Bills you may have missed: Tree frog as state amphibian, cell data privacy

Gray tree frog | Peter Paplanus via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

A new bill introduced by state Sen. Jim Stamas (R-Midland) proposes to name the gray tree frog as Michigan’s official state amphibian.

This comes after a fifth-grade class at Blessed Sacrament in Midland began learning about the frog and discovered that Michigan didn’t have an official state amphibian.

According to a news release, Stamas said he was working with the class to help them learn about state government, and during a school visit, the students proposed making the gray tree frog Michigan’s state amphibian.

Senate Bill 803 would do just that.

“This will be a unique educational experience for these students about the legislative process in Michigan,” Stamas said.

SB 803 has been referred to the Senate Government Operations Committee for consideration.

Music and art education

State Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) has introduced a bill that would require music and art education to be a regular part of the curriculum for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Senate Bill 804 would require 90 minutes of music and 90 minutes of art instruction per week with teachers certified for each respective subject area. It also would require districts to have a separate, dedicated budget for music and art, and the Legislature to provide funding for any additional costs.

Sen. Erika Geiss | Nick Manes

“We should be expanding our students’ abilities to think outside the box by teaching them skills that enable them to both better understand themselves and collaborate with others — which is exactly what music and the arts do,” said Geiss.

Geiss added that the creativity that is innate in music and art education strengthens critical thinking skills and allows for a deeper level of engagement as kids interact with the world around them.

SB 804 was referred to the Senate Education Committee.

Cell phone data privacy

State Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Wayland) has introduced House Bill 5572, which would require law enforcement that obtains an individual’s phone records as an indirect circumstance of an investigation either secure a warrant or provide notice that personal information had been accessed.

Law enforcement agencies across the state and nation currently have access to devices called cell site simulators that simulate a cell phone tower and trick nearby phones into giving out private information.

Rep. Steven Johnson

According to data from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), local and state police agencies have cell site simulators in Michigan.

“Having an innocent bystander’s information collected unknown to them the same way as a criminal being investigated by law enforcement is disturbing,” said Johnson.

Johnson added that in this age where technology is advancing by leaps and bounds, it is also important to ensure people’s Fourth Amendment rights also are being protected by law enforcement as investigations are conducted.

HB 5572 has been referred to the House Communications and Technology Committee for consideration.