Bills you may have missed: Textbook tax breaks, cat declawing ban

Miss Fatty | Anna Liz Nichols

The Michigan Advance has rounded up recent bills recently introduced by Michigan lawmakers.

Those bills include the possible ban on declawing cats in Michigan, creating tax breaks for some college students when purchasing textbooks and installing accessible changing stations in public restrooms.

Cat declawing ban

This week, state Rep. Nate Shannon (D-Sterling Heights) introduced House Bill 5508, which would ban declawing cats in Michigan.

Laina G. Stebbins

Advocates of the bill describe the procedure of declawing a cat as highly intrusive and painful. It requires amputating last bone in each toe of the cat — which on a human would be the equivalent of removing the last knuckle from each of finger.  

Shannon says his inspiration for the bill came after listening to Howard Stern’s radio show about a year ago while driving to Lansing. The topic of show that day was a cat declawing bill signed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Shannon says the show discussed how brutal and cruel the procedure is.

Shannon says owning a pet is a big decision, but abusing an animal and causing them to endure long-term persistent pain to make pet ownership easier is unacceptable.

“I want to encourage responsible and ethical pet ownership with this bill,” said Shannon.

According to the bill, it’s estimated that somewhere from 20 to 25% of all household cats in the United States are declawed, but experts believe the actual number to be higher than reported.

If the bill is passed, Michigan would join New York as the only other state in the U.S. to ban cat declawing.

The bill was referred to the House Agriculture Committee for consideration.

Tax breaks for textbooks

State Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) has introduced Senate Bill 797, which would provide some college students with a tax break for purchasing textbooks.

SB 797 would allow students eligible for Pell Grants to receive an income tax credit equal to the amount of sales and use taxes they pay on purchased or rented textbooks required for class.

Sen. Stephanie Chang, Oct. 31, 2019 | C.J. Moore

Federal Pell Grants are usually awarded to undergraduate students who display financial need and haven’t earned a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree.

Right now under current state law, textbooks purchased by students in kindergarten through 12th grade are exempt from Michigan sales tax, but textbooks purchased by students pursuing higher education are not.

Chang said the tax credit would help offset one of the financial barriers that low-income students face when considering the cost of postsecondary education.

Wayne State University Student Senate President Stuart Baum supports the bill, and adds that the rising cost of textbooks is a financial hardship to students.

“I see many of my peers struggle to complete their degrees due to this and other burdens. Any relief, especially for students with the most need, would go a long way toward undoing this damage,” said Baum.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

Study: Rising tuition, state funding cuts add to students’ financial burden

Liam’s Law

In January, state Rep. Lori Stone (D-Warren) introduced House Bill 5409, named Liam’s Law.

Liam’s Law is the culmination of years of work by Jessica Gomez, who has been a longtime advocate for more appropriate accommodations for individuals living with disabilities of any age.WLNS reports that Gomez’s son, Liam, has a rare brain disease and is epileptic, and also is autistic and nonverbal.

Lori Stone

The bill would require the installation of adult-sized, height-adjustable changing stations in applicable public restrooms. Stone says Michigan must be a state where no one’s needs are ignored or forgotten, especially people living with disabilities.

If the bill is signed into law, the accessible changing tables could be found in facilities like state-owned buildings; exhibition or entertainment venues; museums and libraries; parks and zoos; airports; bus stations; interstate rest stops; schools; and hospitals.

The bill would apply to certain buildings or structures constructed after Jan. 1, 2022, or renovated after Jan. 1, 2025, that serve 1,500 or more persons per day.

State Rep. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) supports the bill, and added that visiting local businesses or attending local events can become incredibly stressful — or even impossible — for those who are disabled to enjoy.

“We want to be sure that every person, no matter who they are, have the accommodations they need to feel welcome and safe in our state,” said Anthony.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform.