What’s dead ‒ and what’s still in play ‒ in Michigan’s lame-duck session

A number of bills won’t become law this year because Michigan lawmakers don’t have enough votes this close to the end of lame-duck session.

Dec. 21: That's a wrap! What bills passed, died in Michigan lame duck for the ages
Related: See what Michigan lame-duck bills we're tracking
Update Dec. 19: School grades, toxic waste and dark money: Your Michigan lame duck roundup

Legislation to ban home growing of marijuana and to require workers in public employee unions to vote to recertify every two years won’t become law this year, after Michigan lawmakers couldn’t round up enough votes Thursday to pass either Republican bill.

A package of criminal justice reforms that would raise the age at which a teenager could be tried as an adult also is considered dead this term. And it’s unclear whether the GOP-led Legislature will sign off on environmental fee proposals that are priorities of outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Related: Michigan power grabs, pipelines and pot: What we’re tracking in lame duck

With one week left in Michigan’s lame-duck legislative session, no bills can advance to Snyder’s desk now unless they already have cleared the House or Senate, per legislative rules. Lawmakers’ last scheduled session day is next Thursday, Dec. 20. Anything not adopted before the two-year legislative term ends this month has to be reintroduced in the new year.

What bills died in lame duck

  • Home-grown pot: A bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof to ban home growing of marijuana under Michigan’s new recreational marijuana law failed to get enough votes in the Senate. It was a tall order anyway, because legislators need three-quarters of members in both the House and the Senate to approve amendments to citizen-initiated laws. Voters approved the recreational pot proposal in November, with 56 percent voting yes.
  • Union voting: A bill, also sponsored by Meekhof, to require workers in public employee unions to vote every two years on whether they want the union to continue to represent them also failed to gain enough support in the Senate. Meekhof told reporters Thursday he was disappointed the votes weren’t there to pass it. Critics said the bill placed too great a burden on unions.
  • Environmental fees: The environmental fees Snyder wants to use to fix water infrastructure, clean up toxic sites and pay for community recycling programs aren’t guaranteed to pass. The House advanced a bill, without the fees, to pay for the water program. But the Senate on Thursday did not act on a bill to pay for the trash-hauling fees. It’s possible the fees still could be tacked on to other legislation. Meekhof told reporters Thursday that if the fees fail, the state might consider raising infrastructure revenue from new online sales tax collections.
  • Bottle bill: Bills in the House to repeal Michigan’s 10-cent bottle deposit law failed to advance out of committee. The bills raised eyebrows because one of the sponsors, state Rep. Joseph Bellino, R-Monroe, owns a store that sells beer, wine and other bottled beverages and acknowledged his business would save money should the bills pass.
  • Treat 17-year-olds as juveniles: A package of bills in the House to raise the age at which an individual could be tried as an adult from 17 to 18 did not receive a vote in the full House. A coalition of organizations that support the proposal said they hoped the legislation could be revisited in the new year. Michigan is among a minority of states that treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system.
  • Public records: Bills to subject the governor’s office and the Legislature to the state Freedom of Information Act unanimously passed the House in March 2017, but the Senate is unlikely to act before the term ends this month. Meekhof, who is term-limited and leaving the Senate this month, does not support the bills and has not wanted to bring them forward. He has said he thinks the legislation could have a chilling effect on people choosing to run for office, and for the constituents who send them there.

What’s likely to come up next week

A number of bills still could come up next week:

  • A proposal to shift campaign finance oversight away from the Secretary of State’s office to a new bipartisan commission appointed by the governor. Backers say the move is intended to bring a bipartisan approach to the issue. Critics call the bill a Republican effort to rein in the authority of the new Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat.
  • Allowing the Legislature the right to intervene in some lawsuits. Another measure attacked as partisan, with critics saying the GOP is trying to weaken the authority of incoming Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat. Republicans say the bill merely gives the Legislature leeway to weigh in on policy issues critical to the state.
  • Preventing public agencies from requiring nonprofits to disclose their donors. Critics have said the measure would make state campaign finance laws even less transparent; Benson campaigned to put more sunlight on money in politics. Proponents say the bill would protect donors who might be discouraged if they thought their information would be publicly revealed.
  • Imposing new signature-gathering requirements on citizen petition drives. Groups as diverse as the ACLU of Michigan and Right to Life criticized the measure as unconstitutional and cumbersome, while proponents said it would ensure that future initiatives were more transparent and had support from many areas of the state.
  • Awarding schools A-F letter grades. The bill was amended to remove from its language the creation of a new education commission that would operate independently of the state board of education. The proposal now calls for a peer review panel that would have fewer powers.
  • A bill that would remove wetlands protections and clear the way for development on more than half of Michigan’s wetlands and more than one-third of its lakes. Supporters, including business groups, say the legislation is needed to protect property rights. Environmentalists oppose the bill and say it could cause the federal government to revoke Michigan's ability to regulate its own wetlands.
  • More funding for such priorities as roads or efforts to fight PFAS contamination.

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Bill Emkow
Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:56pm

Hey Bob, thanks for pointing that out. Yes, that is expected to come up next week. It has been added it to the story.

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 11:28am

It isn’t new sales tax money. It’s the tax that used to be paid when you bought something at Target or Home Depot or Kohl’s, but now it’s bought online from out of state venders. If this revenue is stripped from schools, then as the trend toward more internet sales continues schools will lose out. Keep sales revenues where they are and where they were intended: funding Public K-12 Education. Find another way to fix the GF problem created by this administration.

Fri, 12/14/2018 - 11:47am

What's going on with SB 1211 that will gut wetlands protections? I believe this bill was authored by Tom Casperson of Escanaba.

Bill Emkow
Fri, 12/14/2018 - 12:57pm

Thanks for pointing that out, Paul. Yes, SB 1211 is expected to come up next week and we've added it to the story.

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 3:39pm

I hope these representatives, who are circumventing the will of the voters, get sued, and that their political carreers bomb, as "WE, THE PEOPLE,". will remember should they have the gaul to run again for public office.

Mon, 12/17/2018 - 6:52pm

First the voters didn't vote on these questions. Secondly please tell me why should the voters determine what an employer should pay or compensate their employees? What other things should we have the voters determine? How large of a home you can have? What kind of car you can drive? How many kids you can have? Where should this end?