term regardless of the region in which they reside.

The bill explains that the reason for the geographic boundaries is “to better promote a diversity of perspectives on the state Board of Education representative of the great diversity of schools, students, and communities across the many regions of this states.”

Graduated income tax

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Michigan’s income tax could look more like the federal income tax if a constitutional amendment introduced in the Senate is approved. Such measures require a two-thirds vote in both chambers, which is a steep climb.

Senate Joint Resolution D, introduced by Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), would allow the state to impose an income tax at a graduated rate. Under the bill, local units of government would still be prohibited from levying a graduated income tax.

Michigan is only one of eight states in the country that still relies on a flat income tax structure, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy, which supports a graduated tax.

Voters in Michigan have rejected a graduated income tax three times. The last vote was more than 40 years ago in 1976.

This is legislation Democrats have repeatedly introduced in the Legislature over the years and has been vehemently opposed by Republicans, the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

U.S. troops walk to the Department of Public Works facility in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 28, 2012. | DoD photo by Senior Airman Sean Martin, U.S. Air Force, Wikimedia Commons

Electronic voting for active military

When a member of the military requests an absentee ballot, it’s delivered to them electronically. Service members are then asked to print the ballot, fill it out, and then mail the paper ballot back to the appropriate clerk.

Under SB 79, introduced by Sen. Paul Wojno (D-Warren), a former city clerk, service members on active duty would be allowed to return their completed ballots electronically via an official military email address.

Women on public corporation boards

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After a record number of women were elected in 2018 — including all three of Michigan’s top constitutional officers, Whitmer, Benson and Nessel — SB 115, sponsored by Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit), intends to bring gender equality to publicly held corporations headquartered in Michigan.

Beginning in 2021, every corporation based in the state would be required to have a minimum of one female director on its board.

For corporations with five directors on its board, the number of required women would increase to two in 2023. If a corporation has six or more directors on its board, they would be required to have at least three female directors beginning in 2023.

‘Sanctuary cities’ ban

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Local units of government would be prohibited from enacting or enforcing any policies limiting local officials, officers and employees from cooperating from federal officials regarding the immigration status of an individual in the state of Michigan under a package of eight bills GOP House bills.

Effectively, the bills would prohibit localities from designating themselves “sanctuary cities.” Republicans have introduced similar measures before.

House Bills 4083, 4084, 4085, 4086, 4087, 4088, and 4089 are sponsored by Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield Twp.), while HB 4090 is sponsored by Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain).

‘Red flag’ gun laws

Michigan would join 11 other states in allowing access to firearms to be removed if a gun owner exhibits warning signs of violence under a package of bills introduced simultaneously in the House and Senate, as the Advance reported.

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Judges would be required to evaluate testimony and evidence before issuing an extreme risk protection order, which would allow law enforcement to temporarily seize their weapons.

Individuals that are the subject of an extreme risk protection order would be prohibited from purchasing any new firearms for as long as the order was in effect.

“Time and time again, we have witnessed tragedies unfold which could have been prevented with proactive steps, including restricting access to firearms for those with acute mental health issues,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, a former GOP gubernatorial candidate, said at a press conference unveiling the legislation Thursday.

GOP former Gov. Rick Snyder expressed support for “red flag” legislation last year after 17 people were shot to death at a Florida high school.

In the House, HB 4283 is sponsored by Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Huntington Woods); HB 4284 is sponsored by Rep. Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo); and HB 4285 is sponsored by Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.).

In the Senate, SB 156 is sponsored by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak); SB 157 is sponsored by Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor); and SB 158 is sponsored by Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills).

Lobbyist ‘revolving door’

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

In the first two months of 2019, six lawmakers that left office at the end of 2018 have registered as lobbyists, along with former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. Some members of the Legislature are again trying to do something about it.

State Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake) has introduced legislation aimed at ending the so-called “revolving door” before.

His bill this term, SB 57, would prohibit a legislator from becoming a lobbyist for two years after they leave office. If that person chaired a committee during their time in the Legislature, the cooling-off period would be extended to three years.

A separate bill introduced in the House, HB 4149, sponsored by Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), would institute the three-year lobbying ban for former committee chairs, but would not require other legislators to wait.

Lame Duck protest, Dec. 12, 2018 | Ken Coleman

Lame Duck session overhaul

After a particularly jam-packed 2018 Lame Duck session, in which the Legislature passed almost 400 bills, three constitutional amendments take aim at the process.

The first proposed constitutional amendment, HJR C, introduced by Rep. Gary Howell (R-North Branch), would require the Legislature to adjourn for the year on the Friday before the first Monday in November during even numbered years, as the Advance reported.

Lame Duck protest at the Michigan Capitol, Dec. 12, 2018 | Ken Coleman

This means the Legislature would not meet at all in the period of time between an election and the start of the new session. Critics have pointed out that would make it difficult for the Legislature to respond to potential emergencies.

Enter Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon), who introduced HJR D to require that any bill considered during a session held after a November election receive at least a two-thirds vote in both chambers to become law — like all constitutional amendments (including this one).

Another constitutional amendment, HJR E, was introduced by Rep. Jeff Yaroch (R-Richmond).

Rather than requiring any bill considered during a lame-duck session have a two-thirds vote to become law, Yaroch’s proposed amendment would only require a two-thirds vote for bills introduced during a Lame Duck session.

Earned Income Tax Credit

Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat, has sponsored Senate Bill 107 increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to a higher rate than it was before GOP Gov. Rick Snyder cut it as part of his 2011 tax overhaul, as the Advance reported.

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Currently, low-income residents can claim on their tax return 6 percent of the federal EITC, down from 20 percent. Irwin’s plan boosts that to 30 percent. This would impact more than 750,000 Michiganders.

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is a proven tool for lifting working families out of poverty, and the money it puts into the pockets of the working poor goes right back into our local economies,” Irwin said in a statement.

Part-time Legislature

Former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley’s ballot drive for a part-time Legislature failed to make it onto the ballot in 2018, just as many proposals have in the past.

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

But that hasn’t deterred Rep. Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills), who has proposed a constitutional amendment to make the Michigan Legislature a part-time body.

HJR A resembles the first draft of Calley’s measure, which mandated the Legislature not meet for more than 90 consecutive days.

Unlike Calley’s initiative, however, Webber’s bill does not include a provision tying legislators’ pay rates to the average earnings of Michigan teachers, which would be prorated to account for the number of days served. In effect, the legislators would make about half of their current salaries.

Critics of Calley’s proposal argued that the Legislature’s powers to overturn a veto by the governor and to adopt ballot initiatives before they reach the ballot would be greatly limited.

Expand FOIA

Michigan’s Legislature subjects every state department and agency, as well as local governments, to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But under current law, the governor and Legislature are exempted from the law — making Michigan one of only two states to do so.

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Now, a package of 10 House bills is scheduled for a committee hearing next week that would alter Michigan’s open-records law. The governor’s office would be subject to FOIA and it creates the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA) overseeing requests for records regarding the Legislature.

The bills are: HB 4007, sponsored by Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City); HB 4008, sponsored by Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw); HB 4009, sponsored by Rep. Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.); HB 4010, sponsored by Rep. Annette Glenn (R-Midland); HB 4011, sponsored by Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.); HB 4012, sponsored by Rep. Roger Hauck (R-Union Township); HB 4013, sponsored by Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine); HB 4014, sponsored by Rep. Andrea Schroeder (R-Independence Twp.); HB 4015, sponsored by Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt); and HB 4016, sponsored by Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.).

Drivers’ license renewal extension

State of Michigan

Michigan drivers can currently get their driver’s licenses renewed for four years at a time.

Under HB 4273, introduced by Rep. Kevin Coleman (D-Westland), Secretary of State offices would be allowed to issue licenses that are valid for a full eight years.

Child marriage ban

On the first day of the 100th Michigan Legislature’s term, Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing, Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt), and Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) introduced three bills to prohibit minors from getting married.

Sponsors of the bill cite human trafficking and studies that show negative outcomes for girls married before adulthood as their reasoning for pushing the legislation.

“If young people can’t legally sign a contract until age 18, we need to offer them consistent legal protections across the board,” Filler said in a statement. “If we can do anything to reduce the alarming number of cases of sexual abuse and human trafficking in our state, we have to step up and do our part.”

The bills are HB 4003, HB 4004 and HB 4005.

Aretha Franklin mural in Detroit’s Eastern Market | Ken Coleman

Aretha Franklin Highway

A portion of M-10 in the city of Detroit would be named the Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway under HB 4060, introduced by Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit).

The bill has already been approved by the House Transportation Committee, as the Advance reported. The bill is now in the Ways and Means Committee, which must give its OK before HB 4060 can go before the full House.

Ballot selfies

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After the issue failed to gain enough momentum in 2018’s Lame Duck session, the Legislature is ready to take another crack at legalizing ballot selfies with HB 4196, introduced by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland).

Under current law, voters are prohibited from taking a selfie with their ballot. If they are caught doing so, they can be penalized by having their ballot invalidated.

The law is intended to prevent vote buying or other voter coercion.

Prohibit tanning for minors

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Minors would be prohibited from using a tanning device under HB 4205, introduced by Rep. Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville).

An owner of a tanning facility that allows a minor to use their tanning machines would be considered guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150 for each violation.

High school graduation requirements

Michigan’s high school graduation requirements could see changes under HB 4269 and HB 4270, both of which were introduced by Rep. Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan).

Rather than being required to take one credit in visual arts, performing arts or applied arts, students would instead have to take three credits in: a language other or English (including sign language), or visual arts, performing arts or applied arts, or computer science or computer coding, or a career and technical education program.

African-American history commission

Introduced during Black History Month, HB 4276 seeks to bolster the information taught in public schools on African American history.

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The bill, introduced by Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), would create a temporary Commission on the Inclusion of African American History in K to 12 Instruction consisting of one representative from the University of Michigan, one representative from Michigan State University, one representative from Wayne State University, one individual to represent teachers and one individual representing school district officials.

Members of the commission would be appointed by the governor and would have one year to meet before making recommendations to the State Board of Education and Legislature on grade-appropriate instruction on African-American history for all grade levels.

Once the commission makes their recommendations, the Board of Education would have two years to adapt the state’s curriculum accordingly.

Air quality enforcement fund

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Another bill introduced by Gay-Dagnogo, HB 4264, would create an Air Quality Enforcement and Mitigation Fund.

Limits would be placed on how money in the fund is spent: 30 percent would be for staffing within the DEQ related to mitigating air pollution; 70 percent would be used to create grants for increased air monitoring, mitigating air pollution, assessing health impacts and educating community residents and local environmental regulators.

Right to Work repeal

While Republicans continue to control both the House and Senate, that hasn’t stopped Democrats in both chambers from introducing a series of bills to undo what they view as harmful policies implemented by Republicans, including former Gov. Rick Snyder.

Right to Work protest at the Michigan Capitol, December 2012 | Susan J. Demas

Rep. John Chirkun (D-Roseville) and Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) introduced HB 4033 and HB 4034, respectively, to repeal Michigan’s 2012 Right to Work laws, as the Advance reported.

These were the first bills introduced by the revitalized Legislative Labor Caucus. Democrats have sponsored bills axing RTW every term since Republicans passed laws during the fiery 2012 Lame Duck session.

“We just thought it was important, especially for the Labor Caucus as a whole, to choose its first bills wisely to express exactly what we stand for and who we represent in the state of Michigan,” Elder told the Advance.

Tampon tax ax

Susan J. Demas

Elder and Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Harper Woods) introduced HB 4165 and HB 4166, respectively) to exempt feminine hygiene products from the sales and use tax, as the Advance reported.

There’s also a Senate package. Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) has sponsored SB 124 and Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) has introduced SB 123.

“Women already face economic disparities in their paycheck every payday; there is no reason we should also be forced to pay this additional tax for taking care of our reproductive health,” said Yancey.

1931 abortion law

“Fight for our Families” rally on Dec. 12. 2018 at the Michigan Capitol | Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan

On the 46th anniversary of the Supreme Court of the United States’ landmark Roe v Wade ruling, Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) introduced SB 50 to repeal a 1931 law that is still on the books in Michigan outlawing abortions.

The 1931 law can’t be implemented as long as the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe is in effect. But if that ruling were overturned — as could be the case with a strong conservative majority on the court — Michigan would automatically revert to the law.

“Access to comprehensive health care should never target or limit women’s health,” said Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton) in a statement. “It comes down to respecting women to make their own life choices and I am appalled that we are still adding more and more restrictions. By limiting access to safe and legal care, we are putting the lives of women at risk.”

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