Some Lame Duck bills now likely dead after missing key deadline

By: - December 17, 2018 10:11 pm

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

The Michigan Legislature is on track to make the 2018 Lame Duck period the busiest in the body’s history, taking up legislation on issues ranging from changes to the new redistricting commission called for in Proposal 2 to deer sterilization permits.

But several bills introduced in the Michigan House and Senate are now considered dead.

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

That’s because of a rule in the Legislature that requires a five-day waiting period between a bill being passed by the chamber it was introduced in and the opposite chamber taking that bill up.

Thursday, Dec. 13 was the last session day in which a bill could have made it through the first chamber with enough time to be passed by the full Legislature before it’s slated to end legislative action on Thursday.

Amber McCann, spokeswoman for state Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Grand Haven), said that Meekhof’s priority was passing legislation watering down the minimum wage and paid sick time initiatives the Legislature had passed in September, keeping them off the ballot.

“Certainly, there were some letdowns, but overall he is satisfied with what’s been accomplished,” McCann said.

Of course, there are legislative maneuvers around the five-day rule.

Yousef Rabhi

Some Democrats, including state Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), have expressed concern that “dead” bills could pop up again in the form of amendments to other bills that have already been passed by at least one chamber, like what appears to be happening with no-fault reform, as the Advance reported this afternoon. There are usually “shell bills” that can be used for these purposes.

“This is Lame Duck; anything can happen,” Rabhi said. “I wouldn’t count any bills or ideas out until the Legislature adjourns sine die, which means they’re not coming back this year.”

The following bills are now, most likely, out of play for the remainder of this legislative term and would have to be reintroduced in the new 100th Legislature to be acted upon:

Home-grown marijuana ban

Michigan voted 56 percent to 44 percent to legalize recreational marijuana in November.

Under the ballot proposal, it is legal to grow marijuana in your home. Sales of recreational marijuana are the subject of a 10 percent excise tax.

But under Senate Bill 1243 — introduced by Meekhof himself — that excise tax would have been lowered to a rate of 3 percent and home-grows would be banned.

Amending a ballot proposal passed by voters would have required support from not just a simple majority, but three-fourths of the members in both chambers of the Legislature.

Biennial union recertification

Another bill introduced by Meekhof, SB 1260, would have required unionized employees to vote every two years on whether to continue their representation. The Advance reported on Thursday that this bill was dead.

The proposal faced backlash from teachers, firefighters and other public employees that feared biennial recertification votes would cause tensions in the workplace.

Ban on collective bargaining over school calendar

Introduced by Rep. Daniela Garcia (R-Holland) in February 2017, HB 4163 sought to ban collective bargaining over school calendars and schedules.

Ballot selfies

Under Michigan law, taking a picture of or with your ballot is illegal — and comes with a penalty your vote being tossed.

Rep. Steve Johnson, (R-Wayland), wanted to change that with HB 4328, which would have authorized both those voting absentee or at a polling place to take ballot selfies.

Ending bottle deposit program

As the Advance reported, a House package would have ended Michigan’s bottle deposit program, which charges customers a 10-cent fee that’s refunded when they return bottles and cans of beverages such as beer and soft drinks.

The law is a key part of GOP former Gov. William Milliken’s environmental legacy. The “bottle bill” is intended to cut down on litter and pollution by incentivizing customers to return their bottles and cans, rather than discarding them.

Under a series of five bills introduced by as many legislators, the program would end at the beginning of 2023.

HB 6532 was introduced by Rep. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.); HB 6533 was introduced by Rep. Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe); HB 6534 was introduced by Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain); HB 6535 was introduced by Rep. Triston Cole (R-Bellaire); and HB 6536 was introduced by Rep. Daire Rendon (R-Lake City).

Bellino operates a business in Monroe that would save around $9,000 a year on labor if the law were repealed, Bridge reported.

Workers’ rights expansion

House Democrats introduced a package of bills to expand the rights of workers in the state of Michigan. Not surprisingly, none of them reached a final vote on the floor.

HB 6588, introduced by Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D-Dearborn), would have required severance pay for employees who lost their jobs as a result of mass layoffs, including branch closures.

HB 6590, introduced by Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park), would guarantee employees time to vote on Election Day.

HB 6591, introduced by Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), and HB 6592, introduced by Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills), would require employees be given a 10 minute break during every shift and a 30 minute lunch break for shifts of five hours or more.

HB 6594, introduced by Rep. Darrin Camilleri (D-Brownstown Twp.), would have allowed employees to request a change in their schedules to accommodate “health-related needs, caregiver responsibilities, or furthering education within their respective career field,” per a press release.

Raise the age reform

A bipartisan package of 21 bills introduced in the House would have raised the age at which a person would be tried in court as an adult from 17 to 18. The lead bill was HB 4607, sponsored by Rep. Pete Lucido (R-Shelby Twp.).

The package made it out of the House Law and Justice Committee, but no floor vote was taken. They were supported by a range of groups, which included the Michigan League for Public Policy and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Legislators required to report gifted travel

After more than a dozen legislators accepted trips to Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other vacation stops from a group pushing for reform in how Michigan awards its Electoral College votes to presidential candidates, Sen. Steve Bieda (D-Warren), introduced SB 1228. That would require members of the Legislature to disclose any travel subsidies they received.

FOIA expansion to include Legislature, governor

Bills introduced to subject the Legislature and governor of Michigan to the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws — HB 4148, sponsored by Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering), and HB 4150, sponsored by Rep. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) — passed the House unanimously in March 2017. But the Senate is unlikely to act on the bill, because Meekhof is opposed on the basis that the laws would have a chilling effect on those considering a run for public office.

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a former reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.