Missed anything in the busiest Lame Duck ever? Catch up here.

By: - December 26, 2018 7:06 am

Liz Brauer of Ann Arbor attended the Fight for Our Families rally on Dec. 12, 2018 | Ken Coleman

Members of the 99th Michigan Legislature made history this year, sending more than 400 pieces of legislation to Gov. Rick Snyder in the body’s busiest lame-duck session in history.

Joe Borgstrom, principal of the Lansing economic development firm Place+Main, summed up a lot of the criticism of this frenzied Lame Duck session in a recent tweet.

If you lost track of everything lawmakers did — and what Snyder has already signed into law — don’t worry. The Advance has you covered with our post-holiday Lame Duck roundup.

Here are some of the bills passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature that inspired progressive protests in the Capitol:

Under the original ballot initiatives, Michigan’s minimum wage would have risen to $12 an hour by 2022 and a separate tipped wage would have been eliminated shortly thereafter, while workers would have earned an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

But with the changes already signed by Snyder, the minimum wage instead rises to $12.05 an hour by 2030, the separate tipped wage will rise to $4.58 by 2030, and a provision tying the minimum wage to inflation rates is removed. Businesses that employ at least 50 people are required to offer an hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked.

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

Seen by many as limiting the power of Democratic Attorney General-elect Dana Nessel, this legislation would allow either chamber of the Legislature to intervene in court cases that challenge the constitutionality of a law or the validity of the Legislature’s actions.

Should Snyder sign this law, communities in Michigan would be required to allow pet stores to sell puppies from puppy mills.

Signed by Snyder within a day of reaching his desk, this three-person commission already reached a deal with Enbridge on the construction of a tunnel through the Straits of Mackinac that will house Line 5.

In its first week of existence, two of three original appointees resigned, and party control of the commission flipped from Democrats to Republicans.

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

A Michigan law banning doctors from prescribing abortion pills over the phone was set to expire at the end of 2018, but under this bill, the ban would be made permanent.

Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has vowed to clear any laws banning abortions in Michigan from the books in case the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its Roe v. Wade ruling with two new conservative justices seated.

One of Snyder’s priorities for the Lame Duck session, this bill would grade public schools’ performance on a scale of A-F. The measure was opposed by both the Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers Michigan, as well as many school administrators across the state who said they had no input in the standards.

The bill originally would have created a new education panel not accountable to the state Board of Education or Whitmer, but that was stripped out to win votes for passage.

Voters in Michigan overwhelmingly approved Proposal 3 in November that would allow automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, no-reason early voting and other expanded voter rights.

But this bill seeks to limit same-day voter registration, requiring that only a county clerk’s main office would allow same-day registration, not polling locations or satellite offices.

A protestor demonstrates during a Dec. 12, 2018, rally in the Capitol | Ken Coleman

Opposed by liberal and conservative groups alike, the bill would require that no more than 15 percent of a ballot petition’s signatures could come from any single congressional district. Critics said this GOP bill was in retaliation for successful progressive ballot initiative last month legalizing marijuana, creating an independent redistricting commission and increasing voting rights.

A plan to deregulate some small wetlands that could be filled and dredged was dramatically scaled back in the version the Michigan House voted on late into the last Lame Duck session of the year.

Wetland in Meridian Twp. | Susan J. Demas

In a rare move, 82 employees of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent a letter to Snyder urging him to veto a bill that would require the DEQ to apply federal standards, rather than the current state criteria, at toxic waste cleanup sites. Employees warned that the legislation would present “unacceptable risks” to the public.

Bipartisan bills

Other bills sailed through in Lame Duck, such as those to:

The bill is inspired by ex-Michigan State University Dr. Larry Nassar, who sits in prison after hundreds of women and girls came forward that he sexually assaulted them. Signed by Snyder, the law will allow judges to admit evidence of sexual assault that is more than 10 years old. 

Another bill inspired by Nassar, this allows for additional victim impact statements in court cases related to sexual assault.

Michigan Capitol | Susan J. Demas

Under current state law, local governments are required to allow fireworks on 30 days of the year. If Snyder signs this bill, that number would be reduced to just a dozen.

Michigan would become the fifth state in the nation to allow online gambling if Snyder signs this bill.

David Hecker, AFT Michigan president, and Paula Herbart, MEA president, lead an educators rally at the Capitol in Lansing on Dec. 12, 2018 | Ken Coleman

In one of the largest supplementals in Michigan history, these Christmas tree bills had something for everyone and allocated more than $1 billion and is pending Snyder’s approval. The money comes from a series of new income streams and from unspent portions of previous budgets.

However, Democrats objected to another bill redirecting School Aid Fund money to roads and environmental cleanup.

Dead bills

More bills yet never made it to a final vote, including legislation that would have:

Always viewed as a long-shot effort since amending a ballot proposal would require a three-fourths vote in both chambers, this bill would have made changes to the marijuana legalization initiative voters passed in November.

Firefighters, teachers and other public employees opposed this bill that would have required them to vote every other year on whether to continue their union representation.

Taking a picture with your ballot can be tempting in this age of social media, but current law prohibits the act. An effort was made to change that.

Passed 40 years ago to cut down on litter and pollution, Michigan’s bottle deposit law would have been scrapped under a package that made a splash, but saw no movement.

Nearly every level of government is subject to FOIA laws in Michigan — but not the governor or members of the Legislature. Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-Grand Haven) wasn’t interested in changing that.

Every year, no-fault auto insurance is discussed as a priority in the Legislature. Every year, it fails. Several plans circulated around the Capitol this week to offer new options for auto coverage backed by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, but none gained traction.

One of the bills that attracted significant national attention in this Lame Duck season, the bill would have shifted campaign finance oversight away from Secretary of State-elect Jocelyn Benson and into a new, bipartisan commission. Critics called this a “power grab” and feared the commission would end in deadlock, as the Federal Election Commission (FEC) often does.

More than 300 bills to go

Outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder has remained mum on most of the legislation being sent his way.

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

So far, he has approved bills amending minimum wage and paid sick time initiatives, creating the Line 5 tunnel authority, authorizing up to 10 years in prison for killing or torturing an animal, requiring school officials to consult law enforcement when designing new buildings to ensure safety, and expanding the criteria for who can substitute teach 9th through 12th grade classes.

He also used his veto power on four bills, including one that would have given the Auditor General unfettered access to executive branch records, saying that the bill was an “unconstitutional overreach” that encroached on the separation of powers.

Snyder has less than a week left in office. More than 300 bills are still awaiting his signature or veto.

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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.