Bills you may have missed, from cutting income taxes to banning gay conversion therapy
Susan J. Demas
Issuing new bonds would require legislative approval and individuals would see more of their paychecks under legislation introduced in the Michigan Senate.
Those are just two of the bills members of the Michigan Legislature have introduced so far in April after coming back from spring break on topics ranging from the pandemic to schools to ethics.
Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature, in the House with a six-seat margin and the Senate with a four-seat margin. Two additional Senate seats that were previously held by Republicans are currently vacant.
Here are some of the most noteworthy pieces of legislation.
Michigan drivers would see another automatic extension of their licenses under House Bill 4605, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden).
If the bill passes and is signed into law, all state ID cards expiring on or after March 1, 2020, would continue to be valid through June 30.
The Legislature previously extended the identifications through March 31.
House Bill 4667, sponsored by Rep. Sue Allor (R-Wolverine), would prohibit the government from producing or issuing COVID-19 vaccine passports, or providing incentives to individuals if they require or use a COVID-19 vaccine passport.
The bill would allow the state to comply with any federal laws, though the administration of President Joe Biden has indicated they have no plans to create a vaccine passport program.
Similar legislation has been introduced in other states, like Montana and Iowa.
Allor has previously introduced separate legislation to prohibit employers from requiring their employees to get vaccinated.
Issuing, paying bonds
Legislative approval would be required to issue bonds under Senate Bill 379, sponsored by Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton).
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued $3.5 billion in bonds last year to fund road construction after her proposal for a gas tax hike failed.
Republicans in the Legislature expressed frustration with the bonding plan at the time.
Under Nesbitt’s bill, the State Transportation Commission would be required to present its resolution approving bonds to the Legislature, where it would have to get a two-thirds vote in each chamber.
For each new bond issued in a fiscal year, an equal amount of money would be required to be deposited into a new sinking fund from the state trunkline fund under HB 4669, sponsored by Rep. Scott VanSingel (R-Grant).
The sinking fund would be used for paying the principal and interest and paying off before maturity.
Taxpayers would keep more of their paychecks under SB 388, sponsored by Nesbitt, which would lower the individual income tax rate to 4% from 4.25%.
The personal exemption deduction would also be increased under SB 389, sponsored by Sen. Curtis VanderWall (R-Ludington).
For the 2021 tax year, the deduction would rise from $4,750 to $5,900. It would then increase to $6,000 for the 2022 tax year.
School libraries, music
Schools would be required to operate a school library beginning with the 2021-22 academic year under HB 4664, sponsored by Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth).
Each school library in the state would also be required to participate in an interlibrary loan system with one another under Koleszar’s plan.
Elementary school students would be required to receive at least 90 minutes per week of instruction in music, and at least 90 minutes per week of instruction in art, under SB 369, sponsored by Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor).
Gay conversion therapy would be prohibited for minors under SB 367, sponsored by Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), or HB 4651, sponsored by Rep. Felicia Brabec (D-Pittsfield).
At least three Michigan cities have previously banned the practice, which, according to the Human Rights Campaign, falsely claim to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
A package of bills introduced in the House and Senate would expand adoption rights for LGBTQ couples.
Currently, adoption agencies contracting with the state are allowed to refuse to work with LGBTQ couples after a judge ruled that the state couldn’t refuse to work with the agencies.
Under the bills introduced in the Legislature, however, the agencies would not be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples based on religious beliefs, same-sex partners would be allowed to adopt their partner’s biological or adoptive child, and the state could hold adoption agencies accountable for discriminating against LGBTQ couples.
Senate Bill 384 is sponsored by Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), SB 385 is sponsored by Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), and SB 386 is sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing).
The bills are matched in the House as HB 4706, sponsored by Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Burton), HB 4707, sponsored by Rep. Julie Rogers (D-Kalamazoo), and HB 4708, sponsored by Rep. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Twp.).
Ethics, Equal Rights Amendment
The House would create a new ethics committee to enforce ethics and conflict of interest laws under HB 4680, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Adams Twp.). The committee would have an equal number of members of both parties.
The committee is part of a larger plan to reform ethics laws in the Michigan Legislature, which has bipartisan support from leaders of the House.
Other bills would create a legislator-to-lobbyist cool-down period, require office holders to file financial disclosures, create new penalties for illegal gifts, and prohibit legislators from voting on bills when a conflict of interest exists.
House Resolution 78, sponsored by Rep. Padma Kuppa (D-Troy), would urge Congress to extend the deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would give men and women equal rights under the law.
Congress passed the amendment in 1972, and the Michigan Legislature voted to ratify the amendment the same year.
Virginia became the 38th state to vote to ratify the amendment last year, meaning three-fourths of states have now ratified the amendment.
But because there is a deadline in the proposal – which Congress has previously extended – the amendment won’t officially be adopted unless and until that deadline is either extended or removed.
It has been almost a century since the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced,” the resolution reads in part. “It is long past time that we guarantee equality, security, and prosperity for women and men.”
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